Yellow Sublimation: Reflections on the Ghost of Simpsons Past

The history of my fascination (if not obsession) with the Fox Network’s prime-time animated sitcom The Simpsons is a long and complicated one, and yet not unlike that of many of my peers’ in the 1990s. I was, for reasons unknown for me throughout my early childhood, forbidden from watching those bug-eyed, jaundiced (or has Homer’s job as a safety inspector at the nuclear power plant affected the pigmentations and phenotypes of even guest stars and other newcomers to Springfield?), often overweight, inept, and inane cartoon freaks until the tender age of 12. However, in what can only be referred to as a slight rebellious phase of mine, I sneaked at least 100 episodes of the series into my consciousness behind my parents’ backs in sixth grade, perspiring fingers nailed to a remote, ready but not eager for the act of stealthily changing the channel to Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network the second I heard a creak of a door. Though retrospectively, such “kiddie fare” as Rocko’s Modern Life or Animaniacs (one of few cartoons my folks tolerated due to its often educational nature) was nearly as subversive and satirical as the edgy hijinks Matt Groening offered, neither series would likely exist without the antics of a blue collar, hairless couch potato and his long-suffering blue-haired wife.
It is important to note that when I refer to The Simpsons, I am only referring to the hundred or so episodes which aired between December 1989 and either the tenth or eleventh season of the show. By 2014, Fox’s star racehorse of a sitcom is now a feeble nag being beaten to death yet again by more relevant animated series such as Bob’s Burgers, Rick and Morty, Regular Show, and Adventure Time (not to mention Groening’s experimental but unconventionally heartfelt science fiction follow-up series Futurama, which was a close contender for the subject of this essay, and earned a well-deserved Annie Award for its heartbreaking second series finale “Meanwhile” despite Comedy Central’s decision to re-cancel the only decent cartoon it had left). But the original nine or ten seasons of The Simpsons are so crucial for understanding (but not always appreciating) western culture and phenomena that they remain a mainstay of the young American consciousness. It would not be a stretch of the imagination to state that nearly everyone under 40 knows who Krusty the Clown, Ralph Wiggum, or Apu Nahasapeemapetilon is despite none of the aforementioned characters being members of the Simpson family. Due to their archetypal nature, the characters are not only engraved in our pop cultural repertoires, but in our real lives as well. We all know a saccharinely cheerful pest like Homer’s next door neighbor Ned Flanders, or have had a bitter, jaded teacher like Edna Krabappel (whose outstanding portrayal left millions of viewers sobbing years after the show went into decline with the death of her voice actress Marcia Wallace in the past months). Those of us who are into the geekier things in life (such as myself, natura-diddly) may recognize Springfield’s hulking Hulk hoarder the Comic Book Guy as uncannily resembling virtually every comic book store owner in America in both girth and snark. And let us not undermine the fact that within America’s Generation X and beyond, there are countless individuals who can drop dozens upon dozens of Simpsons quotes and trivia at the drop of a donut (as well as a somewhat sad but occasionally amusing group of people on the Internet who are seemingly unable to communicate in anything but Simpsons references). I may wish that The Simpsons had been canceled fifteen years ago, but I am more than glad to be a Simpsons fan after all the damage done.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: