Zoidberg celebrates his freedom in a way that the rest of the planet finds unconscionable. Hilarity and war ensue.
It’s Freedom Day on Earth, a day in which people are encouraged to do whatever the hell they want, including naked hot tubbing. Zoidberg (Billy West) is particularly fond of the holiday, stating that Earth’s freedoms are given to everyone, while on his planet people suffer to get it. The Planet Express employees go to Washington, DC for a parade. Earth President Richard Nixon (West) asks the planet to salute the Earthican flag, Old Freebie, only to find out that Zoidberg has just eaten it as a celebration of his freedom. Enraged, Nixon orders his execution.
Zoidberg flees to the embassy of Decapod 10, his home planet. Ambassador Mervin (David Herman) supports Zoidberg, but Nixon is about to order the embassy raided until Leela (Katey Segal) tells Nixon that eating a flag is constitutionally protected. Nixon challenges this in the Supreme Court, where Zoidberg is defended by Old Man Waterfall (Phil Hendrie), the father of the deceased Free Waterfall, Sr. from “The Birdbot of Ice-Catraz” and grandfather of Free Waterfall, Jr. from “The Problem with Popplers.” Old Man Waterfall is a bisexual polygamist Satanist multi-war veteran lawyer who believes that freedom has to include things that challenge that freedom. The Court ends up ruling against Zoidberg (and also declaring polygamy legal) and ordering him to either publicly apologize or die.
Zapp Brannigan (West) comes to arrest Zoidberg at the embassy, but attempting to go on sovereign soil results in the Decapodians declaring war on Earth. They quickly defeat Earth’s forces due to Zapp giving an obvious spy the Earth defense codes. The Decapodians then enslave the humans and unveil their Mobile Oppression Palace. Fry (West), Bender (John DiMaggio), and Leela try to fight back using a heat-seeking missile. It fails due to Decapodians being cold-blooded, until Zoidberg lights a flag on fire and attracts the missile to the mobile oppression palace. Zoidberg is hailed as a hero, eats another flag, then contemplates eating the Shroud of Turin.
This is one of the rare Futurama episodes that’s taking a firm and pretty unambiguous political stance. Sure, it gets couched in a ridiculous story, but throughout the episode the narrative clearly says that Zoidberg is the only one that is truly celebrating freedom. Since the episode is an analogue for burning a flag in protest, including having Zoidberg literally burn one, the show actually supports the constitutional right to protest your government through peaceful subversive acts. Given that this was 2002, after the invasion of Afghanistan but before the Iraq War, and patriotism was at a high, this is kind of a ballsy message.
This is the third episode focused on Zoidberg after “Why Must I Be a Crustacean in Love?” and “That’s Lobstertainment,” and it’s actually a step up from the latter. Part of it is that this episode actually makes Zoidberg the optimist rather than his usual depressed self. They don’t make much mention of him being broke or perpetually alone. The closest thing we have to his usual negativity is when he’s thinking about his past on his home world of Decapod 10, where he claims people have to suffer for freedom. It shows that his life has been filled with people guilting him into different things. First, a woman who is not his mother (because Decapodians die when they mate) guilted him out of being a comedian by telling him he’d make his parents roll over in their graves. A man guilts him out of voting for a candidate by telling him it’d cause a recession. Last, the same woman makes him feel guilty for giving up being a comedian in favor of medicine.
What’s most interesting about Zoidberg’s past is that he says that he loves the Earth’s version of freedom more than his planet’s, but… is his planet any less free? His planet never seems to say that he can’t do anything, only that people try to talk you out of doing things, whereas the Earth tells you to indulge. That means that if you want to do something on Decapod 10, you have to be confident enough in your decision to deal with people saying that you shouldn’t do it. That’s not less free, it’s just more difficult and is likely to deter people from doing things for stupid reasons. However, Zoidberg prefers the complete indulgence of Earth… only to find out that Earth actually has LESS freedom to do certain acts.
Overall, not a bad episode, but definitely not one of the best ones.
Everything Old Man Waterfall says to the Supreme Court.
He starts by saying that unlike the Hyper-Chicken (Maurice LaMarche), he’s not a big city lawyer, which is like trying to out-Matlock Matlock. He then proceeds to give a speech about how he is a patriot:
‘Cause I lost my real hand plantin’ the flag when we took back Halley’s Comet! Yet it was worth it, so much do I love that flag. I love it even more than I love my seven wives — that’s right, I’m a polygamist. Yet I would gladly eat a flag myself, had I not used my intestine as a rope to hoist a flag made of my own skin, if it would protect the freedoms of the proud people who salute that flag. Freedom such as polygamy. I rest my case.
This is a funny, fairly impassioned speech which completely fails at being any kind of argument towards why eating a flag should be protected. He says that HE believes that it is a freedom that should be protected, but literally nothing about why he believes that. In contrast, the Hyper-Chicken says that freedom of speech applies only to what comes out of the mouth and cites a case saying that eating the Constitution was found to be non-protected speech. That’s right, the Hyper-Chicken was actually the better lawyer. Now, does that mean that the Supreme Court still had to side with him? No, but it does make it more reasonable in the episode.
Well, that’s it for this week.
See you next week, meatbags.
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