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Twirling Towards Freedom
Nov 2nd, 2016 by Dr Karma

I usually don’t like it when people say The Simpsons has “predicted” something. I’ve even written a blog about it.

However, I was just remembering a long ago Simpsons episode in which Bill Clinton and Bob Dole put aside their partisan differences to defeat a threat to America–a threat taking the undeserved form of presidential candidates.

And now, both of those men (and ALL living former Presidents, Republican and Democrat) are rejecting exactly the kind of man who would like to make us all build a ray gun to smite his enemies.

Don’t vote for Kang/Kodos.

Vote with Clinton & Dole!

Trump, I mean Kang & Kodos, posing as qualified politicians (and exchanging long protein strings).

Trump, I mean Kang & Kodos, posing as qualified politicians (and exchanging long protein strings).

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The Simpsons and Rio
Jul 19th, 2016 by Dr Karma

rio simpsons

Many years ago, I wrote a column for Mental Floss, Four Simpsons Controversies that Didn’t End in Lawsuits. Number 1 on the list was show’s relationship with Rio. In short, after the family visited Rio in “Blame it On Lisa,” the minister of tourism threatened to sue the show, arguing that the show would hurt the tourism industry, with its depiction of slums, roaming monkeys, and crime (while not the sum of Rio, all true). The Simpsons didn’t apologize and in fact continued to make references to Rio, including a line about Mr. Teeny’s uncle being the minister of tourism.

teeny

Now, as the Rio Olympics are almost upon us, all of the news about Rio is dire. As this CNN article details, Rio is broke, crime is rampant, the zika virus and super bacteria threaten health, and the infrastructure for the games just isn’t in place.

In “The Wife Aquatic,” Lisa exclaims that a certain place is “the most disgusting place we’ve ever gone.”

Bart: What about Brazil?

Lisa: After Brazil.

Sadly, the police in Rio seem to agree, as they have been welcoming visitors at the airport with this sign: rio

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South Park’s Awesome 19th Season
Dec 10th, 2015 by Dr Karma

As an expert on The Simpsons, I’m always asked about other cartoons for adults. For a long time, I watched them all. Several years ago, though, the boy asked why we were watching American Dad when it was so sexist.

“Because I feel like I have to–people always ask me about this stuff.”

And then I turned it off. American Dad and Family Guy both had their moments. As a member of their creators’ generation, I sometimes wonder why my students like the stuff, considering how you really had to grow up in the 80s to get many of the references. However, I don’t like either show enough to watch it. Specifically, I hate Peter Griffin with a passion. A passion. And I find the way he treats his daughter beyond repulsive.

I love Robot Chicken, however (except for Bitch Puddin), and Archer.

And I still watch South Park.

I remember the first few episodes, viewed with friends in college. In fact, “Cartman Gets an Anal Probe” is still one of my favorites. And I highly recommend “Eat, Pray, Queef,” about the double standards in the way we treat women’s bodies and women in comedy.

Not all South Park episodes are great (it’s impossible to be on for almost 20 years and hit one out of the park each time). One of their great strengths is often one of their weaknesses, in fact. They can put together an episode in a week, which means they can be topical, but that very topicality can also date the episodes fairly quickly.

The show has also fallen victim to its own success in the same way The Simpsons has. Both shows were groundbreaking; both shows were criticized heavily for being the downfall of modern civilization. And then both shows became relatively quaint compared to their successors. This is simply the way of things. The shows are different than they were at the beginning, of course, but they transformed audiences’ expectations and paved the way for new shows to signal the end of time–leading some to dissmiss them because they are still themselves instead of Archer.

That said, this season of South Park has been amazing. For the first time, the show has done a solid season arc (it’s still tied in some topical references).

southpark

The arc is not a simple one, but explores several themes: gentrification, advertising/corporate power, and being politically correct. As we have a full season to play, the issues get to be more complex than usual. In earlier episodes, for example, being PC was simply made fun of; here, you can see that some characters need to be more sensitive to differences, but that there is a way to go too far.

The show’s treatment of Caitlyn Jenner has gotten a lot of attention. Bringing her in, of course, was a catalyst to start talking about being PC. In the first episode, Kyle is given detention for saying she isn’t a hero. I sympathized.

