If you believe Lisa truly cares about something, then you will, too.
February 26, 2018 7:09 AM   Subscribe

In a classic 1991 episode of The Simpsons, Lisa is distraught to learn that her inspirational substitute teacher, Mr. Bergstrom, is leaving her. With his train ready to leave the station, Mr. Bergstrom writes Lisa a note. "Whenever you feel like you’re alone, and there’s nobody you can rely on, this is all you need to know," he says. Lisa opens the note as Mr. Bergstrom’s train disappears into the distance. It reads, "You are Lisa Simpson." Why Lisa Simpson Matters (cw: eating disorders)
posted by everybody had matching towels (76 comments total) 56 users marked this as a favorite
 
My fav Lisa moment was. perhaps, when she volunteers to sell some of her rare jazz LPs to, I don't know, pay for some medicine Bart needs or something, and Bart is all touched - "Wow, you'd actually sell your jazz albums!?" - and she says well, lately I've been realizing they pretty much all sound alike.
posted by thelonius at 7:27 AM on February 26 [38 favorites]


Imagine thirty years of being the voice actor behind Lisa Simpson. That would be...satisfying but also kind of trippy, I guess.
posted by Frowner at 7:41 AM on February 26 [9 favorites]


27 fargin' years ago, friends and neighbours.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 7:52 AM on February 26 [7 favorites]


Way back in the early years of the Simpsons I was trying to convince a friend to watch them, going on about the comedy, smart writing, etc. She finally decides to check it out and this is the episode that happened to be on. She found it terribly depressing and I doubt she ever watched another episode again.
posted by mikepop at 7:55 AM on February 26 [3 favorites]


There's mention of Lisa's relationship with her dad, but one of my very favorite moments is with her mom, at the end of "Moaning Lisa." Marge has recommended that she squish her feelings way down beneath her feet and put on a smile, "and then boys will like you and happiness will follow." But when Marge sees her outside the school putting on a fake smile and being socially taken advantage of, she swoops in, snatches her away, and tells her that if she needs to be sad, she can be sad, and her family will be there for her, anyway. Marge doesn't get her daughter either, doesn't much know how to help her, but she recognizes when the plan she followed (which, let's be real, landed her with a distressingly limited life) doesn't work for Lisa.
posted by praemunire at 7:55 AM on February 26 [132 favorites]


"Marge Simpson: It doesn't matter how you feel inside, you know. It's what shows up on the outside that counts. Take all your bad feelings and push them down, all the way down past your knees, until you're almost walking on them. And then you'll fit in, and you'll be invited to parties, and boys will like you. And happiness will follow."

to

"Marge Simpson: Lisa, I apologize to you, I was wrong! I take it all back. Always be yourself. If you want to be sad, honey, be sad. We'll ride it out with you. And when you get finished feeling sad, we'll still be there. From now on, let me do the smiling for both of us.

Lisa: [smiles] Okay, Mom.

Marge Simpson: I said you could stop smiling, Lisa.

Lisa: I *feel* like smiling."

Obviously, it touches me because it encapsulates the difference between women born in my mom's generation and women born in my own, and yet allows a connection between them.
posted by praemunire at 8:12 AM on February 26 [219 favorites]


The most recent Simpsons episode I watched was 22 minutes of Facebook comment "Hurr durr I don't even know what I'm allowed to say anymore in this PC society hurr" grumpy old white man bullshit and Lisa had maybe one contribution used as contrasting "left-wing" punchline.

It was bad. And sad. And the episode was from two veteran Simpsons writers.

It's sad because of how good it used to be. How important.

Lisa deserved better than this. We all did.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 8:28 AM on February 26 [35 favorites]


Lisa has always been my favorite Simpson.
posted by 41swans at 8:38 AM on February 26 [9 favorites]


“Speaking very personally, I had a sometimes-wanting relationship with my own father,” she says. “So, to be able to play these scenes with Homer, where she actually feels like he gets her, really ticks a very personal box for me. I always feel that they write that stuff really beautifully. There have been so many episodes where they have a meeting of minds, when Homer goes out of his way to at least try to understand Lisa—and often admits, ‘I still don’t understand you, but I love you deeply. I’m really happy to be here with you and that’s enough for me.’ What’s better than that, really?”
Preach, sister.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:43 AM on February 26 [35 favorites]


So I take it that in the current zombie incarnation of The Simpsons, the writers have transformed Lisa into their own version of Meg Griffin?
posted by Strange Interlude at 8:45 AM on February 26 [1 favorite]


When "Jazzman" pops into my head, I hear it in Yeardley Smith's voice, not Carole King's.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:45 AM on February 26 [24 favorites]


I AM THE LIZARD QUEEN

There is no better Lisa moment than this.
posted by giraffeneckbattle at 8:45 AM on February 26 [30 favorites]


“Do not attach your identity to your work. Attach your identity to things that are to your own personal growth that mean something to you on the inside. Because you can’t fill up the inside from the outside.”

