I talk about The Simpsons all the time and if you know me in real life, I probably reference the show more than most other people you talk to and likely more than you realize. I have been considering a week of “Everything I Learned” posts, and I believe I have finally made it to seven. This is the launch.
If you didn’t watch The Simpsons growing up and/or you don’t watch The Simpsons now, I do not think less of you. I just think you have missed out on comedic gold. It’s more of a pity thing.
Everything I Need to Know, I Learned From The Simpsons.
1. Siblings are our most valued asset.
There are two, possibly three, episodes of The Simpsons that make me cry. On a broad level, it does not seem like the kind of show that can jerk a tear from even the softest heart, but I assure you it can…like in “Lisa on Ice” when Bart and Lisa make up at the end after fighting the whole episode, or “Stark Raving Dad” when Bart really pulls it together and sings to his sister for her birthday. With Michael Jackson, nonetheless. All I’m sayin’ is, my relationship with Daniel is almost identical to Bart and Lisa.
Lisa: Are you standing up to get me to leave?
Bart: It’s from the book.
Lisa: Hey! I’m not a Time Burglar!
Bart: Memo to self: Lock door.
Lisa: All right, I’ll go! You don’t have to be a jerk about it.
Bart: Memo to self: Shut up, Lisa.
It doesn’t matter how annoying your brother is, he’s not going anywhere.
2. Unrequited love lasts a lifetime.
Lisa: I like you, Milhouse, but not in that way. You’re more like a little sister.
Milhouse: No, I’m not! Why does everyone keep saying that?
The Simpsons have been around since 1989. If The Simpsons were a person, they could legally drink! It’s a lifetime for a sitcom, even an animated sitcom. One of the tricks to the show’s staying power is the consistency among their main characters. It’s the beauty of animation–the producers don’t have to worry about aging characters or the realism of using actors (beyond their voices, of course). That being said, one of the most consistent and hilarious characters is dear Milhouse Van Houten, Bart’s best friend who has been hopelessly devoted to Lisa for years and years. About 22 of them, to be exact. Via The Simpsons, I learned that you never quite get over your first love…especially if you are stuck being 10 years old forever.
Kids: Lisa likes Nelson!
Milhouse: She does not!
Kids: Milhouse likes Lisa!
Janey: He does not!
Kids: Janey likes Milhouse!
Uter: She does not!
Kids: Uter likes Milhouse!
Teacher: *Nobody* likes Milhouse! Lisa, you’ve got detention!
3. Vegetarians are smart.
Homer: All normal people love meat. If I went to a barbecue and there was no meat, I would say ‘Yo Goober! Where’s the meat?’. I’m trying to impress people here, Lisa. You don’t win friends with salad.
The first time I was a vegetarian, I was eight years old and it only lasted a week. When the episode “Lisa the Vegetarian” premiered, I was moved enough to stop eating meat just like Lisa Simpson. The only reason I decided to eat meat again after the week was over was because I felt selfish having my mother make me a separate meal every night, when she already had enough on her plate. (She did support my choice, though…likely because she loves The Simpsons, as well.) I don’t eat meat now, and I haven’t been much of a meat eater (chicken, on occasion) since 2008. I always knew I was a little bit Lisa.
Homer: Are you saying you’re never going to eat any animal again? What about bacon?
Homer: Pork chops?
Lisa: Dad, those all come from the same animal.
Homer: Heh heh heh. Ooh, yeah, right, Lisa. A wonderful, magical animal.
Fun fact: The McCartney’s (rest in peace, Linda) agreed to guest-voice in the episode only if Lisa remained a vegetarian for the rest of the series. I bet they had no idea the show would continue as long as it has. Lisa, of course, still doesn’t eat meat.
4. …and cops are (sometimes) stupid.
People who unjustly judge The Simpsons because they are animated, likely have no idea the impact of their social commentary. Though I have an abundance of reasons for feeling negatively toward the police department in any American city, I think The Simpsons had a slight influence on my feelings toward police officers. Chief Wiggum (far and out the biggest idiot in the show), is Springfield’s police chief.
Wiggum: Can’t you people take the law into your own hands? I mean, we can’t be policing the entire city!
5. Never own up to everything.
Fabricating isn’t lying, and it is totally acceptable to skirt around the bigger issue. Save yourself!
Homer: Weaseling out of things is important to learn. It’s what separates us from the animals…except the weasel.