My students kept wanting to talk bout Caitlyn, and I didn’t. I am in full support of trans rights, and I know some trans individuals. This was all true before Caitlyn. For most of my students, though, Caitlyn was their introduction to these issues, but I didn’t want to talk about her. Why? Because I’ve never watched the Kardashians (though I’ve watched The Soup talk about them). In fact, when I first heard the name of their show, I hoped there was a tongue in cheek Star Trek spin off, since Kardashian sounds like a race you’d find there. When I found out why the family was on tv–because Kim had sex and people got to see it–I was definitely turned off. I don’t watch reality tv. And I’ve been irritated for years about having to know what some vapid people do because they’re famous for being famous now.

So I didn’t want to talk about Caitlyn because I didn’t want to talk about Bruce.

However, I did want to write about how awesome South Park has been this season. I was going to do so a few days ago, but grading and some medical procedures got in the way. In the meantime, Sonia Saraiya wrote a great piece about it.

 

Other recommendations from the past few months: The Grinder, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, The Simpsons, Jessica Jones, Fresh Off the Boat, Master of None, The Good Wife . . .

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Did The Simpsons Predict All These Predictions?
Jun 20th, 2015 by Dr Karma

No.
It seems like every time I turn on the computer, someone is arguing that The Simpsons “predicted” something or other. Most recently, people are pointing to an episode (“Brother’s Little Helper”), in which the Cardinals spy on people. This is being sold as evidence that The Simpsons has some kind of predictive power.

The MLB satellite

The MLB satellite

Of course, in that episode, Major League Baseball is spying on all of us–a Cardinal player (Mark McGwire) is just the representative shown. In that case, The Simpsons predicted McGwire’s cheating and every other baseball related scandal too.

Sigh.

One of the more annoying articles about this came last year, when people “discovered” that The Simpsons made an Ebola joke in 1997. This was evidence, apparently, that The Simpsons knew there would be an Ebola outbreak in 2014, rather than being evidence that The Simpsons made a joke about an earlier outbreak (which is why we all go the joke in 1997). curious george

I’m tired of it. The Simpsons writers are brilliant; they’re great at tapping into the zeitgeist. And, with 26 seasons of episodes, there’s bound to be a lot of overlap between the fictional and the real.
However, we need to stop jumping to conclusions that any of this is intentional, especially without doing some research first.

For example, some of my students watching “Duffless” thought an ad for Duff Beer was a parody of Red Bull ads. The Duff Beer ad was created way before the Red Bull ones, so it would be more logical to assume that Red Bull owes The Simpsons some money. However, both ads are playing off of old-fashioned ads for cigarettes.

Duffless Ad

Duffless Ad

It’s tempting to see things and to try to create a pattern. I did it years ago when I noticed that three Simpsons episodes about spiritual quests feature the song “Short Shorts” (“The Mysterious Voyage of Homer,” “She of Little Faith,” and “Homer the Heretic”).

Homer the Heretic

Homer the Heretic

She of Little Faith

She of Little Faith

mysterious

The Mysterious Voyage of Homer

Thus, I did what any Simpsons’ scholar would–I asked someone on the show. Chris Ledesma, music editor extraordinaire, took my question to the writer/producers. They were floored by the coincidence. They were also floored that nerds like me are paying that much attention.

I would still like to believe that the show has a subtle message: To achieve enlightenment, wear skimpier clothes.

All that said, I’m surprised I haven’t been bombarded by articles about something The Simpsons may actually have anticipated.

Remember back to a few years ago, when bacon with chocolate was new? When it seemed odd, but you decided to try it?

In 2003, Homer Simpson commands God (through prayer) to come up with a new taste sensation–a new snack. Homer’s prayer then inadvertently (or advertently–God works in mysterious ways) causes an accident between a bacon truck and a fudge truck.

Homer thinks it’s awesome.

So do I.

Coincidence?

That's bacon covered fudge flying to him!

That’s bacon covered fudge flying to him!

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25 Years of The Simpsons
Dec 17th, 2014 by Dr Karma

320xToday is a Simpsons anniversary. On December 17th, 1989, the first full length episode, a Christmas special, appeared.
Of course, the characters premiered in 1987 on The Tracey Ullman Show. What most people don’t know, however, is that “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” was not meant to be the first episode. The season was supposed to start at the beginning of Fall, with “Some Enchanted Evening.” However, the creators/producers were unhappy with the animation that came back from the finishers–it apparently looked too much like The Flintstones–walls shaking when doors were closed, etc. David Silverman helped clean things up and quality was favored over starting on time, thankfully.
A quick memory:
As a rabid Simpsons fan before the show even started, I was very much looking forward to the Christmas special. We set the family VCR. Mom watched the show with me and found the message of family love inspiring. I found that the show solidified my love for my yellow dysfunctional family.
My mom took the tape over to our extended family during the Christmas holiday. My grandmother denounced the show since Bart talked back and never watched it again. My mother turned to one of her sisters at the end of the episode, saying something along the lines of, “See, this just goes to show that you can have a great Christmas without having any money.”
It was patronizing and insulting, and I was mortified, but it wasn’t The Simpsons’s fault.

