Tonight's episode of The Simpsons focused on hoarders, a topic that must have seemed prescient when the show went into production eight months ago. Actually, the episode was about Homer replacing Chong of Cheech and Chong, and Marge's hoarding was just a hastily thrown together B-plot that had nothing to do with the rest of episode.
The random escapade started when Santa's Little Helper chased a cat into the Crazy Cat Lady's house. While inside, Marge and Lisa realized she's a hoarder and decided to rescue her from her mental illness. As shown in the clip above, Marge enlists other Springfieldians to help her clean out the Cat Lady's home while she's watching the musical Cats (another timely reference). The quick fix followed by the Cat Lady's ranting kind of mirrors the uneasy feeling you get after some Hoarders episodes when you realize the subject's real issues haven't been addressed at all. But, this isn't an intentional parody, just sloppy writing. (Mercifully, this episode included no dead cats, which are what eventually forced me to stop watching Hoarders.)
You probably missed this, but a 2007 episode of The Simpsons revealed the Cat Lady's real name is Eleanor Abernathy, and she has a sad back story:
When she was eight, she was a smart and ambitious young girl who wanted to be both a lawyer and a doctor "because a woman can do anything." She was studying for law school at 16, and by 24 she had earned a medical degree from Harvard Medical School and a law degree from Yale Law School. However, by 32, suffering from burnout, she had turned to alcohol and became obsessed with her pet cat. By the time she turned 40, she had assumed her present state as a drunken, raving lunatic. Abernathy briefly reverts to her sanity and high intelligence thanks to some pills that she shows the Simpsons, but after Marge mentions that the pills are actually Reese's Pieces candy, Abernathy abruptly resumes her deranged behavior. When participating in a mayoral election, she lucidly discusses topics such as health care, economy, public education and cats in everyone's pants in between her screams and gibberish.
But that's not the most depressing part of the episode. When Marge inevitably winds up "catching" hoarding, the truck driver comments, "She's crazy, but I'd do her." It's an unfunny and skeevy line that never would have made it into the script in the early seasons, when Homer saying, "kiss my hairy yellow butt," was considered risque.
After the kids call Homer, who's on tour, to tell him what Marge is up to, Eleanor Abernathy goes crazy again. Since the writers have no resolution to the story, Homer says, "Uh, we'll deal with all that later," but of course they don't.
The days when you'd expect The Simpsons to cleverly satirize an issue are long gone, but at the very least it's still supposed to be amusing. When I want to see a show that finishes with an aftertaste of melancholy, I'll watch the real Hoarders. If I'm in the mood for comedy, I'll stick to my old Simpsons DVDs.
Crazy Cat Lady [Wikipedia]