What does it really mean to be a fan? There’s a lot of debate about this, with terms like true fan and phrases like you’re not a real fan if you don’t such-and-such being bandied about all over the web.
For me, it hinges around the word itself. Fan is generally taken to be a shortened form of fanatic, and that’s what a lot of people here on the internet seem to expect. Fans in their purest form are sometimes referred to as fangirls and fanboys, and that’s about the pinnacle of it. These are the people who go on Twitter with Bieber-related hashtags whenever the Canadian crooner makes news.
These dedicated people tend to travel in packs, which are referred to as fandoms. There’s the Game of Thrones fandom, the Harry Potter fandom, the One Direction fandom… every big pop culture base is covered.
When it comes to the Simpsons fandom, things get a little sticky. Is there a difference between being a true fan and blindly supporting everything your beloved TV show/movie series/band/actor/actress does? Fans of The Simpsons are often conflicted on this, as few would question that the show just isn’t what it used to be.
Like a lot of you, I’m sure, I was born in the late 80s and grew up with The Simpsons. It’ll always have a place in my heart, but there will also always be things about it that just make zero sense. Buckle up, friends, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
40 What’s The Dang Deal With Their House?
Firstly, there’s the big disclaimer to make. The Simpsons is, as you’ve probably noticed by all the yellow-skinned people (more on that later), not real life. It’s a sitcom, and an animated one at that. As such, a little suspension of disbelief is crucial here.
If you’re one of those persnickety people who sits there in the movie theater, wondering why Arnold Schwarzenegger only reloaded his gun once in two hours of non-stop shooting, this sort of show probably isn’t for you. Around here, whether for the joke’s sake or simply because the plot needed it, things are superfluid. Rules are being changed and goalposts being moved all the time.
Having said all of that, a little continuity is crucial. What if you tuned in one episode and Homer and Marge suddenly had a fourth child, with no mention of it being made at all? That would be uncool. You’ve got to at least keep the basics static.
Which makes me wonder just what’s going on with the Simpsons' house. We’ve seen the interior from countless angles over the years, and things just aren’t regular. Where is the basement door? Where did that extra window in Homer and Marge’s room come from in the movie? Where?
39 What’s The Dang Deal With Their Street?
Continuing the theme of the inexplicable whackness of Evergreen Terrace, let’s pan out a little. Let’s forget that the huge new kitchen Homer brought in one episode seemed to somehow fit in the same space as the one they had prior. Let’s forget that they somehow managed to get that humongous Xtapolapocetl head down the stairs and into the basement. None of that matters, because we’ve got bigger problems over here.
742 Evergreen Terrace being the crucial setting it is, a lot of the Simpsons' action takes place there. As a result, there are a huge number of establishing shots of the house and the surrounding neighborhood. All of which follows perfectly logically, of course.
The odd thing is, said neighborhood changes a whole heck of a lot. Again, it’s superfluid. For much of the show’s lifespan, the family has two houses on either side, except for that time when there was suddenly just a barbed wire fence between them and the nuclear plant.
Sure, as we’ve already established, this is nothing more than nitpicky. A lot of these sorts of shenanigans are totally intentional; in-jokes or simply necessary for whichever bizarre new plotline we’re going with this week. It’s a little jarring, though.
38 What’s The Deal With That Darn Kitchen?
If you’ve ever dabbled in Doctor Who, you’ll know that the titular Doctor is a member of a humanoid alien race known as Time Lords. These beings were super-advanced, able to travel through time and space on a whim, and did so by means of time (and space) machines called TARDISes.
Their command of these sorts of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey things meant that they were able to build TARDISes which were much bigger on the inside than the outside.
This is, of course, incredibly convenient when it comes to plotting.
If there’s anything special the Doctor needs, he can simply wander off screen and go and fetch it from another of the many, many rooms elsewhere in the TARDIS.
The whole idea has a solid grounding in the lore of the Whoverse, but in the end, it’s a neat little way for writers to get away with all sorts of things without anybody questioning it. Did you know, however, that the Simpson family seems to have gotten their hands on Time Lord tech themselves?
In the season sixteen episode 'All’s Fair in Oven War,' Homer and Marge have the kitchen remodeled. The new one is huge, sprawling and luxurious, but as I say, it doesn’t appear to occupy any more space than the one they had before.
37 What’s The Dang Deal With All Of Their Money?
Now, as you’d expect of a family with a super loose cannon like Homer at the helm, the Simpsons have had their share of money problems. Back in season six, "And Maggie Makes Three" sees the family reminiscing about Marge’s pregnancy with Maggie. Homer is terrified about money when he hears that he’s having a third child, and is forced to leave his dream job at the bowling alley to return to the power plant.
That’s just one example, of course, and their fortunes have seesawed wildly over the many years the show’s been on the air. Homer wrote a hit song, was part of a super successful barbershop band, owns the Denver Broncos… they should be doing darn well for themselves right about now. That fancy-schmancy kitchen they had did cost $100,000, after all.
On the other hand, Homer being Homer, he hasn’t made the wisest investments over the seasons. He’s both a great source of, and terrible detriment to, the family’s finances, depending on the plot of the particular episode. All of those court cases and moneymaking schemes have been a real double-edged sword.
Where are the family, really, money wise? That’s just another thing that we can’t quite pinpoint.
36 What The Dang Deal With Aging In This Show?
Now, sure. I hear you. I definitely do. We can’t single The Simpsons out for this one. This is just a thing with animated shows and cartoons. Not to mention comics, too. When I was a child, I read the Beano for a good decade, and Dennis the Menace and all those other characters never grew up.
Even live action TV shows have to bow to this sort of pressure, with actors and actresses who play the roles being increasingly ‘trussed up’ or replaced as time demanded. It’s just a natural consequence of this sort of thing. Totally different from the Harry Potter movie series, say, where we saw the Hogwarts students grow up on camera because… well, that was the whole point.
