Every time I see or hear of that particular episode of The Simpsons, I can’t help but groan. My first instinct regarding the episode is that it is one of the preachiest episodes in the whole show, but then I might just be saying that because it’s all family values from here.
All it seems to do nowadays is make Homer seem like an exceptional swinger, despite the fact that all he did was get caught dancing with the lovely Princess Kashmir. The episode’s message doesn’t seem so much “don’t cheat” so much as “don’t get caught with an exotic dancer”, which is kinda strange because Homer didn’t really do anything sexual, and I doubt he had interest in doing anything sexual with her anyway.
What bothers me is that Marge seems to think that he was treating her like an object, that we too are treating women like objects, and he has Homer preach this idea to his son and the rest of us. Of course women are not objects! That was never the problem (in fact, you’d have to be dumb as hell see women as being anything other that humans with thoughts and feelings). The problem seems to be that women can’t go around showing some skin in dance without being “degraded” or “objectified”. Kashmir didn’t seem to think it was so degrading, and Bart didn’t seem all that scarred by the idea of Homer dancing with her. I mean, as I said before, it’s not like he was having sex with her or something. I would think the idea of your dad actually having sex with someone else would be more scarring to a child then mere dancing, wouldn’t you?
Now I’ll admit that the spectrum of reactions besides Marge’s wrath is actually mildly fascinating (from the kids parodying Homer’s dancing, to the frankly flattering identification of Homer as the “world’s greatest swinger”, to Mr. Burns reaction), but none of it makes up for the episode’s preaching of a shallow, worn out, and ultimately false message. Homer and Marge preach that “women are not mere objects” except that’s not what they’re preaching at all. They’re preaching the same old dictate that women can’t show skin if they enjoy doing it. In fact, the only reason Homer’s preaching at all is because Marge is mad at him for dancing with Kashmir and he’s trying to get her to forgive him, so to me he doesn’t really believe in it at all (and I don’t think you see that “belief” come up in his mind during later episodes and seasons). Over the course of the show, Marge would continue to the same old ideas in different ways, but in a progressively dumber way. You could make the case that this was done as a satire of these attitudes being prevalent in American society, but as the show got popular I doubt it had that affect and I bet this attitude was actually taken seriously, even to heart by fans.