|The Simpsons episode|
|Episode no.||Season 4|
|Directed by||Jeff Lynch|
|Written by||John Swartzwelder|
|Original air date||April 29, 1993|
|Chalkboard gag||"I will return the seeing-eye dog"|
|Couch gag||The Simpsons walk in, while the couch is replaced by a small wooden chair that they all sit on.|
"Whacking Day" is the twentieth episode of the fourth season of the American animated television series The Simpsons. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on April 29, 1993. The episode revolves around the fictional holiday "Whacking Day", celebrated annually, in which the citizens of Springfield drive snakes into the town square, then fatally club them. After Bart is expelled from school when he injures Superintendent Chalmers, he applies the knowledge he gains from Marge's homeschooling to help Lisa expose the fraudulent and cruel nature of the holiday.
The episode was written by John Swartzwelder and directed by Jeffrey Lynch; Barry White, who had expressed a wish to appear in the show, guest stars as himself. It was pitched by George Meyer, who wanted to create an episode against the mistreatment of snakes. The episode includes the first appearance of Superintendent Chalmers, and features an Itchy & Scratchy parody of Oliver Stone's film JFK. "Whacking Day" won a Genesis Award for "consciousness-raising on behalf of animal issues".
Before an inspection by Superintendent Chalmers, Principal Skinner lures Bart, Jimbo, Kearney, Dolph and Nelson into a utility basement with the promise of free mountain bikes and locks them in. Bart escapes through a ventilation shaft and takes Groundskeeper Willie's tractor for a joyride, accidentally crashing into Superintendent Chalmers who receives medical treatment from the cafeteria lady. Chalmers, furious, denies Skinner a promotion to assistant superintendent; Skinner, also furious, expels Bart for costing him the promotion. Bart is soon expelled from his next school, a private Christian school, and Marge decides to homeschool him.
Springfield's annual "Whacking Day" is approaching. Each year on May 10, the people of Springfield drive snakes to the center of town and beat them to death. The tradition appalls Lisa, who finds no support from any of the adults of the town. Barry White arrives to begin the festivities, but is disgusted and quickly leaves when he discovers what the holiday is about.
Bart has been with Marge on a field trip to Olde Springfield Towne, and he now knows that the origins of Whacking Day, supposedly dating from 1775 and involving Jebediah Springfield, are false: he was fighting in a Revolutionary War battle on the same date. Knowing also that snakes respond to vibrations in the ground, he suggests to Lisa that they lure the snakes to safety by playing music with a lot of bass and laying the stereo speakers on the ground. White, who just happens to be walking by, agrees to help by singing "Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Babe" (with different lyrics to fit the situation), attracting countless snakes into the house.
The pursuing crowd arrives, but they are soon turned around on the subject of Whacking Day by Bart's newfound knowledge. He reveals that the holiday was actually started in 1924 as an excuse to beat up the Irish. Lisa also tells the town about the positive influences that the snakes have had on the town folks, such as killing rodents. The town agrees to give up the tradition. Skinner is impressed with Bart's efforts and welcomes him back to the school, but then realizes in horror that he has forgotten all about the bullies, who are spending the time in the basement talking about their feelings and giving each other hugs. Skinner and Willie race to the school with the mountain bikes to avoid a potential lawsuit.
Writer George Meyer, who was very "animal conscious", was interested in writing an episode related to an annual ritual held in a Texan town, where the townspeople would beat rattlesnakes with sticks. Meyer did not have time to pen the episode himself, so the idea was given to John Swartzwelder. The subject matter of "beating snakes" worried the staff who thought that many would deem it cruel, even though the episode's message is against the mistreatment of snakes. The episode's first act was one of the shortest the staff had ever written at that time, roughly ten pages in length, but with no ideas to expand, they left it as it was. Due to this, the main plot does not start until the beginning of the second act, as the writers could not come up with much material for it.
In order to speed up animation, director Jeffrey Lynch "begged" storyboard artists Kevin O'Brien and Steve Markowski to help him with the episode. The three spent several months on the episode. Barry White wanted to guest star on the show, so he was written into the plot. He sang "Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Babe" specially for the episode, rather than using a recorded version.
The song Grampa was supposed to sing in his flashback, showing how he posed as a German cabaret singer in World War II, was "Lili Marlene" by Marlene Dietrich. The staff could not get the rights to it because, according to the people who own the song, "everybody makes fun of it". Much of the flashback was pitched by Conan O'Brien.
The episode marks the first appearance of Superintendent Chalmers. The staff wanted to introduce a boss for Skinner, and Wallace Wolodarsky pitched his name. Much of the dialogue and interactions between Skinner and Chalmers were ad-libbed by Harry Shearer and Hank Azaria, respectively.
The untitled Itchy & Scratchy short, with "guest director" Oliver Stone, is a parody of the scene where footage is shown of Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald in Stone's film JFK: someone is heard to shout, "Oh God! Get his gun!" as the screenplay draws to a close. The song "O Whacking Day" uses the same tune as the Christmas carol "O Tannenbaum", known in English as "O Christmas Tree". Additionally, Bob Woodward is shown to be the author of the book The Truth About Whacking Day.
In its original American broadcast, "Whacking Day" finished tied for 25th in the weekly ratings for the week of April 26 – May 2, 1993 with a Nielsen rating of 12.2. It was the highest rated show from the Fox Network that week.
For "consciousness-raising on behalf of animal issues", the episode was awarded the Genesis Award for "Best Television Prime Time Animated Series" in 1994.
Jeffrey Lee Puckett of The Courier-Journal cited "Whacking Day" as "the series' richest episode". He wrote: "In 22 remarkable minutes, 'Whacking Day' skewers the quality of America's educational system, self-aggrandizing politicians, greed, the mob mentality, sexuality in the age of political correctness and the whole notion of political correctness, and makes a hero of Barry White."
Chris Vognar of The Dallas Morning News noted the episode was one of the fourth season's best episodes in his review of the DVD.
The show's creator Matt Groening considers Homer's "I am evil Homer" fantasy to be one of the greatest moments in the show's history.
Andrew Martin of Prefix Mag named Barry White his fifth favorite musical guest on The Simpsons out of a list of ten.
A 2003 article in The Journal News reported that records show genuine "Whacking Days" having taken place in Eastchester, New York from 1665 onwards: "That one day every spring be chosen for the destroying of rattle snakes." The article quoted show runner Al Jean as saying: "I agree with the premise of the episode: leave the snakes alone. They didn't hurt anybody."
Since 2009, citizens in North Queensland, Australia, have held an annual "Toad Day Out" every March 29 in which thousands of cane toads (an invasive and highly destructive species not native to Australia) are captured and humanely destroyed. The event was inspired by the episode.