But there’s more to it than all of that. If The Simpsons employed either the characters don’t age, darn well deal with it technique or they aged normally, that’d be all well and good. The confusing thing about this case is that some Springfieldians do, and some don’t. There are also some that age in particular cases, and don’t the rest of the time. Apu’s octuplets certainly do, so what’s going on with them in comparison to Maggie Simpson?
35 What’s The Dang Deal With The Nahasapeemapetilon Octuplets?
As fans will remember, the Nahasapeemapetilons, Apu and Manjula, were given a great deal of medical ‘encouragement’ when they decided to try and conceive children. Not only did Manjula herself take fertility drugs, but Apu secretly gave her another dose (by hiding it in her breakfast squishee). They also told the Simpson family, which led to Homer, Bart, and Marge all separately giving her a sneaky dose as well.
What was the outcome of all of this? Eight children, that’s what.
Sashi, Pria, Anoop, Gheet, Poonam, Uma, Sandeep, and Nabendu, the Nahasapeemapetilon octuplets, are born in season eleven episode 'Eight Misbehavin’. The people of Springfield all pitch in to help, and they’re sponsored with gifts and such, until a woman in Shelbyville gives birth to nine children and they’re forgotten.
Ever since then, whenever the octuplets feature in the show, they’re generally badly behaved and super stressful to handle. Eight times. Oddly, though, unlike Maggie, they are seen to have aged, perhaps even in ‘real time’ (or whatever passes for such in the cartoon universe).
Which leaves us in a peculiar situation. As I say, animated sitcoms don’t need to be tied down to the concept of aging characters, but when some do and some don’t, it all gets a little sticky.
34 What’s The Dang Deal With Mr. Burns’s Age, Too?
Naturally, we can’t enter into any discussion of aging in The Simpsons without tackling the whole Burns situation.
Our old friend Charles Montgomery Burns is, I suppose you could say, the main antagonist of the show. Granted, Springfield has been beset by everything from deadly pollution to Kang and Kodos over the years, but the people’s real enemy? The dastardly old proprietor of the nuclear plant.
There are a lot of things to question about Burns. Why he’s such a d-bag, for one. Who shot him, in that one super-mysterious cliff-hanger of an episode. The biggest one, however, is exactly how old is this guy?
Much like Apu and Manjula’s children, Burns is one of the Springfield residents who is subject to aging. Sometimes. When it suits. It’s super tough to put your finger on how old he actually is, even for the most knowledgeable of The Simpsons aficionados.
In season two ("Simpson and Delilah"), he tells Homer that he’s 81 years old. Later in the series, he’s shown to be over 100 (season eleven’s "The Mansion Family" reveals him to be 104). Once again, of course, this sort of vagueness and fluidity is intended, to an extent. It’s part of a running joke about the character, who is famously Springfield’s oldest resident.
33 What’s The Dang Deal With Burns In General, Come To That?
If you’ve ever watched the sitcom Frasier, you’ll know that it’s a spin-off of the classic Cheers. For the new show, the character of Dr. Frasier Crane was given a new home and a new family, including his brother, Niles, who was never mentioned in Cheers. Niles is also a psychiatrist, and was married to an eccentric socialite named Maris.
Maris was one of those characters who you never saw directly in the show, and for good reason. Whenever she was mentioned, she would be given another impossible, horrifying trait for the joke’s sake (she was as thin as a hat rack, in one instance, and was mistaken for one until she moved).
One of those people, in short, who could never make an appearance because no actress could possibly play her. she was so emaciated that she couldn’t wear earrings, because they made her head droop.
Over here in the cartoon world, however, we’ve got a lot more license to be creative. Burns is, a way, a character very similar to Maris, in that he’s shown to be overpowered by a baby and blown away by a slight wind. While I guess that’s logical from a cartoon standpoint, it’s just as odd as Maris in relation to the other characters.
32 What’s The Dang Deal With Their Darn Hair?
Now, once again, this is one of those things that I guess you can file under ‘it’s a cartoon, so you don’t really question it.’ After all, if you’re a fan of anime, you’ll have come to accept the fact that utterly ludicrous, gravity-defying hairstyles are just par for the course.
It’s not just TV shows, either. Take a look at your average JRPG. Something truly iconic, like Final Fantasy VII.
I’m not quite sure what Cloud Strife has on his head, but it looks like an angry cockatiel frozen in combat with a wolverine.
I once found a hair product on the shelves of my local grocery store. It was called Manga Head, and would allegedly allow you to craft your hair into huge, ridiculous spikes, just like your favourite characters. I was not convinced by the results.
So, yes. Ridiculous hair is all well and good, but The Simpsons takes things a little too far. Marge’s legendary beehive? That’s fine. In some characters’ cases, though, we can’t tell what’s hair and what’s skull. Just what exactly do Bart, Lisa and Grandpa Simpson have on their heads? All these years later, I still can’t tell what’s going on there. It’s probably best not to think about it.
31 What’s The Dang Deal With The ‘Simpsons Gene?’
You know how it is with long-running TV shows. As seasons go on (and on and on and on, in some cases), episode plots can get a little hackneyed, or increasingly out there. As the years pass by, writers find themselves adding in and taking away characters, doing a little retconning, all those sorts of things. Sometimes, they throw something into the mix that is a complete curveball.
One such thing arrived in season nine, with the episode "Lisa the Simpson." It sees Lisa becoming forgetful, starting to fear that she’s losing her intelligence. Grandpa explains that this happens to all Simpsons around her age, which he attributes to a phenomenon called the Simpson Gene.
When Homer gathers Simpson relatives at the house to try and ease Lisa’s fears, he finds that the men of the family are all lazy, unintelligent and reckless. The women, meanwhile, are unaffected, because (as we learn) this gene is found only on the Y chromosome, which females do not have.
