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The Simpsons Season Eight: Final Thoughts

March 24, 2010

   Airing from late 1996 to early 1997 this Season of The Simpsons falls right into the golden age of the show. The dialogue is at its funniest, the plots are not entirely ridiculous, and the focus on the relationships between the family members and their fellow “Springfieldians” is ever present and drives the show forward. Because this show is not episodic the season finale did not do much to tie up loose ends. The importance of individual episodes can be better measured not in the content of their plots but in the general quality of each episode and how they are placed in relation to one another. I have already covered my thoughts on this in the previous posts and while I did take issue with some of the positioning of episodes I was happy over all with the structure of the season.

               The character development has been one of my primary focuses this season primarily because it is the driving force behind the entire underlying concept of the show. The producers of the show did a wonderful job of rotating between development of the relationships within the family and those with their neighbors. The soundtrack for The Simpsons in general is a large part of the shows ambiance and could in some ways be considered a character in and of itself. The score is usually subtle and unobtrusive. The use of prerecorded music is in your face, obvious and generally consists of pre-nineteen nineties popular music which is right up my alley. It’s use is particularly effective when used in montages.

               My favorite individual episode was, hands down, number nine: El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Homer also known as The Mysterious Voyage of our Homer. The reasons I like it so much are that it is the funniest, it focuses on the reason that people love The Simpsons (the relationship between Homer and Marge), its psychedelic sequence is amazing animation, and it features Johnny Cash in one of the best guest starring roles of the series as the Space Coyote. It also features my single favorite quote from this season. When Homer hears the voice of the Space Coyote say “Find your soul mate” he asks “where?” The response is “This is just your imagination Homer. I can’t give you any new information.” I laugh at that line every time I hear it. While it does not say anything about the Space Coyote as he’s not really saying it, it says a great deal about Homer and what goes on in his tiny brain. This is another subject that defines the series.

                    The theme song has been the same since the very beginning. Danny Elfman’s instrumental piece is a wonderful reflection of the show. It is light and lyrical and its nonchalance is a perfect lead in for a show with those same qualities. While the show rarely presents real-life issues in a terribly realistic way it is the cartoonish handling of serious things from relationships, politics, and religion that make you stop and think about how seriously you may be taking things that are absurd when you step back from them. This is the essence of family life and of The Simpsons. The moment I fell in love with this show was nearly twenty years ago but watching a full season in order for the first time gave me a new appreciation of the loose continuity that is has. While it’s fun to go back and watch favorite episodes I would recommend to any Simpsons fan that they try watching in order. It has given me a new appreciation for the show and I believe it will do the same for others.

               Finally the setting which I have only discussed in relation to the characters in it is immensely important. The reality of Springfield allows for a wealth of second, third, and even fourth tier characters and encourages the use of guest stars playing both themselves or fictional characters. The town has been through so many ridiculous disasters natural, fantastical, and manmade that their effects can be completely ignored in future episodes. The status quo in Springfield is change and anything can happen there. It is a testament to the never say die, never think things through, spirit of Springfield


The Simpsons Season Eight Episode #25: The Secret War of Lisa Simpson

March 24, 2010

Episode Twenty Five, Season Eight of The Simpson’s is entitled The Secret War of Lisa Simpson. It originally aired on May 18th, 1997. I viewed this episode Tuesday March 23rd on a widescreen plasma TV at my Grandmother’s house. The couch gag for this episode is also a repeat. The episode begins with Lisa in school, bored and unchallenged by the curriculum. Meanwhile Bart is on a field trip to the police station. When he hooks together a dozen megaphones form the storage closet and yells into them all the glass in Springfield shatters. Chief Wiggum takes Bart home and suggests that Marge and Homer send the boy to military school. They agree that it’s time to do something about his behavior.

When the family drops Bart off at the military academy Lisa sees how good the curriculum is and demands to be admitted as well. This idea doesn’t sit well with anyone but she gets her way. The students haze Bart but eventually accept him. The students are upset with Lisa because they were forced to all move into the same barracks to accommodate the first female cadet in history, who has a lonely barracks all to herself. Lisa’s hazing continues unabated and Bart begins to distance himself from her for the sake of his own popularity, if not survival.

