"George Burns was right. Show business is a hideous bitch goddess." (The Simpsons, S07E02, ”Radioactive Man”)
I love how many levels there are to the humor in classic episodes of The Simpsons, but here is one case where they probably went too far. 
As far as I can tell, this joke can be understood on at least four levels, and one of those is as an intentionally-misattributed misquote of a reference to a reference to an event that isn’t even on Wikipedia.
So if you want to “get it,” read on.
Level One: Visceral
The phrase “hideous bitch goddess.” Empirically funny. 
Level Two: Irony
In this episode, Bart’s best friend Milhouse becomes a movie star and Bart is left in the dust.
Instead of saying “Show business is stupid,” as a ten-year old might, he quotes George Burns and uses the phrase “hideous bitch goddess” - there’s humor in the incongruity. 
Level Three: Referential 
If you are familiar with any George Burns quotes, you can see how unlikely it would be that he would have actually said something like that. He loved what he did and said so often. Burns began working in show business at the age of seven, and continued on his own terms until shortly before his death at the age of 100, saying “I’m going to stay in show business until I’m the last one left.”
It would have been very odd for him to disparage show businesses so harshly, so there’s an irony to the severity of Bart’s misquotation.
This is probably the extent of the joke the writers intended but…
Level Four: Historical
…if George Burns didn’t say it, who did? This is where things get so complicated, that there is no reasonable way a viewer could understand the reference.
It was Tennessee Williams. Sort of. In an essay published in the New York Times after the success of The Glass Menagerie, and shortly before the debut of A Streetcar Named Desire, Williams wrote:
The public Somebody you are when you “have a name” is a fiction created with mirrors and that the only somebody worth being is the solitary and unseen you that existed from your first breath and which is the sum of your actions and so is constantly in a state of becoming under your own violation— and knowing these things, you can even survive the catastrophe of Success! It is never altogether too late, unless you embrace the Bitch Goddess, as William James called her, with both arms and find in her smothering caresses exactly what the homesick little boy in you always wanted, absolute protection and utter effortlessness. 
This essay is often published alongside Streetcar as “A Streetcar Named Success” or “The Catastrophe of Success,” and if anyone watching this episode actually recognizes the phase “bitch goddess,” this is likely the source.
Notice that the language is changed dramatically from the way Bart quotes it (no “hideous,”) and that the “bitch goddess” Williams refers to is “success,” not “show business.”
This is similar to the way the quote originally appears in the words of William James, in a letter he wrote to HG Wells (collected in The Letters of William James, Volume Two.) The letter is in response to an essay Wells had recently published in Harper’s entitled "Two Studies in Disappointment.”
In the essay, Wells condemns the American public and media for the arrest and imprisonment of a self-proclaimed anarchist named Billy MacQueen. Wells contends that MacQueen was merely an ineloquent scholar who “decided, after much excogitation, that the ideal state is one of so fine a quality of moral training that people will not need coercion and repressive laws.” 
In response to the essay, James wrote:
When the ordinary American hears of [the cases you described], instead of the idealist within him beginning to “see red” with the higher indignation, instead of the spirit of English history growling alive in his breast, he begins to pooh-pooh and minimize and tone down the thing, and breed excuses from his general fund of optimism and respect for expediency. “It’s probably right enough”; “scoundrelly, as you say,” but understandable, “from the point of view of parties interested”— but understandable in onlooking citizens only as a symptom of the moral flabbiness born of the exclusive worship of the bitch-goddess SUCCESS. That – with the squalid cash interpretation put on the word success – is our national disease. 
MacQueen contracted tuberculosis in prison and died just a few years later.
There. Isn’t the joke funnier now that you totally get it?

"George Burns was right. Show business is a hideous bitch goddess." (The Simpsons, S07E02, ”Radioactive Man”)

I love how many levels there are to the humor in classic episodes of The Simpsons, but here is one case where they probably went too far. 

As far as I can tell, this joke can be understood on at least four levels, and one of those is as an intentionally-misattributed misquote of a reference to a reference to an event that isn’t even on Wikipedia.

So if you want to “get it,” read on.

Level One: Visceral

The phrase “hideous bitch goddess.” Empirically funny. 

Level Two: Irony

In this episode, Bart’s best friend Milhouse becomes a movie star and Bart is left in the dust.

Instead of saying “Show business is stupid,” as a ten-year old might, he quotes George Burns and uses the phrase “hideous bitch goddess” - there’s humor in the incongruity. 

Level Three: Referential 

If you are familiar with any George Burns quotes, you can see how unlikely it would be that he would have actually said something like that. He loved what he did and said so often. Burns began working in show business at the age of seven, and continued on his own terms until shortly before his death at the age of 100, saying “I’m going to stay in show business until I’m the last one left.”

It would have been very odd for him to disparage show businesses so harshly, so there’s an irony to the severity of Bart’s misquotation.

This is probably the extent of the joke the writers intended but…

Level Four: Historical

…if George Burns didn’t say it, who did? This is where things get so complicated, that there is no reasonable way a viewer could understand the reference.

It was Tennessee Williams. Sort of. In an essay published in the New York Times after the success of The Glass Menagerie, and shortly before the debut of A Streetcar Named Desire, Williams wrote:

The public Somebody you are when you “have a name” is a fiction created with mirrors and that the only somebody worth being is the solitary and unseen you that existed from your first breath and which is the sum of your actions and so is constantly in a state of becoming under your own violation— and knowing these things, you can even survive the catastrophe of Success! It is never altogether too late, unless you embrace the Bitch Goddess, as William James called her, with both arms and find in her smothering caresses exactly what the homesick little boy in you always wanted, absolute protection and utter effortlessness. 

This essay is often published alongside Streetcar as “A Streetcar Named Success” or “The Catastrophe of Success,” and if anyone watching this episode actually recognizes the phase “bitch goddess,” this is likely the source.

Notice that the language is changed dramatically from the way Bart quotes it (no “hideous,”) and that the “bitch goddess” Williams refers to is “success,” not “show business.”

This is similar to the way the quote originally appears in the words of William James, in a letter he wrote to HG Wells (collected in The Letters of William James, Volume Two.) The letter is in response to an essay Wells had recently published in Harper’s entitled "Two Studies in Disappointment.”

In the essay, Wells condemns the American public and media for the arrest and imprisonment of a self-proclaimed anarchist named Billy MacQueen. Wells contends that MacQueen was merely an ineloquent scholar who “decided, after much excogitation, that the ideal state is one of so fine a quality of moral training that people will not need coercion and repressive laws.” 

In response to the essay, James wrote:

When the ordinary American hears of [the cases you described], instead of the idealist within him beginning to “see red” with the higher indignation, instead of the spirit of English history growling alive in his breast, he begins to pooh-pooh and minimize and tone down the thing, and breed excuses from his general fund of optimism and respect for expediency. “It’s probably right enough”; “scoundrelly, as you say,” but understandable, “from the point of view of parties interested”— but understandable in onlooking citizens only as a symptom of the moral flabbiness born of the exclusive worship of the bitch-goddess SUCCESS. That – with the squalid cash interpretation put on the word success – is our national disease. 

MacQueen contracted tuberculosis in prison and died just a few years later.

There. Isn’t the joke funnier now that you totally get it?

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