So, yes. Lisa is appeased, Bart doesn’t particularly mind his fate, and everything goes back to more-or-less normal for next week. The thing about all of this, though, is that it doesn’t quite check out. What about the super-successful Herb, Homer’s half-brother? What about Bart’s many moments of fiendish brilliance? I guess you could write that off as the gene affecting some males more severely than others, but it’s a tough sell. Especially nine seasons in.
30 What’s The Dang Deal With Their Yellow Skin?
Here it is, friends. The big question. The big old oddly-coloured elephant in the room, which really needs addressing. It’s a question that’s on the mind of everybody watching The Simpsons for the first time, because it’s so strikingly, so immediately, odd: what’s the dang deal with their yellow skin?
The point, I guess, is precisely that: because it’s a talking point. As Fact Fiend reports, the idea was initially to attract the attention of bored channel hoppers, who hadn’t settled on anything to watch but were absently flicking through the channels. In that instance, these bright yellow people were sure to catch your eye.
The way series creator Matt Groening tells it, though, he was approached by an animator who had coloured his drawings of Homer, Marge, and the family yellow. According to him, that just ‘looked right’ and so the iconic look was established.
So, in a way, there’s really no issue with that. This unique look is the show’s USP, The Simpsons’ ‘thing.’ Despite all of this, Springfield’s residents just can’t seem to decide whether they’re yellow (as in, “sometimes a guy likes his skin to look its yellowest”) or Caucasian, which is to say, white. Complicating all of this further is that fact that characters of other races simply ignore this issue.
29 What’s The Dang Deal With That Crayon?
So, as we’ve already seen in this rundown, there’s an unfortunate gene running through the Simpsons family. Only affecting the Y chromosome, and therefore the males, it is the cause of the trademark Simpson goofiness.
Good luck with that, Bart.
The odd thing about this whole concept is how it seems to clash with all kinds of other things, which were established before or after the episode "Lisa the Simpson." Over fifty episodes later, in season twelve’s "HOMR," we’re hit by all kinds of bizarre revelations that seem to counteract all of this. Let’s take a look.
In this episode, we discover what appears to be the (other?) root cause of Homer’s stupidity. While being experimented on as a human guinea pig (because of course he is), it is discovered that Homer has a crayon lodged in his brain, from an absent-minded nostril incident as a child.
That… well, explains a lot of his previous behavior. The intriguing thing about this is that when the crayon is removed, Homer is discovered to be incredibly intelligent. At the end of the episode, he has the crayon re-inserted, not enjoying the life of an intellectual, but this leaves us to wonder where the alleged gene fits into all of this.
28 What’s The Dang Deal With Grandpa’s Hair?
As we’ve also seen previously, The Simpsons sure have done some shonky things when it comes to characters’ hair. I’m not talking in terms of colors or styles, because we see enough of that sort of thing elsewhere. Whether we’re talking in anime, other media or in actual real darn life, people commit all manner of hair crimes every day.
I had a friend who went through a phase of dying their hair the most vibrant shade of blue you can imagine. Just when I’d grown accustomed to it, and it barely even registered with me anymore, we went to the movies. Because it was so dark in the theater, I somehow forgot about it, and was completely startled when the movie ended and we left.
You know that feeling you get, when you emerge from the theater like a teeny bird tentatively pooping its head out of the egg on a wildlife show? It was like that, only with electric blue hair.
My point with all of this is that Grandpa’s hair makes absolutely zero sense to me either. The Simpson children all have hair that appears to be made of flesh and bone, while Marge and Homer’s looks more conventional. Grandpa’s, meanwhile, has been both. In some flashbacks, he’s shown to have regular grey hair, like any other Springfield seniors. In others, it’s dark brown. Today, it seems camouflaged against his scalp. It’s impossible to tell whether that’s his hair or just his oddly-shaped head.
27 What’s The Dang Deal With The Treehouse Of Horror Episodes?
Here on the internet these days, it’s all about fandoms. If you’ve witnessed the sheer spectacle that is a band of rabid Beliebers reacting to a new music release from Bieber, you’ll know that all too well. All he or One Direction need to do is announce a new tour, album or such, and Twitter and other social media will completely implode.
That is the raw power of fans. This is what happens when you put the fanatic in fan (yep, that’s the wrong way around, but you know what I’m driving at with this). What do committed followers do when they’re displeased with the way something’s turned out on their beloved show? Well, they whine on the web, for starters, but they also come up with headcanons and fanfictions imagining different outcomes and plotlines.
I guess you could say that The Simpsons’ iconic Treehouse of Horror episodes are a kind of official fanfic. These long-running Halloween specials are an odd sort of place where canon counts for naught, where the writers can just go wild and throw the characters into all manner of demented scenarios. A land of macabre make-believe where Ned Flanders is a werewolf, Mr. Burns is Dracula (granted, that one isn’t much of a leap) and Skinner and Lunchlady Doris are cooking up kids in the school cafeteria.
Non-canon for a darn good reason, of course, but the Treehouse goings-on are the sort of playground that writers just don’t tend to get.
26 What’s The Dang Deal With All Of Homer’s Jobs?
What with the show being a cartoon, and a pretty darn off the wall one at that, we’ve learned not to expect very much of Springfield’s residents. Whether they’re terrifying caricatures of real-life people, bizarrely reckless for the joke’s sake or unfailingly dastardly to prove a point, there aren’t many people in the town that we’d trust with anything important.
Springfield Mayor Joe Quimby isn’t fit to govern so much as a shoddy doll’s house, and Police Chief Clancy Wiggum should’ve been removed from his postseasons and seasons ago.
Then there’s the hilariously horrifying Dr. Nick Riviera, who we’ll take a look at later.
