Anyone who even vaguely knows me knows that I absolutely love “The Simpsons.” I quote them nearly every single day, which I am sure can be irritating. I watch them when I need cheering up. I have a poster of the cast in my cubicle. I have action figures and Pez dispensers. A Homer doll resides in my kitchen. I’ve tried to cajole my young niece and nephew into loving the show as much as I do. (They’ve politely humored me.)
I’ve been faithfully watching the show since I was 5 years old. It has honestly been my longest standing relationship. It’s been 22 years now, after all. I have been so invested in the show that one episode actually made me cry. I am slightly embarrassed to admit this. It happened during the episode in which Homer reunites with his fugitive mother; at the end, his mother has to leave him once again because the police are pursuing her. After they say goodbye, Homer sits forlornly on the hood of his car and watches the beautiful night sky. I’m not quite sure why this particular moment moved me to tears. You can laugh at me if you want, I laugh at myself all the time.
A few months ago, I was talking to my therapist about my coping strategies when I’m feeling blue. I said that I like to eat delicious food and watch “The Simpsons” when I have bad day. When he asked me why the show was so important to me, I unexpectedly burst into tears. Now here was a low point in my life: crying about a cartoon. I realized I was so attached to this show because it was what brought me the most joy those long and difficult years I was a depressed teenager. During that half hour that I would forget that I was such a pariah — both among my peers and in my culture. (I became a feminist and atheist at the age of 12, just to give you an idea.) I remember my mother was always pleased to see me watch “The Simpsons” because it was the only time that I would laugh with abandon.
My therapist then asked me which character I most identified with and I explained that Lisa Simpson was a sort of role model because of her feminist and political convictions. She was certainly annoying, but she was so unyielding in her vision for a better world. (I know I can be exasperating in my idealism.) She continues to be one of the few feminists on TV, sadly. And then I began talking about her relationship with her Homer, and my eyes started leaking once again. The misunderstandings between Lisa and Homer were all too familiar for me. I was totally the kind of ass who would ruin my dad’s barbeque with my staunch vegetarianism when I was younger. And, like Homer, my dad was often at a loss in dealing with such a perplexing daughter.
Most of my friends are also Simpson nerds, so they don’t find my Simpsons love affair at all odd. Put a bunch of us together and we’ll quote entire episodes. Other people, however, are confused by a grown woman’s fixation on a cartoon. Some may even find it immature. But to me it’s more than a mere cartoon — it’s something that has brought me joy for 22 years now. It’s even helped me better understand myself. Sometimes I use “The Simpsons” to gauge whether or not I want to be someone’s friend; I am suspicious of anyone who doesn’t like it. It’s also been crucial to the development of my sense of humor, since it’s so intelligently written, making all sorts of nerdy allusions. It’s taught me to relish absurdity and make scathing cultural critiques.
For example, Homer: “When will I learn? The answers to life’s problems aren’t at the bottom of a bottle, they’re on TV!”[Screenshot Via Hulu]