I know it doesn’t really seem like a life lesson that I would respect and follow, but you know what? I’m only human. As Homer says, “it takes two to lie: one to lie and one to listen.” Nothing is just one person’s fault, right? Right.
6. Only do as much as you are capable of doing.
I am clearly the kind of person who enjoys challenging herself, but sometimes I think, “You know…I don’t think I can do that.” And that’s more than okay. With a man like Homer, it borders on laziness, but for other people, it doesn’t have to be about underachieving.
Homer: Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try.
Don’t waste your life trying to know everything. We are only capable of so much.
Homer: How is education supposed to make me feel smarter? Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain. Remember when I took that home wine making course, and I forgot how to drive?
7. Men don’t listen.
Marge: Now the cat needs his medication…
Homer: No problem.
Marge: …every morning.
Homer: Can do.
Marge: And the furnace has been giving off…
Marge: …a lot of carbon monoxide…
Marge: …so keep the window op–
Homer: Cat in the furnace.
Marge: Uh, you know, I think I’ll take Maggie with us. And if anything happens, just use your best judgm… mmm… just do what I would do.
I think I reference “cat in the furnace” more than any other line ever spoken in The Simpsons. I say it to my mother about my brothers all of the time. I said it to my (one male) co-worker the other day–and I guarantee he didn’t hear me. Some gender stereotypes are true, ladies! Don’t waste your breath unless you know you have a man’s full attention.
8. Homosexuality is usual and present.
Moe: Come on, don’t take this so hard, Homer. You still got that other kid, uh… Lisa. Let’s, uh, take her out hunting tomorrow; make her into a man.
Homer: Aw, she’d never go. She’s a vegetarian.
Moe: Oh, jeez! Homer, jeez! You and Marge ain’t cousins, are you?
There are a lot of gay jokes in The Simpsons, but none of them are derogatory and honestly, the first time I learned about gay people was from an episode entitled “Homer’s Phobia” in which Homer befriends a man who turns out to be gay. Homer is a bit misunderstood: he’s not always stupid, he is just always uninformed and inexperienced. Homer is homophobic at first, but by the end of the episode, he realizes that homosexuality is okay–and definitely not contagious. “Homer’s Phobia” is just one of many aspects of the show’s true humanity and sensitivity. Not convinced? The episode won a GLAAD Media Award. It’s not the only time GLAAD has recognized the show, either. When Patty Bouvier, one of Marge’s twin sisters came out of the closet, Joan Garry, executive director of GLAAD claimed “when Marge learns that Patty’s about to marry someone who isn’t really a lesbian, she comes to realize that what her sister really deserves, is to be in love with and married to a person who’s right for her. If millions of Simpsons viewers came away from last night’s episode with that little bit of moral truth, it was time well spent.” Good work, Simpson family. Turning ignorance into recognition since 1989.
9. Vote Democrat.
What The Simpsons have always been very good at is making fun of everyone and everything. Sure, we get liberal Democrat digs on top of the Republican party jokes, but there is a definite liberal lean to the show. One of the show’s greatest episodes, “Two Bad Neighbors” has George H.W. Bush move into the Simpson’s neighborhood where Homer and George begin a feud that lasts until the Bush family gives up and moves out of their new home. Brilliantly, this episode exists because of the long feud between the Bush family and the show The Simpsons. Barbara Bush famously called The Simpsons ”the dumbest thing” she had ever seen, and Papa Bush had his own response. Bush claimed that his administration was to “keep on trying to strengthen the American family, to make American families a lot more like the Walton’s and a lot less like the Simpson’s.” A goal as realistic as the rest of his goals, I guess. Matt Groening and crew have continued to respond to the Bush family in a much classier manner–embarrassing for the presidential family, of course. The buck didn’t stop there: the end of the episode shows Gerald Ford moving into the recently vacated home of the Bush’s (Bushes?) and immediately clicking with Homer. Though Ford is a Republican, Groening and crew chose Ford because he reminds them of Homer. Not the best man to replicate, especially in a political role.
10. Religion is silly, at least.
Matt Groening: Hold on, I have to think about this. If there is a God, all evidence shows that he hates me.
Marge: Homer, they can hear you inside.
Homer: Relax, those pious morons are too busy talking to their phony-baloney God.
I think I’ve said enough on that subject.(Matt Groening is from Portland, Oregon and attended Evergreen State University. He’s just one of us liberal, atheist Pacific Northwesterners.)
You can read more from Jessica Tholmer on her blog.
Featured image via.