In short, Springfield is clearly a town that’s quite lax when it comes to qualifications. As if we needed any more proof, let’s look at the huge array of jobs that Homer Simpson has managed to wangle himself. Of course, the show is largely reliant on his zany shenanigans, which is why the series has needed him to have all kinds of roles. Still, though, why in heckola do people keep employing this guy?
He’s been an opera singer, a team mascot, a bodyguard, a food critic and an entertainer, and that’s just a very brief sample of his CV. What’s going on with responsibility in this town? Seriously?
25 What’s The Dang Deal With Bart’s Tardis Treehouse?
So, we’ve already established that The Simpsons isn’t particularly big on continuity. After all, why should it be? In animated sitcoms like these, the gaffes are often intentional, all part of the joke. It’s easily done, and it’s sometimes necessary. This phenomenon is sometimes called ‘elastic reality,’ in which the plot of the week often dictates how rooms, buildings and whole neighbourhoods look.
If that business with the family’s enormous-kitchen-that-occupied-no-more-space-than-the-previous-one was a little shonky, then what of Bart’s treehouse? When it comes to that familiar home in Evergreen Terrace, this is probably the longest-running inconsistency.
The treehouse is first seen in the fifth episode of season one, "Bart the General." This was originally broadcast in the US in early 1990, almost three decades ago. In all that time, it has subtly changed in all kinds of ways. Most often, Bart is up there reading comic books with his friends (usually Milhouse), and the viewer has seen them from all kinds of angles. It seems to be a bit of a running joke, the practicalities of it all. the attentive viewer will have noticed that it appears to have more than four corners. Not to mention the time that it became a huge, lavish casino.
24 What’s The Dang Deal With Springfield ‘Disappearing’ In The Movie?
With the show’s meteoric rise to stardom, it was no surprise that talk of a feature-length movie started to be bandied about. There was little doubt that such an endeavour would be a huge success, but it’s not as easy as that. As much as big businesses like big old barrels of cash (and there’s nothing they like more than big old barrels of cash), a full-on movie of The Simpsons would be an immense undertaking.
Eventually, in July 2007, a movie --which was, after months of fine-tuning and think-tanking the name, super imaginatively titled The Simpsons Movie—hit the big screen. Its plot centred around a terrible threat to Springfield, with the town’s pollution crisis becoming so deadly that it is sealed away from the rest of the world in a great glass dome.
That’s right, friends. The Environmental Protection Agency swoop in, drop a huge glass dome over the entire town from helicopters, and leave them to lie in the polluted bed they made.
Now, needless to say, this isn’t a plot that we’re supposed to be taking seriously, but still. There’s a definite whiff of shark-jumping about the whole thing in my eyes. That scene where they simply remove Springfield from existence, including from sat navs and such? Nope. Stop that.
23 What’s The Dang Deal With Their Four Fingers?
Now, if you’re a Pokémon fan, you’re probably familiar with Pokémon Sun and Moon’s Fire-type starter, Litten. For its adorably kitten-esque nature, Litten immediately spawned a dedicated fan club on its first reveal. Which is all well and good, but there’s a major problem with it and its evolution line. People don’t tend to like speaking about it, but I’m not afraid. They’ll never silence my snark. Here it is, then: Incineroar’s hands look ridiculous.
As a Fire/Dark type, Incineroar is based on a foil in wrestling. These are the fighters who play dirty, earn the crowd’s ire and act as the sort of pantomime villains of the piece.
As such, you can think of it as a sort of mean, feline Machoke.
Incineroar breaks that typical trait of animated characters having four fingers rather than five, and also shows why it’s a thing in the first place: its hands look humongous. In The Simpsons, everyone in Springfield has three fingers and a thumb, apart from two crucial exceptions.
When Simpson universe’s depiction of God is shown, the deity is depicted with five fingers. As is Jesus (usually). Which raises a curious question. Occasionally, the characters in the show refer to the real world. Homer even finds himself transported here. What does this mean, with regards to the way that the citizens of Springfield see us, the viewers?
22 What’s The Dang Deal With The McBain Movies?
In season two of the show, we are presented with the first flashback episode: "The Way We Was." Struggling for ways to keep the children occupied after the TV shorts out, Homer and Marge decide to tell them the story of how they met in high school. The episode is notable for marking the first appearance of flashback regular Artie Ziff, as well as that of a very different character: McBain.
The Simpsons is known, of course, for its pastiches and parodies of popular culture. Quotes, plots, visual jokes and other references send up movies, TV shows, and even personalities, with the Arnold Schwarzenegger analogue MCBain being one of them.
McBain doesn’t tend to be seen in person, instead featuring quite often on The Simpsons’ TV. He’s the star of a whole array of cheesy action movies, with all the non-reloading guns, gratuitous explosions and punch-your-own-ears-in the-face-awful one-liners that the Governator was known for.
As For The Win reports, McBain is the subject of one of the show’s greatest ever easter eggs. If you piece together the brief glimpses of the various McBain movies we’re shown, they make a relatively coherent story. There’s some debate, however, as to whether this was actually intentional or not. It all depends on your perspective, and how you see the ordering of the clips.
21 What’s The Dang Deal With All Of The Predictions?
You can say what you like about The Simpsons. You can snark on the fact that it’s lost its touch, that it’s golden days are far behind it, or that it wasn’t even funny in the first place. That’s totally in the eye of the beholder, after all. However popular you may be, you can’t please everybody. That’s just straight up impossible. As Kanye West would surely tell you, there are always haters out there somewhere.
So, yes. You can snark away on The Simpsons, like the snarky snarksters of snark that you are. However, there’s one thing that just about nobody can deny: this show can predict the future in all kinds of uncanny ways. It’s second to none in that regard.
