Homer’s Enemy: The ballad of Frank Grimes

homer's enemy

One of my favourite episodes of The Simpsons is “Homer’s Enemy” (season 8, episode 23), in which Homer attempts to befriend Frank Grimes (or “Grimey” as he liked to be called), who quickly becomes angered by the fact that Homer gets to lead a comfortable life despite being lazy, stupid, and dangerously incompetent.

Let’s compare the two together. Frank Grimes was a man who struggled for everything he had, has a strong work ethic, and yet has nothing to show for it, and is mistreated by his employer. Homer Simpson, meanwhile, is ignorant and lazy, and yet he lives in a comfy house in the suburbs.

For me, Grimes was brilliant. He represented the harsh reality of the world, that if you want to get ahead in life, you have to work for it. He cast a harsh light on Springfield, pointing out the flaws of a world where even an incompetent moron can have lobster for dinner. Meanwhile, he’s treated harshly by Mr. Burns for accidentally spilling a beaker of sulphuric acid, in an incident which started when Homer unknowingly picked the beaker up as though it were a drink. It should be noted that before that, we see Frank Grimes ranting about how baffling it is that Homer is the plant’s safety inspector, even though, as shown in previous and later episodes, he’s caused more accidents and disasters than he’s prevented.

Later, after Grimes declared to Homer that they are now enemies, Homer tries in vain to befriend Grimes, by inviting him to dinner, but that only made it worse. Grimes only stayed long enough to get to know Homer’s family, but becomes enraged at the fact that Homer’s sloth and ignorance is rewarded with everything Homer has now (though it’s likely that Homer got all of this through circumstance alone).

In this defining moment, Grimes declares Homer to be “what’s wrong with America”, and I can’t help but agree with him. Homer’s slobbish kind feeds off the scraps of the American dream, doing as little as possible while, as Grimes put it, leeching off decent, hard-working people. Only in America could Homer survive. In any other country, Homer may very well have starved to death.

The next day, after failing to convince Lenny and Carl to see his point, Grimes tries one last-ditch attempt to prove that Homer is an incompetent boob, by tricking him into entering a nuclear power plant design contest intended for children. As expected, Homer fell for it, but when he does enter, he submits a near exact replica of the existing plant, which Mr. Burns somehow prefers over the far more progressive and advanced design proposed by Martin. When Homer was declared the winner, and when everyone cheered for him, Grimes finally snapped and went on an insane rampage where he tries to mimic Homer, up until the point where he gets himself electrocuted after grabbing a high voltage wire without safety gloves.

frank grimes

This can’t end well.

Since Homer is representative of the American slob, the writers killed Grimes off in such a degrading manner in order to preserve the status quo, and appease the sensibilities of millions of idiots. For me, the worst part of the ending is when Homer and everyone laugh contently as Grimes’ casket is being lowered into the earth, just because Homer said something stupid.

The episode is a classic depiction of typical 20th century anti-intellectualism, where morons like Homer are exalted, while intelligent people who expose society’s weakness and stupidity are reviled. What’s even worse is that the writers chose to kill Grimes, rather than making Homer see the error of his ways and changing for the better.

It’s a terrible shame that Frank Grimes had to be destroyed to preserve the status quo of Springfield, but I also think that the death of Frank Grimes is a perfect metaphor for the idiotic society rejecting the man who shed light on its own incompetence and stupidity, and that’s ultimately the most tragic part of the story.

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11 thoughts on “Homer’s Enemy: The ballad of Frank Grimes

  1. This doesn’t have anything to do with “The Simpsons,” but I desperately feel the need to say something similar about a different cartoon that I grew up with. I used to be a huge fan of this one certain cartoon, but looking back I realized that I greatly overrated it. Have you ever heard of a cartoon called “Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends?” It’s a show that centers around, as the title implies, a foster home for imaginary friends. In this world, imaginary friends are actually living creatures and the titular foster home was made to take care of all the personified good ideas that have been abandoned.

    Eight-year-old Mac and his imaginary friend Blooregard Q. Kazoo, or just Bloo, are the main characters.

