Awards Daily talks to The Simpsons executive producer Matt Selman about why the Emmy-nominated episode “Pixelated and Afraid” shows us a new side of Homer and Marge.
After 33 seasons, Homer has finally worn Marge down. In The Simpsons episode “Pixelated and Afraid,” Marge has become just as schlubby as her hubby. The couple finds themselves in a rut where all they do is watch TV and practically live on the couch.
“We wanted to show a different side of a relationship that we don’t always show,” says executive producer Matt Selman, “that extreme comfort of people who’ve been together a long time and that Marge is a little bit of a schlub, and yes, that Homer has worn her down.”
In the past, the prospect of attending a holistic spa experience would excite the Simpson matriarch, but now, ehh. . .not so much.
“I think one of the reasons Marge resisted it was because it was a little too mindful and not as much Rancho Relaxo and a little more meditating and stuff she doesn’t really love.”
But at the urging of their children, Homer and Marge finally get out of the house and embark on a getaway that ends with them stranded in the wilderness. Hmmmm. Sounds like another Emmy-nominated show?
“I think we did this before Yellowjackets came out, but definitely [writer] John Frink pitched, ‘Let’s do a Naked and Afraid episode.’ And [producer] Carolyn Omine definitely brought that whole idea of Homer and Marge using their extreme marriage, mush intimacy, and gross couch love as a superpower as opposed to something they need to learn from, which I thought was cool. We didn’t see Yellowjackets, but if people think this is a topical Yellowjackets parody, and they want to watch it for that reason, yeah, we love Yellowjackets!”
Unlike Yellowjackets, these strandees find themselves completely naked when all of their clothes burn up, but while we’ve seen Homer and Marge naked in episodes before, like in “Natural Born Kissers” (the first episode Selman ever wrote!), we’ve never seen them pixelated!
“FOX Broadcast Standards didn’t initially want to let us do a lot of pixelating or pixelated nudity, so I made a call to our beloved FOX President Charlie Collier and he worked it out with standards and practices, so we could show a lot of pixelated stuff bouncing around. There’s some lewd comedy that snuck in! In the spirit of gender equality, we pixelated everyone’s bosoms, not just Marge’s. That felt like justice.”
In addition to getting away with nudity, they also get away with Homer and Marge killing an animated wolverine.
“We really wanted to show it was justified, like in that movie The Edge. We really wanted to play the reality of being lost in a cold, wintry woods. Obviously it’s a little cartoony, but we wanted to play with the reality that they’re really starving, they’re really cold. One of my favorite moments of the show is that the second day they have food in their belly, it frees up the emotional energy for Marge to worry about never seeing the kids again. As soon as you achieve survival level one, you can’t even enjoy that because you think of all the next levels of trouble. The wolverine was an extension of the Homer and Marge versus nature theme. It’s definitely one of the more brutal things we’ve done. We really tried to be cartoon real on this one.”
But in true Simpsons fashion, “Pixelated and Afraid” is about more than just Homer and Marge stranded in the woods, with the two learning something about their relationship by the end of 22 minutes. Throughout the conversation with Selman, he frequently gives credit to writer John Frink as well as producer Carolyn Omine for their vision of this visually stunning and emotionally charged episode.
“I technically am the showrunner, but it’s fun to let your other seasoned Simpsons producers who are really passionate about their storytelling go wild about stuff and see what comes out. Watching what came out of them—tons of visual references and passion and really knowing it had to look different and exciting and beautiful. If we win this Emmy, it’ll be because of that. The last three minutes with the music—if we win, that’ll be why. We’re telling a new version of Homer and Marge’s love story after 700 episodes. That’s insane that we can do that.”
The Simpsons airs on FOX.