Just take a look at this Buzzfeed piece. Mutant vegetables? That happened fourteen years after Homer’s disastrous tomacco plantations in "E,E,E,I D’oh." Smartwatches? Yep, Lisa’s future British fiancé has one in 1999, fourteen years before Samsung introduced the world to their own. The horsemeat scandal? That surfaced in real life almost twenty years after Lunchlady Doris’s use of shady ingredients at Springfield Elementary.
From quirky little news items to huge predictions like Mr. Trump’s Presidency, the show has been proven right over and over again.
20 What’s The Dang Deal With Michael Jackson’s Cameo?
For a lot of the bigger shows, celebrity cameos are a huge deal. Take Friends, for instance. Over the course of the iconic show’s run, some of the biggest in the business made appearances. True superstars like Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt, and George Clooney were featured, as were the likes of Robin Williams, Christina Applegate and Freddie Prinze Jr.
Naturally, very few shows have the cache to attract talent like that. Especially for quick bit parts. The Simpsons has been blessed in that department too, though, featuring the vocal talents of James Earl Jones, Kelsey Grammar, Dustin Hoffman, Elizabeth Taylor, Bette Midler and many more.
Perhaps the show’s greatest coup of all time, though, was the legendary Michael Jackson himself.
According to Groening’s commentary on the complete third season DVD, Jackson personally called him and asked for a spot, as a huge fan of the show. This lead to the episode "Stark Raving Dad," which sees Homer briefly taken into care. There, he meets a large balding man named Leon Kompowsky, who believes himself to actually be Michael Jackson and speaks in his voice.
Curiously, Jackson opted to be credited under a pseudonym, John Jay Smith. Additionally, while Jackson played the speaking voice of the character, he did not sing on the show. Instead, Kompowsky’s songs were performed by Kipp Lennon. It’s quite an odd situation, whichever way you slice it.
19 What’s The Dang Deal With D’oh?
You know, this is just one of those things. One of those things that you become used to over time, and just stop questioning. Suddenly, out of no-darn-where, it occurs to you that it’s actually a little peculiar.
Why are pickles included in McDonald’s burgers by default? That’s one of them. Just what in heckola is that all about? That bad boy’s coming right out of there, and no mistake. Another example? Homer’s customary d’oh!
What exactly is this exclamation? What does it mean? How does it qualify as a catchphrase? Bart has don’t have a cow, man and ay carumba, Burns has excellent; all of which I’m totally on board with. D’oh, on the other hand, isn’t even a word. Which is to say, it wasn’t, until it was added to the Oxford English Dictionary thanks to the success of the show.
In case you were wondering, it officially means, "Expressing frustration at the realization that things have turned out badly or not as planned, or that one has just said or done something foolish. Also (usually mildly derogatory) implying that another person has said or done something foolish."
As for how the ‘word’ came about, only this interview with Dan Castellaneta, voice of Homer, can explain that away.
18 What’s The Dang Deal With Doctor Nick Riviera?
As we’ve already established, there’s not a whole lot of competence to be found in Springfield. It seems that the more important you are to the essential running of society, the more corrupt, questionable, eccentric and darn right dangerous you are.
We’ve got Police Chief Clancy Wiggum, whose ineptitude is basically the whole foundation of his character. We’ve got Mayor Quimby, whose infidelity and general laziness is so famous that, when he actually appears in Springfield, the newspaper once reported ‘Mayor visits town.’
Granted, we’ve got to cut these guys some slack. They are, of course, caricatures of themselves, horribly exaggerated for the joke’s sake. We’re in danger of going a little too far with that concept, however, where Dr. Nick Riviera is concerned.
A quack doctor who (allegedly) graduated from Hollywood Upstairs Medical College, Riviera’s shenanigans are many, frequent and hilariously terrifying. In one instance, he’s seen rifling through a cemetery for parts a la Doctor Frankenstein, and in another, he’s being accosted by a man who he operated on, leaving him with an arm where his leg should be and vice versa.
Of all the residents, Riviera is the one whose continued employment amazes me the most. Still, as one of only two major doctors in the town, I guess it’s convenient to have him around when you can’t afford Doctor Hibbert.
17 What’s The Dang Deal With Maggie’s Speech?
The thing about any successful, long-running cartoon character is, they’ve got to have a ‘thing.’ A hook. Burn’s cruelty, great wealth and frailty, Krusty’s scathing attitude towards his show and his fans, all these sorts of things endear us to the characters, bring us closer to them, and keep us engaged week after week. The Simpson family themselves, of course, have their own unique personality traits, as individual and instantly recognizable as their hairstyles. We’ve got Homer’s laziness and impulsive nature. Bart’s rebelliousness. Lisa’s intelligence and work ethic. All of these things are all well and good, but it’s tough when it comes to Maggie.
As a general rule of thumb, babies have three modes: crying, pooping, and crying because they’ve pooped.
As such, it’s quite a challenge to imbue them with the same sort of unique traits. The Simpsons creators pulled this off by giving her a distinct ‘catchphrase’ all her own, in that iconic pacifier-sucking sound effect. Not to mention all of the times she’s managed to save the day (see the ending of The Simpsons Movie).
Another curious trait of Maggie’s is that she’s never heard to speak. We see her as a teenager and such in various future-themed episodes, but she’s always interrupted or stopped from speaking in some way. It’s quite an odd hook to have, when you think about it.
16 What’s The Dang Deal With Her First Word, Too?
Strap yourselves in, friends, we’re getting a little controversial here.
As with any long-running franchise, be it a TV show, movie or video game series, comic book or something else, The Simpsons’ timeline can get all kinds of shonky. Just try and place all of the Legend of Zelda games in chronological order, and you’ll know the struggle I’m talking about.
Now, we’ve already covered the fact that the Treehouse of Horror episodes are not considered canon. Of course, they aren’t. Homer and Bart don’t tend to routinely be fired into the sun with a band of z-list celebrities every day, after all. Despite that, these episodes make the case of Maggie’s first word a bit of a grey area, depending on how persnickety you want to be about things. Before the episode "Maggie’s First Word," after all, she is heard to speak both in the dream world and in a Halloween special.
