Goo Goo Gai Pan

Goo Goo Gai Pan

"Goo Goo Gai Pan" is the twelfth episode from the sixteenth season of The Simpsons, which originally aired on March 13, 2005.


Selma gives Mr. Burns his driving test to replace his old license, which expired in 1909. During the test, she experiences a hot flush and is later taken to the hospital. Dr. Hibbert tells her that she is experiencing menopause (which is explained in a video with Robert Wagner). She is saddened that now she cannot have children. Patty suggests that she adopt a child. She almost manages to adopt one of Cletus' many babies, but that falls through after Cletus reclaims the child. Lisa advises Selma to adopt a child from China. Although her forms are in order, Selma learns that she has to be married to legally get a child. When she finds out that the agency-person knows who MacGyver is, she puts down the second name she can think of: Homer Simpson.

She sponsors a trip to China for the Simpsons. While on the plane, Selma informs Homer that he must pretend to be her husband. He is shocked, but later decides to do it for Marge. When they arrive, Selma claims that Bart and Lisa are their own children and Marge is their nanny. The Chinese adoption agent, Madam Wu (voiced by Lucy Liu), tells them that they will get a baby in a few days. The Simpsons visit the Great Wall of China and take in a Chinese production of Death of a Salesman which leaves Homer weeping and declaring that he finally "gets this play." When asked about his job in America, reasoning that he has no chance of being outed, Homer claims he is a Chinese acrobat.

As luck would have it, at an acrobatics show, it is announced that the main performer had a sudden attack of "outspokenness" and suffered a "bullet-related death". When people start to realize that the Communist Party of China is not infallible and start questioning everything, Homer is told to perform to forestall an impending riot. The stunt (named "Chairman Wow") involves being catapulted onto a high stack of chairs. The stunt goes off smoothly, but Homer's over-enthusiastic chanting of "U-S-A!" causes the stack to topple and he gets severely injured and is treated in a hospital, where he is treated with acupuncture needles (which are revealed to actually be porcupine quills). There, Selma gets her daughter, whom she names Ling. Selma thanks Homer for doing the right thing and decides to leave him to snuggle with Marge for a while. When everyone leaves, Homer and Marge snuggle. Unbeknownst to them, Madam Wu is watching them through holes in the nose of a portrait of Chairman Mao.

As the Simpsons and Selma are about to leave, Madam Wu arrives and takes Ling away, as Homer and Selma aren't married. At the airport, The Simpsons try to console a despondent Selma. Lisa has an idea of getting Ling back. At the nursery, they dress and spray paint Homer as a cross-legged golden Buddha statue. According to the customs of feng shui, the Buddha statue must be taken indoors. The Chinese guards try pushing him in, but he is too heavy. They insert a hook into his nostril and drag him into the nursery. When they leave, Homer goes inside the nursery to search for Ling.

The Simpsons, Selma and Ling pass through Tiananmen Square, a place where, according to the Chinese shown in the episode, "nothing happened" in 1989. Suddenly, Madam Wu, in a tank, confronts them and demands the baby back in a way similar to the Tank Man. After an impassioned speech from Selma, Madam Wu agrees to allow Selma to adopt Ling. Apparently, Wu herself had been raised by her mother alone, as her father was choked to death by a ping-pong ball the day before the Heimlich maneuver was invented. Selma, Ling, and the Simpsons depart China by junk except for Bart, who has been replaced by a Chinese child spy who is masquerading as him to deceive Homer. The episode ends with 3 dragons flying in the sky and singing and playing an erhu.

Cultural references

  • When Selma says the car is too hot, Burns says it is actually cooler than Guy Lombardo, a famous Canadian band leader. Also, the jacket Selma removes seems to be from the same Chanel outfit (albeit in a larger size) Marge wore (repeatedly) in Scenes from the Class Struggle in Springfield.
  • Mr. Burns says his car once outraced the Flying Finn, Paavo Nurmi, an athlete who won 9 Gold Medals at the 1920, 1924 and 1928 Summer Olympics. Both this and the aforementioned references are among the many Burns age jokes that have been used throughout the series.
  • The dragons Homer imagines are white, gold, and red, but at the end the white one is green. That first dragon also resembles the one who appears in Spirited Away.
  • The Chinese play that the Simpsons watch is clearly based on Death of a Salesman. One of the performers says Ben's trademark line, "When I was seventeen, I walked into the jungle. And by twenty-one, I walked out. And by God, I was rich!" A chorus sung during the scene, "Wǒ yǒu qián! Wǒ yǒu qián!" is Mandarin for "I have money! I have money!" (Arthur Miller directed a Chinese production of Death of a Salesman at the Beijing Peoples' Art Theatre in 1983.)
  • When the Simpsons plane arrives in Beijing, you can see several crates being loaded on to a plane labeled "Maine Lobsters" "Heartland Oatmeal" and "America's Choice Apple Pie" displaying globalization and the joke that many "American" products are actually made in China
  • In the beginning of the episode Patty suggests a trip to "Schwegmans" for a dented can sale. The name is a play on the east-coast supermarket chain Wegmans.

Chinese cultural references

  • The title of this episode is a pun on moo goo gai pan, the name of a popular pseudo-Chinese American recipe, based on the Cantonese dish mo gu gai pin (磨菇雞片) (Mandarin mo gu ji pian (磨菇鸡片)), which is composed of fresh button mushrooms and other vegetables with sliced chicken. The Itchy and Scratchy episode Moo Goo Gai Pain is another title parody.
  • In the Consulate of China, on the wall map, there’s Taiwan (Republic of China) shown as an independent country. This is a joke on the One-China policy of the Chinese Communist government.
  • While flying to China, the plane passes over a monument to "Warrior and spicy chicken pioneer" General Zuo Zongtang.
  • The original broadcast portrayed the body of Mao Zedong covered by the flag of the Communist Party of China with the hammer and sickle (as is the case in the actual mausoleum). However, in later broadcasts the flag was replaced by the Flag of the People's Republic of China.
  • Homer's remark that Mao is like "a little angel that killed 50 million people," is a reference to the Great Leap Forward and other policies of Mao that resulted in massive Chinese death tolls.
  • There is a plaque reading, "On this spot in 1989, nothing happened", in Tiananmen Square, a reference to the Chinese Government's denial of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.
  • The depiction of a "Krusty Fried Chicken" restaurant in China is a reference to Kentucky Fried Chicken, which enjoys a high level of success in the country and was actually the first American fast food chain to open in China.
  • While Homer is disguised as Buddha, a Chinese guard remarks that leaving him outside would be bad. This is a reference to Feng shui, an ancient Chinese practice of placement and arrangement of space. However, the practice is referred to as "a trick to sell crappy end tables to the west" in the episode.
  • When the Simpsons are visiting the Great Wall of China, three "barbarian invaders" (presumably Mongolians) are shown trying to leap over the wall with their pogo sticks, one of them saying; "With these pogo sticks we can finally get across!". This is a reference to the difficulties foreign armies faced when trying to invade China.
  • When Selma stands in front of the tank piloted by Wu, the shot is highly reminiscent of the famous image of the Unknown Rebel (popularly known as "tank man") blocking the line of tanks during the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.
  • The Simpsons family arrived in Beijing, China, but left from Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong, as the Bank of China Tower could be seen in the background, and Beijing has no harbour or port to speak of as it is a landlocked city.

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