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.
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.