"The Simpsons," Fox's hit animated sitcom that recently returned for its 26th season, has long been known as one of the funniest and most culturally relevant shows on television. It has also had a long and storied history of touching on important issues that are key parts of today's society. Remember that this is a show that featured an episode where the family patriarch Homer dealt with depression and attempted suicide (albeit in a comical fashion) way back during the show's first season in 1989. It only makes sense, then, that the show would continue this tradition by touching on one of the most important topics of our day - fracking.
"Opposites A-Frack," written by Valentina L. Garza and directed by Matthew Nastuck, storms out of the gate with an overarching theme of environmental consciousness and leading healthy lifestyles. Even before the topic of fracking is touched upon, the show tackles another popular issue of our day - smoking. Homer attempts to get Marge's sisters, Patty and Selma, to give up smoking by way of electronic cigarettes. This fails, but the subplot quickly gives way to a much more important story. After the tap water in the Simpson home catches fire, Lisa indicates that this is likely the result of a nearby fracking operation that Mr. Burns is running in Springfield.
Marge attempts to get Maxine Lombard (voiced by the wonderful Jane Fonda) to stop Mr. Burn's fracking operation at all costs. She does so, which leads Mr. Burns to discover that if he can obtain the mineral rights to every last inch of land in Springfield, he can resume his operation. Burns enlists Homer to bribe every person in Springfield with $5,000 so that he can do just that - to mixed results.
Even though the episode features more than enough laughs, the mere fact that "The Simpsons" has tackled the issue means something very important for society as a whole. Fracking is clearly a popular enough issue to be touched on during one of the most popular shows in the history of the medium. These types of episodes, particularly on shows that are watched by millions of people, will only serve to bring the discussion to the forefront in the best way possible.
As far as the episode itself goes, it is something of a mixed bag. "Opposites A-Frack" is the best type of "The Simpsons" episode - one that mixes a laugh-out-loud story with serious issues, reminiscent of famous episodes from seasons long past like:
Though the show never quite reaches the height of its heyday, "Opposites A-Frack" will still go down as one of the most relevant, funny and touching episodes of the show in the last several years.
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