At the end of the semester the cadets are informed that in order to pass they will have to successfully navigate “The Eliminator,” a long rope crawl suspended high above a patch of brambles and thorn bushes. Bart secretly helps Lisa train for the task at night but she just can’t get it. When the day finally comes Bart and all the others pass the test leaving Lisa to go last. At the half way point she seems about to plummet to failure but Bart cheers her on and she makes it across. The other cadets turn on Bart and tell the siblings that they’ll make their lives hell for the rest of the semester to which one of the cadets says “That reminds me, graduation is in three hours! We better go change!”

This final episode of the season plays on one of the favorite themes of the series: the marginalization of Lisa and/or Marge because they are women. They usually come out on top because they are smarter than the other characters around them (especially Lisa). This theme remains successful throughout the show because even though Lisa can be opinionated and pushy (the answer to a question no one asked) she is irrepressible and has no real malice toward anyone. As the most down to earth and least cartoonish member of the family one might think that she isn’t funny. This could not be farther from the truth. Lisa is the straight man of the family and as such is absolutely integral to the chemistry of the show.

This was an excellent episode to close the season with because even though it lacks significant presence by Marge or Homer it explores one of the most important relationships of the show: that between Lisa and Bart.

The Simpsons Season 8 Episode #25: The Secret War of Lisa Simpson

Rating:  5 out of 5

The Simpsons Season Eight Episode #24: The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase

March 24, 2010

Episode Twenty Four, Season Eight of The Simpson’s is entitled The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase. It originally aired on May 11th, 1997. I viewed this episode Tuesday March 23rd on a widescreen plasma TV at my Grandmother’s house. Due to its unique format this episode has no couch gag. The three story episodes such as this one have been a Simpsons staple for years, in fact the bulk of its now 21 seasons. This episode begins with an introduction from Troy McClure (voiced by the late great Phil Hartman). Troy tells us that the producers at Fox approached the producers of The Simpsons to make thirty eight new shows to fill their entire line up. McClure reveals a chart of the Fox line that features The Simpsons, the X Files, and all other time slots with a question mark. Troy tells us that they weren’t up to the task but did produce three new shows that transport familiar Simpsons characters to new locales and situations.

The first new show is “Chief Wiggum: P.I.” in which Chief Wiggum, having been fired from his job in Springfield, moves to New Orleans to become a private detective, assisted by Seymour Skinner and with his son Ralph Wiggum. The Chief runs afoul of Louisiana crime boss Big Daddy who kidnaps Ralph. After several mishaps Wiggum and Skinner track them to the Louisiana Governor’s mansion which Big Daddy had stolen and relocated to the bayou. They manage to save Ralph but Big Daddy escapes leaving room for plenty more episodes.

The second show is “The Love-Matic Grampa” which, according to is a spoof of the 1960’s TV show “My Mother the Car.” In this spin-off Grampa Simpson dies but is lost on his way to heaven and now inhabits the novelty love tester machine at Moe’s bar. He dispenses increasingly poor advice for Moe’s love life but in the end his date discovers the situation and we’re led to believe that she wants to stay with Moe.

The final story is “The Simpson Family Smile-Time Variety Hour” in which The Simpson’s appear in their own variety show. Lisa has been replaced with a new, beautiful teenage Lisa. The family does some song and dance with very little plot but featuring some decent shtick with some help from special guest Tim Conway.

My description, or any for that matter, really can’t do this episode justice. While the first two stories are by far the strongest each of them is funny. The peril in an episode like this is that the audience must be familiar with the characters in order for it to be funny. Most of the humor is self-referential and dialogue based. While that cuts out the possibility of any character development or profound thematic statement this episode isn’t meant to be. It is the Simpsons equivalent of a pop-corn movie. It is purely for entertainments sake and it delivers.

The Simpsons Season 8 Episode #24: The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase

Rating:  5 out of 5

The Simpsons Season Eight Episode #23: Homer’s Enemy

March 24, 2010

Episode Twenty Three, Season Eight of The Simpson’s is entitled Homer’s Enemy. It originally aired on May 4th, 1997. I viewed this episode Tuesday March 23rd on a widescreen plasma TV at my Grandmother’s house. The couch gag for this episode is also a repeat. In this episode Mr. Burns sees a Kent Brockman report on a man named Frank Grimes. Grimes lived a tortured life in which he had to fight to earn everything he has, including a degree in nuclear physics. Burns insists that Smithers hire Grimes to be a plant Vice President. By the time he does Burns has forgotten all about it and tells his assistant to “just stick him somewhere.”

