TV: Teacher, mother, secret lover

By Linze Griebenow

The Simpsons is arguably the most American cultural phenomenon since denying the metric system.

Although there has been criticism over the years of the declining quality of the program, Bart Simpson reminds us that, “They’ve given us hundreds of hours of entertainment for free, if anything we owe them.”

People must remember that TV shows do not exist in a vacuum, they too are subject to change as the real world changes around it and just as any other show The Simpsons evolve and grow.

In an attempt to depict the true lives of not-so-hard-working, well-meaning American goofs, creator Matt Groening modeled The Simpsons loosely after his own family. Less than fifteen years later, “D’oh” is in the dictionary.

Since the show’s crude beginnings on the Tracy Ullman show, The Simpsons has held a mirror up to society and reveled in its foibles. “Krusty Brand Pregnancy Tests” and ruffled potato chips floating un-teathered in space beautifully emphasizes that which makes us uniquely American.

The idiocracy of the U.S. legal system, the evilness of corporations and our obsession with youth all act as the foundations for classic episodes and ultimately play a role in shaping how we view the world. Season five’s “Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy” premiered when I was four and still has a profound effect on my feminist political leanings.

With famous catchphrases, life philosophies and tender love stories, the long-running show has helped and continues to define the attitude and humor of entire generations.

Those of us who were kids in the late ‘80s and ‘90s are united by memories of knowing FOX’s evening line-up and thinking the parents of kids who couldn’t watch The Simpsons were weird. The Simpsons has essentially created a shared bond between dads, frat boys and TV junkies alike.

Growing up being known as the “Simpsons Girl,” I have formed life-long friendships with others who share my affinity for mindless television consumption and in my darkest times can serenade me the words to the song “See My Vest.” In the time I have spent dedicated to watching and re-watching the show’s seasons, I could have learned to do many other pertinent things, but I feel as if I’ve chosen wisely.

The Simpsons has been like a dog to me; it’s there to cheer me, doesn’t talk back and is always good for an uplifting laugh.

Over the last twenty-two years of my life, I have gained an extensive catalog of useless pop culture knowledge that often serves me well. If it weren’t for The Simpsons, I would have no concept of what a “crisitunity” is or that there is both a Mel and Albert Brooks. I wouldn’t know that beer is the “cause of and solution to all of life’s problems” or that Tiajuana is the “happiest place on Earth.”

The 22-minute stories of The Simpsons provide a time when we can allow ourselves to invest in the shortcomings and hilarious failures of another family that closely mimics our own. When Homer must choose between a hammock-filled dream job and his family, or grapples with giving his father a kidney to save his life, we too feel their ups and downs. For a cartoon, the town of Springfield can make us feel awfully human.