Originally featured here on tmrw magazine.
ah, the simpsons. a show where if there were ever a chance to make a reference to, i’d darn-diddly find it neighbourino. i watched over all of the various odes, memoirs and mentions this week honouring the show and it’s celebration of 30 years on air with a radiant glow of admiration. the show will have spanned over a grand total of 617 episodes when they reach the end of their current 28th season.
but how does a show stay relevant for 30 years? the only other lengthly comparisons are the soaps, like eastenders and corrie. except the queen vic is moe’s tavern and instead of that corner shop denise works in, they’ve got the kwik-e-mart. soaps are based on real life, or they’re supposed to be, which is also what the simpsons does to some extent.
springfield is the most common place name in the us, with 13 cities and 11 towns bearing the name. a fact which somewhat reinforces the notion that springfield is a microcosm of something bigger and better, maybe even of america in its entirety, shown through the eyes of a nuclear family. there aren’t any towns out there that would really have a nuclear plant, a tv, radio and film set, host the olympics and an international film festival and be home to multiple presidents of the united states when you think about it.
within this yellow microcosm, there is at least one character that everyone can relate to, or that you can see traits of yourself or those close to you in. if your family has never gotten into a simpsons-style fight over a game of monopoly, are you even a family?
homer sits at the top of the simpsons hierarchy, but this isn’t to say he’s perfect. in face he represents an imperfect patriarch, a notion which work colleague for one episode before his death, frank ‘grimey’ grimes realises very quickly. he’s a loveable goof that doesn’t have to be right all the time, he’s not the perfect breadwinner or a strong male character, but in many scenarios he is often the hero, thus reinforcing his position as an alpha.
then there’s the holy trinity of simpsons characters, the mole, the mill and the holy ralph. (otherwise known as moleman, milhouse and ralph wiggum). three scenarios that should remain etched in every fan’s brain: ‘i was saying boo-urns’, ‘everything’s coming up milhouse’, ‘i choo-choo-choose you’. need i say more? there are a surprising amount of situations in life where one of these three quotes is completely relatable. something good happens? ‘everything’s coming up *insert name here*’. trying to flirt? ‘i choo-choo-choose you’. okay, so boo-urns is slightly harder – but still just as funny.
lisa’s strong willed, opinionated and independent personality should be inspo for kids everywhere. she’s weird and she doesn’t care. i’ve always admired her as a character. i even went veggie because of her (it was for a day, but still).
but seriously, won’t somebody please think of the children? those that didn’t get to grow up watching the episodes from ‘the golden era’. when jokes were funny, the characters seemed more yellow and bart’s prank calls to moe asking for ‘amanda hugginkiss’ was still the best joke ever told.
the simpsons is a show where if there were ever a life lesson to be learnt, you could most probably find the answer in one of the 617 episode. if you’re dabbling with vegetarianism and are considering marrying a carrot (like i was for that one day) – watch ‘lisa the vegetarian’. if you need to learn how to hatch a couple bird eggs because you accidentally shot their mother, then they turn out to be a pigeon-eating lizards that you hatched and plagued the town with – watch ‘bart the mother’. or if you need to figure out how to get rid of your vegas wife after she crashes your family home – watch ‘brawl in the family’. what’s not totally relatable about those situations?
it’s also taught us a lot about fashion, too. whether that was bart’s custom tees (the innovative slogans speaking for 10-year-olds everywhere: ‘sucking sucks’, ‘adults suck, then you are one’, ‘wake me when it’s recess’, etc), or lisa’s ‘sassy b*tch’ vest when she wanted to be cool for about a day, or marge’s transforming chanel suit, the narrative behind the fashion speaks much louder than the clothes.
the show tackles many important issues if you actually scrape through the humorous and lighthearted surface. addiction, gambling, global warming, activism, politics, obesity, religious cults and an old man trying to block the town from the sun – and that’s just naming the ones off the top of my head.
when a viewer actually listens to what is being said in the simpsons, they will realise there is an intellectuality behind the narrative. as it was said in season one, “if cartoons were meant for adults they’d put them on in prime time”. and that’s exactly what the simpsons has done – created a show that merges adult humour and issues in the interest of the public and broadcast it during primetime tv. that could just be why the show has maintained its popularity over all these years; it’s not just a cartoon, but it provides anecdotes for people, adults, families, who can connect with them without the stories becoming out of date or obsolete – they remain popular because the issues people faced in 1987 are still going on in 2017, or are at least relatable and comparable to modern day. the magic of the simpsons lies in the fact that families haven’t changed, and people are still seeking and wanting what the simpsons continuously offers – smart humour.