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On The Simpsons, the Marathon, and the Modern TV Audience
Aug 20th, 2014 by Dr Karma

Tomorrow marks the start of something historic–a full Simpsons marathon on FXX. (It will take 12 days to do every episode.)
Afterwards, FXX will be putting The Simpsons into regular rotation. (I’ve always managed to live somewhere with a local affiliate showing it at least once a day–every other country I’ve visited (UK, Spain, Canada, Finland) has also had regular daily showings.
FXX is also hosting an APP–Simpsons World–that will give unparalleled access to the show (every episode, episode guides, etc). I mean, I have this access (as I’ve recorded every episode of the show and I have all the guides), but this APP will make things easier (no flipping through heavy books, etc). (Further thoughts on the APP are below.)

This marathon/APP launching has increased interest in the show, which will begin Season 26 in the Fall.
A few weeks ago, I was on the anniversary show of a podcast on 90s culture, discussing the best show of the 90s.
Denise and I have several original essays to edit for our new Simpsons collection (and are looking for publishers now).
Tomorrow, I’m going to be on Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane, a live, public-affairs talk show out of NPR’s Philadelphia affiliate, WHYY (at 8 a.m. Pacific Time).

simpsons1

And then there are all the articles, online and otherwise.
I have to say, I find it somewhat disheartening that so many articles about the show start with a cliche about how the show is beloved, but not good anymore or simply postulate the show needs to go off the air.
In truth, the show itself hasn’t changed all that much since its “heyday”; rather, it changed the world of television, bringing us animation for adults, sitcoms without laugh tracks (and thus a faster pacing in the comedy), imperfect lower class families, TV families that actually watched TV, postmodern pastiches that mix high and low comedy, and satire for the masses. It took a while, but then a lot of other shows started imitating the innovations. And then, over the years, new shows with new innovations (like cartoons not just for adults but sick adults like me and my friends) came along.
The Simpsons should certainly not attempt to mimic these shows, to keep pushing the television envelope. It ushered in a revolution; it should not attempt to one-up Archer. (Something will, though. Archer will become quaint. Whatever makes it so will shock us for a while, until something comes out to make it seem old.)
The Simpsons is basically the same. It’s we, the audience, who are different. We expect a lot now–because the show has taught us to. Because the show opened the door for so many other shows to experiment. And we watched those experiments–and we keep expecting more.
And then we get cranky & say The Simpsons is not funny or relevant anymore.
Hey, you don’t have to like it now–you’re a different audience than you were.

But so am I. And I still think it’s funny. True, there are not as many episodes that catch me the way my old favorites do (it should be noted, of course, that not all fans agreed that what we now consider the best episodes were good–“Deep Space Homer,” one of my all-time favorites, was often lambasted by viewers at the time).

Karma & Moe

Karma & Moe

However, there are still new episodes that do catch me. “Coming to Homerica” was an instant classic.
There are still jokes that make me laugh way too much (such as Maggie’s “first” word–in Norwegian–and her mother’s reaction to it, in the above episode).
And there are still episodes that move me. “Lisa Simpson, This Isn’t Your Life” features Lisa going to a private school, as she has often wanted. Lisa hurts Marge deeply in this episode, insulting her mother, her mother’s choices, her mother’s intellect, her mother’s choice to be a stay-at-home mom. However, Lisa then finds out that Marge has taken on some demeaning and grueling work to allow her to go to this school. It’s hard to watch that moment.

I care about the series & its characters. One of the things that makes The Simpsons special is that the characters are imperfect, but lovable. The shows’ imitators (with the exception of Bob’s Burgers, which is excellent) have often neglected this part of the equation. You can kill Kenny hundreds of times, and not just because he’s coming back. I’d actually cheer if they killed Peter Griffin; I can’t watch him verbally and mentally abuse his daughter anymore. And Stewie can insult and try to hurt Lois until the end of time. There may be moments of humor, but I won’t feel for Lois, who cannot apparently be emotionally hurt (and is thus unrelatable), nor do I have a reason to understand Stewie’s vendetta.

