As a 24 year-old female I have had the privilege of tertiary education, the ability to earn the same as a man and express my opinions in all forums without scrutiny. This is no doubt thanks to pioneers such as Simone Dubois, Gloria Steinem or Susan B Anthony who have left a legacy in which we today live. However the triumphs and tribulations of these women are not common knowledge nor are they part of school curriculum (well not where I went to school.) I discovered Dubois and the extent of the suffrage movement whilst in sociology and feminist writing classes at university.
The baby boomers had the controversial Germaine Greer urging women to accept and free their bodies, generation X perhaps sought sexual liberation from Madonna. However generation Y’s most obvious feminist and free- thinker appears to be 8 year old, animated gem Lisa Simpson.
We have grown up with Lisa – although she has stayed the same. We saw her debate religion and eventually choose a religion that suited her beliefs, squirm at the exploits of her family, struggle to fit in, have crushes and resist peer pressure on a nightly basis.
She shocked by becoming one of TV’s first public vegetarians who campaigned tirelessly for women’s empowerment, Tibetan freedom and who is the moral epicentre of her family. A member of MENSA and with an IQ of 159, Lisa is unashamed of her intellect even though it costs her popularity at school, “Maybe I just wasn’t meant to have friends.” In several episodes Lisa Simpson demonstrates that it is okay to be yourself and never compromise your true identity. She challenges a toy company to replace her beloved Malibu Stacy Doll, which can utter “Don’t ask me I’m just a girl” with one that is empowered and independent.
However she is not immune from school yard taunts, loneliness and being misunderstood in her own home, with an alcoholic father and an enabler mother. The thought of mediocrity and a marriage to Ralph or Millhouse petrifies her and pushes her to be her best, perhaps the first female president, as seen through some future episodes. Through her perseverance, ambition and inquisitiveness she is a beacon of hope for children, especially girls world wide. She refuses to conform to traditional gender roles, wants to keep her last name if she decides to get married yet still loves ponies and princesses. Although constantly over looking her overworked and unappreciated mother, in search of new heroines, Lisa is a beloved figure of integrity and goodness.
It is through Matt Groening’s witty character that children are introduced to literature such as: The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky, the poems of Emily Dickenson and works of Gore Vidal and Sylvia Plath. Perhaps by hearing about them, they could be inspired to explore them. Which other current TV character would do the same?
In a television culture of 72 day reality show marriages and vacuous blondes competing to win over man- feminism is void. As The Simpsons is its second decade, Lisa faces new challenges, that are affecting a new generation like diets, sexy tween clothes and bullying (with the help of Lady Gaga)
Generation Y and Z did not growing up alongside Mary Tyler Moore or the wacky and wonderful Marcy D’Arcy from Married with Children. With Oprah Winfrey away from our screens, mainstream television defiantly lacks a strong female presence.
Kudos to Matt Groening for delighting us with Lisa Simpson for the past 20+ years. Her wit, self- assurance and ambition have filled me with glee and comfort as a child, teenager and woman. I know if I had a daughter, I know I would want her to be like Lisa Simpson.
Memorable Lisa Simpson quotes:
“It’s naive to think you can change a person-except maybe that boy who works in the library.”
“You are not born with a soul. You earn it with suffering, hard work and prayer.”
“Why is the world a cesspool of corruption?”
“Dad, as intelligence goes up, happiness often goes down.”