Idol Chatter

Though “The Simpsons” was a repeat last night, it was new to me, and–though I am not sure why this fascinates me as much as it does–I couldn’t help catching what was at least the second reference to Barbra Streisand’s 1983 gender-bender drama “Yentl” in the animated series’ history.

For those with all-too-short memories, “Yentl” was the story of a young Jewish woman in an Eastern European shtetl who, lacking educational opportunities because of her gender, is determined to study in an all-men’s yeshivah, so she covers up in traditional Orthodox men’s garb–white shirt, black suit, black coat, black hat, dangling side-curls–and enrolls as a man.

The so-bad-it’s-funny movie first appeared on “The Simpsons” in an episode focusing on Nelson and his search for his father. Believing no one is around to hear him, the supposedly hard-hearted bully breaks into a heart-wrenching (or gut-busting, depending on your perspective) rendition of the movie’s song “Papa Can You Hear Me?”

Then, in the episode rebroadcast last night, the kids’ school is separated by gender, in order to give the girls an empowerment boost in math and science. Fed up with her touchy-feely math class–“How does a plus sign make you feel?” the teacher asks–Lisa decides to take a play from Babs’ book and attend the boys school in drag. Discovered, one of Nelson’s bully friends calls out disappointedly, “We’ve been Yentled!”

Indeed they had been.

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