Are you in touch with your inner Simpson?

It’s hard to believe that the Simpsons have been on television for 18 years. It seems like just yesterday that they were an interstitial on the Tracy Ulman Show. Then producer James Brooks and creator Matt Groening convinced the fledging Fox Network to invest in a half season to see how it would go.

Fox in those days had built a reputation as the dysfunctional family sitcom network, with shows like Married with Children – come to think of it, it still is. The Simpsons was an instant hit with both the critics and the audience.

Lately there has been some debate about whether or not the show has jumped the shark and run out of creative juice. While I think it has its ups and downs the show is still consistently funnier than almost anything else on television.

We got into a discussion the other day about who was the best character on the show. Everyone seems to have an opinion on this. Some admire Marge’s caring nature, others identify with Bart, the demon child and still others identify with Lisa and her smarter than thou attitude.

You start to see a pattern here – identifying with a character in the Simpsons reveals a lot about you. For instance I like Moe the bartender because of his introspective cynicism. But then I also admire Ned Flanders unwavering faith and optimism (under which seethes a caldron of simmering anger). And I also kind of admire Monty Burns unrestrained greed.

However, the character that everyone loves most is Homer. I guess we all have our inner Homer – slothful, dumb, driven by instinct, but also loving and caring (well except for Flanders). It’s easy to see why Homer evolved into the most popular character on the show. Originally, the show was built around Bart, but the audience quickly gravitated to Homer.

Everyone seems to have a favourite Homer episode – Homer almost causing a meltdown at the plant, Homer deliberately eating himself into a disability claim, his heart attack, his rejection of god, accidentally killing Maud Flanders, ducking out of couples’ therapy to go fishing, exalted by the Stonecutters, bankrupting his brother’s car company.

Homer doesn’t want much from life – Marge’s love, his children and donuts. And I guess when you get right down to it that’s what the rest of us want as well. So long live Homer.

There have been a couple of books written about the Simpsons exploring the social and religious themes in the series. Some colleges and universities also offer courses about the show. This search for deeper meaning in a show where the characters are represented by drawings traveling at 24 frames per second is interesting.

Perhaps we need to bring the Simpsonfication of our society to a new level. Maybe before starting any conversation that you should be required to name your favourite Simpsons’ character. This might produce some interesting results.

Posted to Sparkplug Copyright by Peter McGarvey 2007.

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