The common belief is that, by 2000, The Simpsons had grown long in the tooth – and that that tooth wasn’t half as sharp as it had been a few years prior. The golden-age showrunners had all left the programme, as had such stellar writers as Conan O’Brien and Mike Reiss. Heartfelt episodes and impactful satire were well in the rearview mirror, with loony antics replacing genuine substance.
However, during season 11’s It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Marge, The Simpsons showed it still had some semblance of parodic power. And it did so at heavy metal’s expense. At the start of the episode, school bus driver Otto reveals to Bart that he’s about to pop the question to his girlfriend. “We met in the summer of love,” he fondly reflects when asked how he met his other half. “Woodstock ’99!”
Just one year prior to this episode’s airing, the third iteration of the Woodstock festival was the biggest scandal of the summer. It was meant to be nu metal’s coming-out party, with such rising stars as Korn, Limp Bizkit, Kid Rock and Creed booked to play alongside Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers, James Brown and Alanis Morissette. Instead, it was, by all accounts, horribly planned. It was held during a blistering summer on a New York airbase with zero shade, and such basic necessities as water were reported as being ridiculously expensive. Rebelling fans ignited massive fires during the Chilis’ set, and there were riots and widespread reports of sexual assaults.
It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Marge sunk its claws into the awfully arranged event in a flashback sequence. After a shot pans across scenes of people dancing and beating up an arcade machine, Otto runs to a market stall while on fire. “QUICK! I NEED SOME WATER!” he desperately howls, to which the vendor cheerily replies: “That’ll be eight dollars.” “Pfft, not in this lifetime,” the driver replies before calmly walking away, still burning alive. An onlooker called Becky, played by guest star Parker Posey, runs over to put him out, and it’s love at first sight. All the while, the riffing and whooping of the Limp Bizkit song Show Me What You Got is blaring in the background.
Ultimately, the episode's story doesn’t go far. Becky reveals she doesn’t like metal (why was she at Woodstock ’99, then?!), leading to Otto leaving her at the altar. But, for one fleeting introduction, The Simpsons felt relevant and just a little bit dangerous again.