The question becomes, then, what were Maggie’s real first words? Was it daddy, as voiced by Elizabeth Taylor? Well, yes. But let’s go a little wild with this, and pretend that it was “It’s your fault I can’t talk,” as heard in Bart’s nightmare during "Bart Vs Thanksgiving". For bonus points, we could even make it “This is indeed a disturbing universe,” as she said in "Treehouse of Horror V."
The episode "Flaming Moe’s" also came before "Maggie’s First Word," and she was heard to say “Moe” in it.
15 What’s The Dang Deal With The Das Bus Ending?
As I say, The Simpsons is renowned for its snarky takes on pop culture, parodying movies, TV shows, novels and video games whenever it can.
Late in season nine, "Das Bus" is the story of a Springfield Elementary field trip gone horribly wrong. On Otto’s bus, the children are playing around with fruit from their cooler of snacks, which ends in disaster when the driver gets juice from a grapefruit in his eye. Blinded, he sends the bus careening off a bridge and into the ocean. Otto himself is swept out to sea, leaving the children to try and form a society, Lord of the Flies style, on a nearby tropical island.
Of course, there was an island nearby. That’s just how these things work out. All things considered, this episode was one of my favourites from the season, and I definitely enjoyed Homer’s little sidestory with the internet business he tries to set up (“huh… they have the internet on computers now”).
There was one glaring issue with this one, which was the ending. The difficulty, when going a little out there with an established show, is that you still have to restore the status quo for the next episode.
What with being an animated comedy and all, this concept just became another joke. In the deus ex machina to end all deus ex machinas, the narrator simply tells us that in the end, the children were rescued by ‘oh, let’s say… Moe,’ and the credits roll. Wait, what?
14 What’s The Dang Deal With Springfield’s Geography?
So, we’ve made our peace with the fact that Springfield isn’t big on the laws of physics. Kitchens grow and shrink as the need arises, without occupying any more or less physical space than they did before. Treehouses can outright ignore all three-dimensional logic, going right ahead and having five corners because they darn well want to.
That’s the beauty of it all, from a writer’s and designer’s point of view. They are no physical sets to build, none of that sort of nonsense. The best part is, it’s a comedy, and all of these gaffes and oddities become part of the joke themselves. It’s a win-win-win-win situation, and we don’t get many of those in life.
This concept extends much further than just houses and other structures within the town itself, though.
Over the years, we’ve been handed all kinds of contradictory evidence as to where Springfield itself is located.
It’s become yet another in-joke of the series.
We’re told in the movie that it’s located near Shelbyville, Capital City, Ogdenville and North Haverbrook, with Lisa once proclaiming that there’s just enough evidence scattered throughout the series for fans to figure out its location. In 2012, Matt Groening stated in a interview that his Springfield was based on Springfield, Oregon, but it’s left ambiguous as to its actual location. Where is the town? Nobody can say for sure, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
13 What’s The Dang Deal With Marge’s Rabbit Ears?
In a lot of ways, Marge is the more conventional of the Simpsons. The down-to-earth, relatable one. The one you have to feel darn sorry for, spending the rest of her days surrounded by this cast of eccentrics. Sure, she has her moments too, like her Thelma and Louise-esque romp with Ruth Powers in "Marge on the Lam," but between times, she’s the vanilla Simpson.
Her kooky and attention-seeking hairstyle belies the conventional and sensible spirit that lies within. It also hides the occasional bird’s nest and savings jar, and conceals a huge pair of rabbit ears.
That’s right, friends. Matt Groening is most famous for our favorite fictional family, but he’s done all sorts of animation work besides. Futurama is one obvious example, as well as a comic strip featuring a band of anthropomorphic rabbits.
The comic was published weekly for almost forty years, from 1977 to 2012. It was quite dark-themed, and a more than a little disturbing. Originally, when Groening met with Fox, it was to discuss the possibility of basing a TV show on them. Fearing the loss of his rights, Groening instead created the Simpson family almost on the spot, and history was made.
In The Simpsons Arcade Game, though, you can still see references to these bunnies. When Marge is electrocuted, you can see her skeleton, and the two rabbit ears concealed in her hair.
12 What’s The Dang Deal With The McCartneys And Lisa’s Vegetarianism?
If Marge is the more mellow and conventional of the Simpsons, then Lisa is surely the most idealistic. She is often used as a conduit for highlighting certain elemental issues, both to reflect them to the audience and to bore the disinterested residents of the town. The latter of which goes a long way to explain the ghastly state of the city as shown in the movie.
If any of the Simpsons were going to be vegetarians, of course, it was going to be Lisa. In "Lisa the Vegetarian," we see her commit to the cause after befriending a lamb in a petting zoo, only for Marge to serve the family lamb chops that night. Disturbed, she declares that she cannot eat meat any more, and is shunned by her family and classmates alike for doing so.
On explaining her predicament to Apu, a vegan, he takes her through a secret passageway to the roof of the Kwik-E-Mart, where she meets Paul and Linda McCartney, who convince her that vegetarianism is the right path for her.
Fans know all of this, I’m sure, but the interesting thing is that the McCartney’s had a condition for appearing in the episode: that Lisa must remain a vegetarian for the rest of the show’s run. This was no back-to-the-status-quo moment.
It’s funny, when you think about it, how a key aspect of Lisa’s character was forever shaped by Paul McCartney.
11 What’s The Dang Deal With Couch Gags?
We’ve already touched on the fact that you need a little familiarity with the bigger shows. Every aspect, from the intro the theme tune and the characters, becomes an integral part of the whole thing in its own right.
In the case of Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in Britain way back in 1963, the theme tune has been remixed, re-recorded and modernized several times. Each time, there have been those that have declared that everything’s been ruined forever, because that’s just what it’s like around here.
One thing I do find a little jarring, in the case of The Simpsons, is the couch gags.
These brief little animations at the end of the intro range from the fast to the long and elaborate, some of which must represent weeks of work for the animators in and of themselves. Some of them are great little arty shorts, but I couldn’t quite process why they were going to such effort simply to open the show that we’re all here to watch.
The more extravagant ones, such as the circus line couch gag or the evolution couch gag, are apparently used by the showmakers to plug the gap when an episode runs a little shorter than intended.
10 What’s The Dang Deal With John Swartzwelder?
I’ve always been a fan of the eccentric genius. These misunderstood, often unappreciated souls are just fascinating to read about. There’s a particular episode of Frasier in which the brothers encounter one of their heroes, a notoriously reclusive writer named T.H Houghton. Houghton wrote one book, a legendary masterpiece, and never wrote again.
He befriends Frasier’s father and starts writing a new manuscript, which results in a series of trademark farces as Frasier and Niles try to meet with him and read a little of the manuscript.
Why am I sharing my extensive knowledge of Frasier with you (oh, those reruns)? Because this is exactly how Simpsons fans look upon John Swartzwelder, that’s why. One of the most prolific writers on the show, Swartzwelder is also a notorious recluse, who received special permission not to attend rewrites with the other crew as of season nine.
He was known to have done the bulk of his writing at a diner, until the state of California passed an anti-smoking law. Whereupon, he had a diner booth installed at his home. What with all of this, and his aversion to DVD commentaries, Swartzwelder is a true enigma. Just the kind of intriguing character that the Simpsons should have behind the scenes.
9 What’s The Dang Deal With Homer Being Krusty?
As seasoned fans will know perfectly well, the episode "Homie The Clown" sees Homer adding yet another job to his extensive resume: official Krusty the Clown impersonator. He’s so great in the role that he’s almost indistinguishable from the real thing, which (in predictable Homer fashion) leads to disaster. In this case, Fat Tony and his crew mistake Homer for the real Krusty, and he gets caught up in the entertainer’s feud with the mob.
The interesting thing is that, when Homer loses one of his many jobs, it tends to be due to his incompetence. In this rare case, he’s actually too good at what he does. As it turns out, looking back through the annals of The Simpsons, there’s a reason for that.
Originally, Krusty the Clown was supposed to be Homer’s secret identity. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Matt Groening revealed, “the original idea behind Krusty the Clown was that he was Homer in disguise, but Homer still couldn’t get any respect from his son, who worshipped Krusty… We were in such a rush in the beginning of the series that I thought, ‘Oh, it’s too complicated,’ so we just dropped it. But when I look at Krusty, I think, ‘Yeah — that’s Homer.”
So why do the two still look so extraordinarily alike? Did that idea ever really go away?
8 What’s The Dang Deal With Homer’s Day Job?
I don’t want to keep going over and over the same ground here, but… man, has Homer had a lot of jobs. This is just how things go when you’re a super-impulsive risk taker, but even for him, things are getting totally out of hand now. 400 episodes deep into the series, he had already held 188 jobs, and there’s no telling how high that tally may go. From farmer to astronaut, it seems that there’s nothing this guy can’t do.
Well, attempt, at least. That’s his curse; the curse of a lot of sitcom characters. Everything has to right itself at the end of the show, for the most part, which tends to mean… back to the power plant he goes.
Even if he did have a conventional 9-5 sort of life, that brings up all kinds of odd questions of its own.
He’s the darn nuclear safety inspector, for crying out loud. Now, I’ve never worked in a nuclear plant myself, but I think its safe to bet that the Safety Inspector is going to be a pretty darn important kind of guy, when it comes to things not exploding. Mr. Burns seems relatively competent, in a super-evil, looming sort of way. Why does he keep bringing him back? Why?
7 What’s The Dang Deal With Bart’s Comet?
Season six episode "Bart’s Comet" is another favorite of mine. In a lot of cases, I can’t quite define why that is. This is one of them. It’s isn’t any one factor, but a combination of them.
Part of it, I think, is that the story tries something creative without going too far into the abstract. We’ve got one of Bart’s usual terrorize Principal Skinner pranks, the aftermath of such… it’s business as usual. The comet is an extra twist, but we’re still definitely grounded in Simpsons tradition with this one.
Another concept that I really like here is the poignant, heartfelt element to it all. The scene where essentially everyone in Springfield tries to cram into the Flanders’ bomb shelter, only to join him outside (he’d been cast out of his own shelter because there was no room) in song, was cheesy in all the right ways.
I did enjoy the story and how everything played out, but there was one thing I could never quite follow. What in heckola were the people at Springfield Observatory doing, to have missed the implications of this in the first place? What’s an amateur with a telescope going to find that they could not?
6 What‘s The Dang Deal With Armin Tamzarian?
I’m trying to empathize here, Simpsons writers. I really am. When you’ve been running as long as you have (a few seasons too long, in several fans’ opinion), it’s tough. I feel you, I really do.
Over here in Britain, a number of classic sitcoms stopped quite early, quite abruptly. Fawlty Towers, acclaimed as some of John Cleese’s best work, ran for only twelve episodes. That’s part of the show’s legend, in a way, that it never outstayed its welcome and never got tired.
Other shows don’t take this approach, and start to suffer as a result. The danger is that you may end up alienating viewers or jumping the shark, in your desperation to keep things from becoming stale. For many, the controversial episode "The Principal and the Pauper" represented one of these dark hours, a step too far.
In this season nine episode, Seymour Skinner is celebrating his twentieth anniversary as Principal. During the celebrations, a man claiming to be the real Skinner enters, and the Seymour we know admits that he’s an imposter. Armin Tamzarian, to use his actual name, resigns and leaves town for a while, until the townsfolk convince him that they prefer ‘their’ Seymour and he returns.