Grimes ends up in Sector 7G with Homer and his cohorts. Homer’s lazy, incompetent, and unprofessional behavior shocks Grimes to no end. When Homer nearly drinks a beaker of acid by accident Grimes saves him, damaging a wall in the process. He is reprimanded by Burns and declares Homer an enemy. In order to win his new coworker over Homer invites him to dinner. However, when Grimes arrives and sees the lobster dinner, the beautiful family, and the photos of the amazing life that Homer has led he loses it. He tells Homer that he deserves none of it and storms out.

To reveal Homer’s idiocy to the world Grimes tricks Homer into entering a children’s contest to design a power plant. Homer wins the contest handily and Grimes is shocked to find that everyone is proud of him. He goes on a rampage doing stupid things, all the while saying “I can get away with this because I’m Homer Simpson.” Eventually he grabs an exposed electrical junction and is electrocuted to death. In a final indignity Homer falls asleep at Grimes funeral and no one is surprised, nor do they hold it against him.

               This season looks like it is going for a strong finish. The character of Frank Grimes is classic in this show because he the other side of Homer Simpson’s coin. They are complete opposites and in the end sloth and stupidity beat out hard work and determination for no good reason at all. This is a nice change of pace from the most recent episodes in this season as this one features Homer in nearly every scene and his bumbling jackassery serves not only to generate laughs (which it does nicely) but to further the plot. It’s almost a shame that they had to kill Grimes off. The earlier episode, The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show, dealt nicely with how shows of waning popularity tend to add character in a futile attempt to spark success. However, in this case Grimes is such a good foil to Homer one has to wonder if they didn’t make a mistake in keeping him around for limited future use.

The Simpsons Season 8 Episode #23: Homer’s Enemy

Rating: 5 out of 5

The Simpsons Season 8 Episode #22: In Marge We Trust

March 24, 2010

Episode Twenty Two, Season Eight of The Simpson’s is entitled In Marge We Trust. It originally aired on April 27th, 1997. I viewed this episode Tuesday March 23rd on a widescreen plasma TV at my Grandmother’s house. The couch gag for this episode is also a repeat. In this episode we start with Reverend Lovejoy giving a boring sermon on Constancy. The churchgoers are bored to tears and with Lovejoy’s stock diminishing Marge becomes a popular source of advice for the congregation. The Reverend sarcastically suggests that she should become an official member of the church and Marge calls his bluff, becoming the “Listen Lady” who dispenses advice to the parishioners.

Marge does a fantastic job and while at first Lovejoy is upset he soon discovers that Marge’s help has allowed him time to get more into his work. He even discovers a form of shame that has gone unused for hundreds of years. Everything goes awry when Ned Flanders calls Marge for advice in dealing with local bullies Dolph, Kearney, and Jimbo. She advises that he confront them and when he does they chase him all night and into the next day. Eventually he loses them by hiding in the baboon habitat at the Springfield Zoo. When Flanders is attacked by the deranged primates Lovejoy heroically steps in and saves Ned. His sermon that Sunday is a rousing tale of how he fought off the baboons and saved the most devout member of the flock.

The Simpsons is rarely delicate when dealing with the subject of religion and this is no exception. Lovejoy even describes his waning enthusiasm for his job, due mostly to the constant neediness of Ned Flanders, by saying “eventually I just stopped caring but by then it was the eighties and no one noticed.” This episode uses a similar technique as that used in Grade School Confidential. Here we are given great insight into the character of Tim Lovejoy through series mainstay, Marge. I never really noticed this before but it is the most effective way for the program to develop its second tier characters.

This episode also features a hilarious B story. When Homer finds a box of Japanese dish soap at the dump with what appears to be his face on it he goes on his own quest to discover how this came about. In the end he finds out that the face on the box is the combination of two corporate logos, one a fish and the other a light bulb. This episode is worth watching for the Japanese detergent commercial alone. Very funny, good character development, and a short, punchy subplot that is absolutely hilarious.

The Simpsons Season 8 Episode #22: In Marge We Trust

Rating:  5 out of 5

The Simpsons Season 8 Episode #21: The Old Man and the Lisa

March 24, 2010

Episode Twenty One, Season Eight of The Simpson’s is entitled The Old Man and the Lisa. It originally aired on April 20th, 1997. I viewed this episode Saturday March 20th on a widescreen plasma TV at my Grandmother’s house. The couch gag for this episode is also a repeat. In this episode Mr. Burns discovers, thanks to Lisa, that his assistant Smithers has been misrepresenting the amount of the old man’s wealth which is a much smaller fortune than he thought. In reaction to this news Burns gathers together his economic team and decides to invest in things like spats. He even asks how his confederated slave holdings are doing. This reinvestment bankrupts Burns who loses his nuclear power plant and must move in to Smithers apartment.

Soon Burns is shipped off to a retirement home. Incredibly depressed, he approaches Lisa to help him get his fortune back. Initially she is wary but eventually caves in. She helps Burns build a recycling company that makes money hand over fist, culminating in the ‘Lil Lisa Recycling Plant. Lisa is proud of Burns socially responsible behavior but is soon appalled. Burns reveals that the real money maker behind the plant is a huge net made from plastic soda can rings that sweeps the sea floor clean and grinds the sea life up into ‘Lil Lisa Slurry. She freaks out and tries to get people to stop recycling but no one will listen.

Mister Burns comes to the family home and tells Lisa that he sold the Recycling Plant and bought back his nuclear plant. As his partner Lisa is entitled to ten percent of the one hundred and twenty million dollar selling price. When Lisa turns it down Homer has a heart attack. When he comes to in the hospital he tells Lisa that it’s okay “but we really could have used that twelve thousand dollars.” Lisa then informs him that ten percent of 120 million is twelve million. We cut to the hospital hallway and while Homer’s heart monitor goes crazy the hospital loud speaker says “Code Blue, Code Blue” and doctors rush into his room.

I love a good Mister Burns episode and this certainly is one. Lisa sums up Burns character perfectly. She says, “You’re an evil old man and when you’re trying to be good you’re even more evil!” This has happened several times over the course of the series but never have I heard such a hilarious, on the nose distillation of exactly who Mister Burns is. While I enjoyed the movie a great deal I dearly wish they had used Mr. Burns as the villain. My understanding however, is that doing Mr. Burns’ voice is painful for Harry Shearer to do. For this reason fans of the evil old miser have to enjoy him while we can.

The Simpsons Season 8 Episode #21: The Old Man and the Lisa

Rating:  4 out of 5

The Simpsons Season Eight Episode #20: The Canine Mutiny

March 24, 2010

Episode Twenty, Season Eight of The Simpson’s is entitled The Canine Mutiny. It originally aired on April 13th, 1997. I viewed this episode Saturday March 20th on a widescreen plasma TV at my Grandmother’s house. The couch gag for this episode is also a repeat. In this episode Bart fraudulently obtains a credit card. He makes lavish purchases, including a new dog: a collie named Laddie. When the repo men finally come to repossess Bart’s ill gotten loot he tells them that his old dog Santa’s Little Helper is the one he bought with the credit card.

While Laddie is a great dog and highly trained, Bart becomes wracked with guilt over abandoning Santa’s Little Helper. Using the new dog he tracks his old one down at the house of a blind man. When the man catches him in his house he calls the police. Bart tells the man his story and they end up trading dogs. The police arrive and Laddie sniffs out and retrieves a bag of pot from the blind man’s pocket. Chief Wiggum tells Bart to go on home and the episode ends with the police toking up with the blind man.

This is another “Bart has a soul” episode which I find odd that they would do back to back. It might have fit better if they had aired it prior to Grade School Confidential. That’s not to say that this wasn’t a good episode, just very average. The humor comes primarily from a few good gags sprinkled throughout the episode and there really is no social commentary to speak of. I suppose the moral of the story is to be grateful for what you have before you lose it. Maybe it’s just because something is new doesn’t make it better, etc.

Laddie, a male version of Lassie, is “voiced” by Frank Welker who is a voice over artist famous for his portrayal of animals of all kinds. The emotional punch for this episode comes in the form of your pity for Santa’s Little Helper (and to a lesser extent Bart). Santa’s Little Helper was a failed race dog Bart and Homer took home from the track, saving an otherwise dismal Christmas. This happened in the first season so, while he rarely plays a large role, the family dog has been a part of The Simpsons nearly as long as the family itself. It is unimaginable to think that they would ever get rid of this character permanently as he’s the only one in the family that makes Homer look smart.

Santa’s Little Helper has misbehaved and paid for it in the past, so there is little new here. But the gags are funny and that puts it at just about average.