Lisa’s tension with her mother, and her mother’s ultimately loving response takes me back to what I loved about all those old episodes people apparently long for–the moment when Bart writes “Hero” on his father’s bald head, when Homer tries to win his daughter back after her crush on a teacher exposes a problem in the father-daughter relationship, when Marge takes Homer back, despite his tattered rags being caught on the coffee table.  Fox Lot1
The other reason for my annoyance at the naysayers is a selfish one. I have friends who work on the show. I have no doubt that I could continue my teaching and scholarship on the show once it’s off the air (in the same way we still read that damn Shakespeare guy), but I want my friends, who are writing jokes, animating scenes, composing music, and putting everything together to keep doing what they love.
Especially since what they love is something I still love.
(And, c’mon, The Simpsons is still better, even in a not great episode, than 95% of the crap on TV; 40% of all people know that!)

*****

Further thoughts on the APP:

I have to admit that I’m not sure exactly how the APP will work. I still have a dumb phone, so I don’t use APPs. This APP, though, is digital, meant for cable subscribers. On the one hand, that means I can get it, but it might also means that it won’t be as useful for my students as I’d hoped. Right now, when I teach the show, I have to show many of the episodes in class, which takes away from our talking time, since they don’t have access to the episodes streaming anywhere. However, most of my students only watch TV on the computer, meaning they aren’t cable subscribers. We’ll see.

 

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Goodbye, Mrs. Krabappel
Oct 28th, 2013 by Dr Karma

This week, Marcia Wallace, the voice of Mrs. Krabappel, died, just a few days short of her 71st birthday.Marcia_Wallace
Edna Krabappel will not be replaced. She’ll join Lionel Hutz and other voices who have been silenced in similar ways.
Wallace was a wonderful actress and comedian. I think I first became really aware of her work with Bob Newhart, but of course I will remember her as Edna.
There’s something about our elementary school teachers, the good and the bad. They stay with us, in our dreams, our imaginations. They spend more waking time with us than our parents often do at that age. They are experts in all subjects (or at least seem so). They are more patient than I will ever be. They read whole books to us, chapter by chapter, day by day. They figure us out, push us towards new things (at least the good ones do.)
My favorite things about Edna:
1. Her willingness to believe in the love of a certain Woodrow, who couldn’t tell her why he couldn’t be with her, where he was going, or even how he was going to get there.
2. The fact that she has bad days sometimes and she doesn’t beat herself up about it.
3. The fact that she is, in fact, an excellent teacher, as evidenced by her Teacher of the Year award.
4. When Principal Skinner abuses her heart, not only does she refuse to take him back, but she also is wise enough to reject her rebound guy just in the nick of time.
5. On occasion, she has stood up to the administration.
6. After she marries Ned, she also asserts her right to co-parent (and perhaps will help the boys turn out a little less sheltered and helpless).
7. When Ned almost didn’t marry her, because of her “promiscuous” past, it was upsetting. Equally upsetting, though, was when he decided to “forgive” her for having had a sex life before him. Luckily, Edna refuses to accept this and demands that accept her –and love her– for who she is.
8. Through everything–getting her fired, faking serious illnesses, replacing her birth control with tic tacs–Edna has only hit Bart once.
9. Yet he’s kissed her once, when she acknowledged his applied learning.
10. Edna will be remembered for her laugh and, most of all, the way in which her relationship with Bart so defined them both.

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The end of Futurama??? Bite my shiny metal ass!
Sep 3rd, 2013 by Dr Karma

Tomorrow marks the second ending of Futurama. I’m going to miss it. futurama_8

The show originally aired on Fox from 1999-2003. It was revived by Comedy Central in 2008. While the original Fox shows were good (with perhaps the exceptions of the film-length works), the Comedy Central version has been really good, producing some wonderful episodes with biting satire.

Futurama is the brainchild of Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons. When The Simpsons aired, Groening’s team had creative control (i.e. the show didn’t receive ‘notes’). Groening fought hard to maintain that policy with Futurama. Those of us who love the show are grateful–Fox would have taken out a lot of the darker elements that make the show what it is.

The title comes from an exhibit at the 1939 World’s Fair that imagined what the world would look like in 1959. Futurama shows us the years right after the start of the fourth millennium–the year 3000. It’s the show’s inherent science fiction that both turns off some anti sci-fi people and attracts the rest of us. It also allows the writers to play with reality for the sake of humor and social commentary. When else but in the year 3000 could Richard Nixon’s head be president? Could an evil “mom” figure rule the world through the eyePhone? Could a robot steward remind his airline passengers, “In the event of a wormhole causing us to travel back in time, do not kill your parents. If you are traveling with a small child, help them to not kill you before you don’t kill your parents.”

google glass-1

Well, you could maybe have those things in a Simpsons Halloween episode, but the whole joy of Futurama is that you can have the horror and comedy of sci-fi without having to wait for October (or, when stupid sports are ruining my life, November).