Whereupon, the real Skinner is sent away, and Judge Snyder decrees that nobody ever speak of this again. Then, the credits roll, leaving everybody wondering just what in heckola they just watched.
5 What’s The Dang Deal With The Steamed Hams Phenomenon?
Speaking of Principal Skinner (the real one, which is to say, the not ‘real’ one), he’s really not the Springfieldite you come to for laughs. He has his moments, like everybody else in the cast, but he’s really not the primary source for that sort of thing. A strict disciplinarian, Skinner is usually scene either cowering under the furious glare of Superintendent Chalmers or despairing at Bart’s latest prank.
Despite that, though, one particular Skinner moment has become the stuff of internet legend as of late. Yep, you know the one I mean. It’s steamed hams time.
This little sketch featured in "22 Short Films About Springfield," an anthology episode that took a deeper look into the lives of other Springfield residents. As we all know, it saw Skinner inviting Superintendent Chalmers over for a meal, and all manner of disasters predictably unfolding.
This unforgettable luncheon was a great bit, and my highlight of the episode, but I don’t quite understand how it’s become this much of a big deal. Particularly over twenty years after the episode first aired (April 1996). However it happened, it has become a formidable meme.
The internet is a funny place at times, isn’t it?
4 What’s The Dang Deal With Maggie’s Hair?
Yep, we’re jumping back into the wild world of Springfield hairstyles. Don’t worry, this is the last time. I promise.
As we’ve already established, the Simpson family are all very distinct in this regard. Marge’s hair doesn’t look like anybody else’s in the show (other than her rarely-seen mother), with Selma and Patty both sporting completely unique takes on it. Nobody else sports anything close to Homer’s characteristic combover.
Bart’s hair? Yep, that’s definitely original too. All of this ties in with what Matt Groening considers the golden rule of cartoon character design: ensuring that they are always immediately recognizable, even in silhouette.
This is certainly true of the main cast, with one curious exception: Maggie. The youngest Simpson, quite clearly, sports a hairstyle identical to Lisa’s bizarre starfish of a style.
Since the early days of the show, the roster of Springfieldites has grown exponentially. Some characters would only go on to feature in an episode or two, while others worked their way into our hearts and became regulars. For the most part, though, they remain true to that individualized concept.
It’s odd, then, that such a prominent member of the cast would sport a recycled style. Sorry, Maggie.
3 What’s The Dang Deal With Moe?
Throughout the series’ run, we’ve seen just about every Springfield resident suffer from just about every misfortune you care to mention. Some of the greatest comedy, after all, comes from others’ suffering. That’s why America’s Funniest Home Videos and You’ve Been Framed and such exist.
It’s funny because it’s not happening to you, essentially, and animated shows excel at that kind of humor. Take the incident with Homer attempting to jump Springfield Gorge. He falls, hitting his head on every little bump along the way. He’s airlifted back up, bumping his head on everything again in reverse.
When he’s finally in the ambulance, it instantly crashes, sending him careening back down the gorge.
Whatever horrible predicament Homer, Hans Moleman or anybody else finds themselves in, I just can’t feel sorry for them the same way I do for Moe. That guy’s sadness get a little too real a lot of the time, and I can’t quite follow why.
Take this quote from Chief Wiggum in "Moe Baby Blues," when the townsfolk are gathering at the Springfield Botanical Gardens to watch a rare flower bloom: “Uh, people, we are officially over capacity. We gotta kick one person out. Someone who's alone, already bitter, someone who's been trampled on so many times one more won't make any... Oh, Moe.”
It’s all in jest, of course, but Moe’s always seemed such a tragic character to me.
2 What’s The Dang Deal With Nelson And Barney?
Another inevitable trait of long-running shows is that there are going to be urban legend. Conspiracy theories. Odd ideas from fans which… well, when you look at them, really don’t seem all that odd after all.
In my eyes, The Simpsons has always done a fantastic job of breathing unique and quirky life to each of Springfield’s residents. While the Simpson family themselves are the stars of the show, it’s the huge supporting cast that really gives the town its peculiar lived-in feeling.
Such is the strength of the supporting cast that they don’t even need to have a particular role in a scene, or even say anything. They can just be silently filling a crowd, and we know exactly who they are. Everyone we meet is so different, so disparate and so flesh-out in their own ways.
There are certain characters that you just wouldn’t think to make a connection between. What links Nelson Muntz and Barney Gumble, of all people? I’m glad you asked.
According to The Simpsons Wiki, there’s a fan theory that the two of them were related in some way, owing to the great similarities in their design. The episode “Yolo” appeared to reference this, showing Nelson’s mom, Mrs. Muntz, belching just like Barney does.
1 What’s The Dang Deal With Left- And Right Handedness?
Oh, you’re in my wheelhouse now, friends. Don’t get me started on left-handedness. Ever since I first started to learn to write, I’ve known exactly how it feels to be a left-handed person in a right-handed person’s world. You do not know my struggle, righties, you really don’t.
In my class back then, there were two others who also wrote with their left hand. They would hold the paper at horribly twisted angles, and left a sad, defeated snail trail of ink and shattered dreams on their paper/hand when they wrote with a fountain pen.
I fared a little better, but still to this day can barely use a can opener.
In The Simpsons, we see that Springfield has a far greater population of left-handed people than you’d expect. Bart Simpson, Moe Szyslak, and Seymour Skinner, among others, are officially noted to be left-handed.
The curious thing is, some just don’t appear to be able to make their minds up. Even Ned Flanders, the owner of the darn Leftorium, is clearly shown to be using his right, while the right-handed Homer Simpson is shown using his non-dominant left. Matt Groening himself is left-handed, which explains some of this preferential treatment, but still, guys. Stick with one or the other.