The Simpsons Season 8 Episode #20: The Canine Mutiny

Rating: 3 out of 5

The Simpson’s Season Eight Episode #19: Grade School Confidential

March 24, 2010

Episode Nineteen, Season Eight of The Simpson’s is entitled Grade School Confidential. It originally aired on April 6th, 1997. I viewed this episode Saturday March 20th on a widescreen plasma TV at my Grandmother’s house. The couch gag for this episode is a repeat. After Principal Skinner and Mrs. Krabappel hit it off at Martin’s birthday party and Bart sees them kissing he attempts to blackmail them. In exchange for destroying his permanent record Bart is to keep his mouth shut. However, he is roped into assisting the educators in keeping their affair a secret. Bart can no longer take it and exposes their secret by revealing the couple to the student body while they’re making out in the janitors closet.

               When they refuse to end what Superintendent Chalmers calls their “tawdry, fulfilling relationship” he fires them both. Skinner and Krabappel pack up their offices and prepare to spend their new lives together. However, feeling bad for his role in their dismissal, Bart rallies the pair who barricade themselves in the school in protest. The siege ends when their will breaks and they give up. However, Skinner reveals to the town that he is a virgin, there by clearing up the misunderstanding that he and Edna were having sex in the school. Chalmers reinstates the two saying that “no one, anywhere, ever would admit to being a forty year old virgin” if it wasn’t true and them instructed them to “keep the lewdness to a minimum. After the crowd breaks up the couple heads for the janitor’s closet. Right before shutting the door Skinner comments on how naïve people can be.

               It is my assumption that based on this comment Skinner is not in fact a virgin, though if any adult male character on The Simpsons were it would be him. This episode is interesting for a few reasons. It is a rarity in that Homer barely appears. It also does a good job of personalizing two second tier characters in Skinner and Krabappel. Finally, it ties in Bart and is one of the many episodes that illustrate that while he is a slacker and a hell raiser, the boy also has a good heart and doesn’t want to see his pranks actually cause anyone real harm. This is particularly important because in the early years of the show its critics, mostly on the socially conservative side, tried to paint it as a program that encourages all manner of irresponsible behavior on the part of children.

               My counter argument to that has always been that simply watching the show and paying attention rather than just keeping a list of all the bad things that Bart does or says reveals that he is not a source of encouragement for children to behave badly. The Simpsons holds a mirror up to society and just because we don’t always like what we see doesn’t mean that that’s the end of the story.

The Simpsons Season 8 Episode #19: Grade School Confidential

Rating: 4 out of 5

The Simpsons Season 8 Episode #18: Homer vs the Eighteenth Amendment

March 24, 2010

               Episode Eighteen, Season 8 of The Simpsons is entitled Homer vs. The Eighteenth Amendment which originally aired on March 16th 1997 (My 16th Birthday). I viewed this episode Saturday March 20th on a widescreen plasma TV at my Grandmother’s house. The couch gag for this episode is a repeat. This episode begins with Springfield’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration. When Bart accidentally gets drunk in public the citizens demanded prohibition but it’s discovered that a prohibition law is already on the books in Springfield.

               Homer begins to secretly produce his own alcohol and is dubbed the “Beer Baron.” When Chief Wiggum is unable to stop him the town calls in Rex Banner, an old timey G-Man, to enforce the prohibition.  Even Banner can’t get Homer but in the end a down-on-his-luck Wiggum inspires Homer to turn himself in. However, this backfires as Banner intends to stay and punish Homer in the traditional way prescribed by law: The Catapult. Just as Homer is about to be flung into oblivion the town parliamentarian discovers that Springfield’s prohibition had been repealed only a year after it had been enacted. Banner stands on the catapult and gives a rousing speech in support of temperance but by this time the Springfield citizens have lost interest. They catapult Banner into the distance and the episode ends with Mob Boss Fat Tony flooding the town with booze and everyone partying.

               This is an excellent episode and a good one to get back into the swing of things on. It’s amazing to me that this show first aired on the day I turned sixteen. It’s been a while. It’s tough to find an analog between the episode and the real world of the time as we haven’t dealt with prohibition of alcohol in this country for a very long time. I also do not feel that this episode has anything to say about the prohibition of drugs in the U.S. While it may not have a great deal of social significance but that’s not always the point of The Simpson’s. This episode is hilarious.

