3. Lisa's Substitute

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These days a Simpsons celebrity guest is a selling point for any given episode, but in the first couple seasons a few pseudonyms were used. Michael Jackson and Albert Brooks (or their agents) evidently had problems with being directly credited for their work. The same goes with Dustin Hoffman, who voiced the titular character in "Lisa's Substitute." 

When Miss Hoover believes she's come down with Lyme disease, one Mr. Bergstrom fills in and immediately captures Lisa's heart. Whereas Miss Hoover's exhausted apathy rivaled that of Edna Krabappel, Mr. Bergstrom was funny, inspiring, silly, thought-provoking and handsome as all get-out. That he saw something special in Lisa was remarkable in itself; she's gotten very used to being overlooked, so anyone giving her the attention and credit she deservesreally stood out. Suffice it to say, Lisa's fondness for Mr. Bergstrom sooned turned to worship.

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With a saxaphone-hating dingus like Homer for a dad, Lisa hasn't ever had a positive and encouraging father figure before. Despite being smarter than everyone else at 742 Evergreen Terrace, Lisa has never felt like she was truly challenged, nor did she feel like she really belonged. For the first time since she can remember, Lisa has someone who treats her like a peer. Of course, the surrogate father theme is somewhat complicated by Lisa's self-professed romantic feelings for Mr. Bergstrom, but we put that (and the undoubtedly horrific fan art that absolutely exists somewhere) out of our minds.. 

But because Dustin Hoffman was never going to commit to a full season in a recording booth, Mr. Bergstrom had to go sometime. Before he boards a train headed for Dead Poets Society University, Bergstrom ensures that Lisa always has something to remember. 

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As the story goes, the script initially had the period at the end of "You are Lisa Simpson." as an exclamation point. Thankfully the animators screwed up somewhere, because the period makes the statement much more meaningful and powerful in its matter-of-factness. Mr. Bergstrom leaves not because other kids need more help than Lisa, but because he knows that when she puts her mind to it, Lisa doesn't need any help at all. It's more than a little touching to know that Lisa will carry this knowledge through her whole life. Especially since Lisa episodes are usually the worst. 


4. Bart disappoints his mother

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Bart has a special relationship with his mother.  Even though everyone else in the world (including Homer and Lisa) often think of Bart as an irredeemable hellion sent to this planet to cause michief and sow deceit like some cherubic prankster god, Marge doesn't see it that way. To her, she's "my special little guy," and even though he's a handful, he's still innately good at heart. 

That said, it's not like Bart doesn't make mistakes in every minute of his life. Such was the case in "Marge Be Not Proud," wherein Bart learns the wrong lesson from some local bullies.

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Normally Bart wouldn't have much of a reason to shoplift, but this time there's a very tempting target. Earlier in the episode, we saw Bart literally drool over an ad for Bonestorm, a video game that looks like Mortal Kombat plus heroin. Mimicing the advertisement's call to action didn't work on his mom ("Tell your parents "Buy me Bonestorm, OR GO TO HELL!"), and he's pretty young to be carrying up to and including $70 for a brand-new retail game

And so, faced with the choice of getting caught for stealing versus not owning a copy of Bonestorm, Bart made the only choice he could. 

Before we get back to the episode, one quick note here -- check out the parody video game boxes next to Bonestorm. There's Canasta Master, Operation Rescue, Robot Stampede and A Streetcar Named DEATH. That last one, Sim Reich, is sort of amazing for how bold it is. Kind of hard to believe The Simpsons could get away with a reference to a Nazi regime management simulator in this day and age. 

Anyway, Bart is caught by a surly security guard who lets him off with a warning and a call to the Simpson household's answering machine (which is promptly deleted). All told, Bart gets off pretty easy -- he's banned from the store, but it's not like he'd have to go back later in the episode.

Like a lot of moms, Marge doesn't really care much when it comes to presents. You could get her an all-expenses paid trip to Greece or a Chia pet shaped like Shrek and she'd love it all the same if it came from her special little guy. One exception comes during picture time, which like a lot of moms, Marge holds pretty dear. Unfortunately, this takes the family back to the very same store Bart was banned from. As you can see, Bart's criminal ways ruined the portrait.

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Bart's words and deeds are now out in the open. Marge isn't mad... she's just disappointed. Like, so disappointed she's catatonic. Bart isn't the special little guy she thought she knew. Marge in part blames herself for the fact that she doesn't know her son anymore, that she didn't even realize that the two of them weren't on the same wavelength.

There wasn't any swift punishment handed down, despite Homer's suggestion of "No stealing for three months." Instead, Marge just started treating Bart like an adult.

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marge be not proud

This kind of treatment isn't part of a scheme to get Bart to realize the error of his ways -- Marge genuinely believes that she doesn't know Bart anymore, and that her helicopter parenting was at fault. But when his mom stops tucking him in at night and leaves him out of snowman building, Bart starts to worry whether Marge really loves him anymore. She does, obviously, but she doesn't know how to show that love when her previous methods had evidently produced a criminal. 

Things take a turn when Bart comes home for Christmas with something else tucked in his jacket. Marge is likely worried that he stole a copy of SimReich, but it's something completely different:

A professional portrait, bought and paid for, of Bart smiling like the normal child he never was. Marge's heart swells as it dawns on her that though she believed she didn't know her son anymore, her son sure did know her. 

Though sure looks like a turning point in their relationship, it seems as though Marge had already forgiven Bart. She went ahead and got him that special video game, after all. 

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It really is the perfect karmic retribution. Bart patched up things with his mom, but it's not like he never did anything wrong. A terrible video game from a loving mother is just the right amount of punishment wrapped in a reward.