I still prefer The Simpsons to Futurama. And while Futurama is critically acclaimed, it seems the fans continue to support the family comedy that changed television over its sci-fi little brother. However, I don’t claim that The Simpsons is superior in writing, satire, or animation. Or that family comedies are inherently better than workplace comedies. Rather, my loyalty to The Simpsons is partially caused by it coming into my life when I was so young. leonard-nimoy_288x288

Also, I have never really liked Fry. And it’s hard to really, really love a show when you don’t love its main character. Although Bart and Homer both have problematic personalities, deep down, I like them. However, Fry could go back into a freeze pod, and I wouldn’t miss him. I would miss lots of the other characters–Leela, Kif, Zap (whom I wish we could have heard voiced by Phil Hartman, as was intended [miss you, Phil]), Morbo, and the Robot Devil, a diabolically good singer, etc.

Now they’re all leaving. Luckily, Netflix is streaming them, so you can binge watch, as I’ve been doing this week. Find yourself in future when suicide booths are luckily not well constructed, when Christmas has finally become X-Mas, when those who have difficulty with lessons in love can have a very sexy learning disability (sexlexia), when we finally discover why cats are so adorable,* when Al Gore can explain the true role of the V.P.:
Fry: “Who are you people?”
Al Gore: “I’m Al Gore. And these are my vice presidential action rangers, a group of top-nerds whose sole duty is to prevent disruptions in the space-time continuum.”
Fry: “I thought your sole duty was to cast the tie-breaking vote in the Senate.”
Al Gore: “That, and protect the space-time continuum. Read the Constitution!”

Futurama will remain one of the few shows to come back after a cancellation (the other two notable shows are Family Guy and Arrested Development). It’s fitting, really, that this show (in which the main character didn’t quite succeed in his world and gets another chance in the future) came back from the dead to succeed again. As we say goodbye tomorrow, we’ll cross our fingers that the space-time continuum will allow another rebirth. Until then, let’s eat that pizza the I.C. Wiener ordered.

I would so watch the evening news is Morbo was the anchor!

I would so watch the evening news if Morbo were the anchor!

* The cats are adorable because they have an ulterior motive. Josh Weinstein, who wrote this episode, is also adorable, but it’s hard to believe he has an ulterior motive (which is probably exactly what he wants me to think). FuturamaHeadInAJar.jpeg

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Comic-Con 2012: A Top Ten
Jul 15th, 2012 by Dr Karma

So this week, I packed my Zuul costume and too much eyeliner and headed down to Comic-Con. So did 149,999 other people (well, not the zuul part). I managed to make it out in time to get into preview night, where I saw my friends Scott Shaw and Lonnie Millsap. I was also able to talk to the artist for Kill Shakespeare (one of the writers, Anthony, is skyping in with my class this next Wednesday).

Karma & Scott

Then, on the way home, I was lured in to a downtown restaurant by a live rockabilly band.

So it was a good start. I won’t give you a day by day play by play, as it’s all a bit of a blur now, but here are the highlights.

1. Margaret Atwood was here for a Bradbury retrospective panel. Naturally, when she walked past me in the hall, I caught up to her to get a picture. I lovingly reminded her that I edit her journal and that I used to be her Society’s president. I hoped she didn’t think I was weird for being dressed as Death. I also completely ignored the two relatively famous authors with her, except for when I requested that they take our picture:

2. One of the times I wandered over to the Bongo booth (which I do once a day whenever they’re near), Matt Groening was there! Now, I’ve met several Simpsons/Futurama people (and I love my Bongo guys), but I’d never met the big man. So I got Nathan Kane’s (the new exec whom I’d just met the day before) attention and got him to take a picture of us. Nathan was very patient and Matt remembered something I’d left at the studio for him a year ago. I thanked him profusely for my entire academic career and successfully didn’t wet myself.

3. The Simpsons panel: Did I get to see the new Maggie short? Did I miss the Futurama panel due to the absurd line? Was Carrie Fisher briefly on stage? Yes. Yes. Yes.