               Here we have jerk-ass Homer at his absolute best. He plays both hero and villain in this episode. Hero to all the local drunks at Moe’s tavern, which is converted into a speak-easy disguised as a pet store – and villain to all the self righteous “think of the children” Charlie churches and Betty bible-thumpers in town. Perhaps funniest is that throughout the episode his bumbling constantly leaves clues for Rex Banner to find in plain sight but the scion of sobriety is never able to put two and two together. I suppose one could argue that the character of Banner (voiced by Dave Thomas) pokes fun at the blind obedience to the law that while well intentioned can be destructive none the less.

The Simpsons Season 8 Episode #18: Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment

Rating: 4 out of 5

Getting the Fear

February 28, 2010


Hunter S. Thompson and Oscar Zeta Acosta; Las Vegas; 1971

 “He who makes a beast of himself

gets rid of the pain of

being a man.”

                                  – Dr. Johnson

   I was very excited when I found this reading in my inbox. Thompson is one of my favorite authors, Steadman one of my favorite artists and Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas one of my favorite books. It is in many ways one of the defining books of its generation and the selection we just read was easily among its most iconic and well known passages. Of course Thompson’s probably most famous today because of the film version of this book. It was once considered common Hollywood knowledge that Fear & Loathing could not be made into a film. This was a belief that was held for most, if not all of his work.

This is partly because, while funny, entertaining, and well acted, the first attempt at bringing the good doctor’s work to the big screen Where the Buffalo Roam was, as a film, a colossal failure. It was a hodge- podge of Fear & Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72, The Great Shark Hunt (Various), and The Banshee Screams for Buffalo Meat (Oscar Acosta/Dr. Gonzo’s postmortem tribute). Of course nearly twenty years later Terry Gilliam (Director), Johnny Depp (Duke/Thompson), and Benicio Del Toro (Dr. Gonzo/Acosta) came along and gave lie to the common wisdom. Strangely enough that is what Thompson did his entire career.


While the film version paid great tribute to the opening of the book it was naturally unable to capture everything. The frantic, hilarious, and frightening nature of the two men on their way to Vegas sets the frenetic pace for the rest of the book, a pace that Thompson was never really able to recapture in his work or in his life. Ending this reading with the “reptile zoo” scene was an excellent choice. The reptiles represent many things not the least of which is the attitudes and lifestyle of Vegas (and possibly America) circa 1971.


The Mint Hotel

More specifically the reptiles represent a theme common throughout Thompson’s work. One might even say that it was the underlying premise for everything he wrote. Thompson was a wordsmith in the vein of Mark Twain who said that “the difference between the right word and the exactly right word is the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” For Thompson the word was Atavistic.

at·a·vism (āt’ə-vĭz’əm)  

  1. The reappearance of a characteristic in an organism after several generations of absence, usually caused by the chance recombination of genes.
  2. An individual or a part that exhibits atavism. Also called throwback.
  3. The return of a trait or recurrence of previous behavior after a period of absence.


The savage traits exhibited by the “lizards” are not all that dissimilar from the ones present in Raoul Duke and (especially) Dr. Gonzo themselves. There is a key distinction. The lizard/people are behaving this way because they are convinced that in Vegas this behavior is acceptable. They fall into a prescribed and allowed societal hypocrisy. By contrast Duke and Gonzo know that they cross the line and do so consistently. They do not require the permissive environment of Vegas to live as they please; it is simply a place that they can turn up the volume and be less likely to run afoul of the authorities.

For Thompson it is the difference between a criminal (the lizards) and an outlaw (Duke). It is not that Thompson or his character (the two are somewhat interchangeable but when, where, and how are impossible to pinpoint) suffer from a total lack of morality, quite the contrary. For Duke there is no pretense that he is anything but a thinking animal.

The lizards represent a lust for power and pleasure that manifests itself in an orgy of violent reptilian decadence. Unlike the lizards that are slaves to their baser instincts, Duke is a master of his, more or less. We find out later however, that Gonzo is a slave to instinct albeit a fascinating one, also lacking hypocrisy.

Harder to nail down is Thompson’s notion of the American Dream. By turns one can define the dream as being the outlaw freedom exhibited by Duke or the savage, fat-cat hypocrisy of the lounge lizards of Las Vegas. Perhaps that’s how he intended it to be taken. I will likely puzzle over this story for the rest of my days. However, I am certain of one thing: Raoul Duke found the American Dream in Las Vegas in 1971. The American Dream is dead! Long live the American Dream!


Dr. Thompson somewhere in Valhalla