    What made me fall in love with this show is because how much I personally I relate to the Mac. He is shy, has trouble making friends, and obsessed with order, but also very intelligent and creative for his age. I wonder what that sounds like? Anyway, I loved the show for its concept but utterly despised it for its execution. For a show that was supposed to center on the importance of friendship and the imagination, it spent most of its time partaking in some of the laziest, cheapest, and most of all mean- spirited forms of comedy.

    It got so bad that it felt like a ripoff of an animated sitcom from FOX, and before you say it, I don’t care about John Cleese said about comedy working best when it’s mean-spirited. Everyone can go ahead and compare me to The Mysterious Mr. Enter all they want.

    To tell you the truth, I care more about Mac more than just because we have similar personalities. In the show, Mac has to put up with a hateful older brother who always bullies him, a workaholic mother, a father who is implied to be either dead or divorced, and to top it all off, his imaginary friend who is completely unlikable. I could actually make an entire list of episodes that left acid in my stomach.

    There were so many wasted opportunities with this show. It could have delved into much serious topics like bullying, abandonment, and loneliness, but when it did, it did it in all the wrong ways. For example, there was one movie that centered on one of the characters running away, a character who is an adult. I’m sorry, but adults are not allowed to run away from their problems and responsibilities.

    Seriously, there is so much that I want to deconstruct but I don’t know where to continue without telling my life story.

    • I used to watch Foster’s when I was 10 years old. Me and a former primary school classmate used to like it, but by the time I was 13 I was starting to get annoyed by it. I guess I was too young to notice everything else that was awful.

      • I know, right?

        Craig McCracken really trolled us.

        The characters were annoying, the music was annoying, the comedy was annoying. It was like one big exercise of irritation in which the characters were treated as mere objects. I have plead twice with him to reboot “Foster’s” instead of “The Powerpuff Girls,” but my complaints fell on deaf ears. I’ve been trying to convince people to take off the nostalgia glasses and demand better.

  2. Homer at least tried to mend the fence with grimes by inviting him to dinner. Granted it backfired horribly but it deserves credit.

    I believe the entire point of the episode if someone from our world had to put up with either homers stupidity or the insanity of springfield.

    • I will admit that Homer did try to mend things, but let’s not forget that Grimes’ death was technically Homer’s fault, though the blame should be shared by everyone in the audience of that power plant design contest, including Mr. Burns.

  3. In the classic era, Homer was undoubtedly portrayed as somewhat of an idiot but also had his moments of brilliance as well. However, it wasn’t until this episode that such idiocy was cranked up to 11 & remained there since season 9ish to now despite 9 still being apart of the classic era just to make the point it was trying to make.

    If this episode had simply remained the experiment it was supposed to be to see how a sane individual such as Grimes would do around a far more exaggerated (in terms of stupidity) than normal Homer for one episode, I could overlook it & accept it for being what it was but, tragically, it didn’t remain that way. It’s even more heartbreaking to see how he’s still getting treated like shit even beyond the grave what with his grave stone having worn down with no one to care for it (not even his son which has to be one of the most fucked up & stupidest twists the show as ever done in comparison to something like a twin or younger brother who gave a damn about Frank if they decided not to keep the episode as solely an experiment which they did) to Homer knocking his stone down in a fit of anger at his own Mother’s “funeral” in “My Mother the Carjacker”.

    Honestly, I’m pretty sure he never even went to heaven but is burning in hell for the rest of eternity simply for the hell of it because he simply deserved it for no apparent reason other than to suffer in life and death for that is the purpose of his existence in both life & death.

    • You may as well be saying that the entire purpose of Frank’s existence is suffering. That may not have been what the writers intended, but it’s an interesting point of view. To be fair, I would have liked to see Grimes interacting with a “normal” Homer rather than an exaggerated Homer.

    • The writers of “Homer’s Enemy” couldn’t have known that The Simpsons would continue another 17+ seasons after this one, or that the quality of the writing would drop steeply to the point where Jerkass Homer is standard Homer.

      Here is Bill Oakley’s response to critics of this episode: tinyurl.com/klhgr49

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