4. Zach was there! When I flipped through the program the first time, I didn’t see Zach Weinersmith (of SMBC fame)’s name, but he was there! Zach has spoken to my class and to UCD at large. His work is hilarious, and it’s always nice to see him. Alexander is going to be totally jealous (the sign says “hi, Alex”)!

5. I got to see Joss Whedon! Okay–I’m not one for standing in lines, but I did get in line for The Simpsons and for Joss Whedon. I mean, I’ve given three different presentations this year on Joss’s work, so I had to go. Joss is hilarious. He riffed on how he’s his own favorite production company (he really gets what he’s trying to do), threatened to murder some guy’s family (after the guy said killing our favorites appeared to be Joss’s thing), talked about being a girl who can’t say no when it comes to projects (don’t think anyone else in the room got the Oklahoma reference), complained about the lack of strong women in the media and female action figures all looking like porn stars, and asserted that our country was no longer about blue and red–it’s about people who believe in the dignity of themselves and others and wackos who believe Jesus personally founded America.

6. I got to dress up. As Death: And as Zuul: That guy totally tried to drink my margarita:

7. I got to be in the same room as the following people at some point (besides those I already mentioned): Joe Magtegna, Yeardley Smith, Romo Lampkin, Joe Hill, Kristin Bauer van Straten, Sarah Wayne Callies, Anna Torv, Lucy Lawless.

8. There were protestors! Yes, apparently people who love Jesus don’t love Comic-Con. As someone dressed alternately as one of the Eternals and a Babylonian demi-god, I tried not to start a fight. I did, however, note to myself that there are people starving in San Diego right now who probably could have used some help if someone actually wanted to enact WWJD stuff.

9. Saw some awesome panels and things on the floor. The highlight, of course, was Scott Shaw’s presentation of wonderful sex, drugs, and rocknroll covers. One example:

Our panel on Superman (my particular talk was on Mark Millar’s Red Son) went well. One of the first people I met introduced himself as a Tea Party member and said we might not get along. I said that the text merely indicated that we needed to put aside ideology to find pragmatic solutions to our problems. He smiled and nodded, but left halfway through. The rest of the audience seemed to grok me, however.

10. People were in awesome costumes!

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It’s my anniversary (with my longest running non-family relationship)!
Apr 19th, 2012 by Dr Karma

That’s right. It’s my anniversary with The Simpsons!

25 years ago today, The Simpsons premiered on The Tracey Ullman Show with a little short called “Goodnight, Simpsons.” (See it here: http://www.milkandcookies.com/link/61247/detail/)

I was immediately taken with the family, mostly because Maggie’s reaction to the “Rockabye, Baby” song is the same as mine–the lyrics are f**ked up!

Fox also gets to claim this week as its Silver Anniversary, which it’s doing with a tribute to its first 25 years this upcoming Sunday. My students may not remember a world without Fox, but I do. Remember having to get up to change the channel? Remember when programming for children was a couple of shows on PBS and a few hours on Saturday mornings? Remember when tv actually went off at a certain time of night? Remember tv before reality tv (which COPS to some degree initiated when it first aired in ’89)? Remember when every sitcom had a laugh track–even animated ones like The Flintstones?

On this day in 1987, no one knew that tv would change the way it has or that The Simpsons would be what it has become. I certainly didn’t know that I would be where I am now, teaching a class on The Simpsons, writing this in an office decorated with memorabilia from visiting the studio, having a Simpsons book with my name on it, passing out cards that declare I’m a Simpsonologist . . .

Aside from family members (whom I don’t get to choose), my relationship with The Simpsons is the longest of my life. It’s also certainly one of the most rewarding.

The Simpsons has seen me through puberty, every boyfriend and break-up, four degrees, fourteen years as a college teacher, the birthing and raising of a child who is now a college adult.

I knew The Simpsons before I knew how to drive, how to kiss, how to pick a wine, how to escape the South, how to be a professional geek, how to accept that I was not the ugly duckling I thought I was, how to stand up in front of other people without getting stage fright, how to reign in my temper. Before I knew my best friends (and my best-best soulmate, Denise), before I knew Atwood’s work, before I knew my high school poetry was really bad, before I discovered the strength I now know I have to get through the bad stuff.

With them, I finally saw a character on television that I really related to–a girl who sometimes comes across as too nerdy, too self-righteous. A bookworm and an activist. A young woman trapped between her own aspirations and the more humble future the circumstances of her birth seem to dictate. A girl who doesn’t fit in, sometimes not even in her own family. An imperfect girl in an imperfect family in an imperfect world.

Thank you, The Simpsons, for 25 amazing years.

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