Again: Preach, sister.
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:49 AM on February 26 [29 favorites]


I'm just sad that so many of Lisa's brainy factoids from the classic seasons turned out to be wrong. I can think of the coriolis effect comment, and crisi-tunity comment about the Chinese language. I know there were others.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 8:50 AM on February 26 [3 favorites]


I recently read a critique of The Simpsons that proposed, not without evidence, that the writers hate Lisa. Unlike all the other characters, she tends to lose, and her pain is rarely consoled. Matt Groening claimed Lisa would be the one who escapes Springfield, but in the later seasons, her flash-forwards all show her living in Springfield, married to Milhouse (MILHOUSE), and stuck.
posted by SansPoint at 9:05 AM on February 26 [25 favorites]


Lisa... that's the one who's a Democrat, right?
posted by rokusan at 9:19 AM on February 26 [1 favorite]


That was a good profile. I'd never realized that Smith only had a single part on the show. I can see how that might undermine the confidence of a young performer. I'm glad that she's expanded out and has found fulfillment in her life. For what it's worth, Lisa is one of the best characters on the show in terms of VA.

The Ted Cruz quote spoke to the idea that Cruz plainly doesn't understand the show, which is unsurprising. Lisa is its moral center, and is usually the member of the family who firmly grasps the proper morality of any given situation. Unfortunately, the writers sometimes use that as a way to score cheap points on the left, or to turn her into a scold (like the Beer Baron episode, where even Marge is on board with Homer's plot). I think episodes where Lisa gets the A plot (at least in the first ~11 seasons) tend to be among the best. Sometimes it's her having to come back from an extreme position, but it's mostly about her character dealing holding onto her morals in an amoral and uncaring world.
posted by codacorolla at 9:20 AM on February 26 [11 favorites]


Lisa is its moral center, and is usually the member of the family who firmly grasps the proper morality of any given situation.

I just said that.
posted by rokusan at 9:24 AM on February 26 [7 favorites]


> Lisa... that's the one who's a Democrat, right?

"But more often, Lisa is Springfield’s and The Simpsons’ resident idealist and bleeding heart. It’s a role that sets her up for regular disillusionment and crushed spirits."

"Her victories are hard fought and briefly enjoyed."

That would be a yes.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:26 AM on February 26 [13 favorites]


The Ted Cruz quote spoke to the idea that Cruz plainly doesn't understand the show, which is unsurprising. Lisa is its moral center, and is usually the member of the family who firmly grasps the proper morality of any given situation.

Well, she's the one who firmly grasps what you (and I) feel is the proper morality of the situation. Ted Cruz apparently disagrees, and believes that Homer's/Marge's/Bart's responses are in line with the proper morality.
posted by Four Ds at 9:30 AM on February 26 [1 favorite]


I AM THE LIZARD QUEEN

There is no better Lisa moment than this.


I can't go on a theme park boat ride without thinking of that!
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:32 AM on February 26 [2 favorites]


"Can'ttalkcomingdown."
posted by DrAstroZoom at 9:33 AM on February 26 [9 favorites]


As a kid, Lisa was always the only character with whom I could identify. But, she was also utterly humorless and had no perspective. That isn't terribly weird for a child, much less a cartoon child, but I always found it frustrating. "Your choice is to either be smart and ethical or to have fun" isn't a message I wanted to hear as a kid, or as an adult.

I want to believe that you can have fun and be rude and also live ethically. The Simpsons writers clearly don't.
posted by eotvos at 9:35 AM on February 26 [13 favorites]


Just as Wile E. Coyote is destined to never catch the Road Runner, there’s a comparable existential futility to Lisa’s lot on The Simpsons—an eternity of being profoundly unappreciated, unable to make a difference and, as she sings in “Moaning Lisa,” “the saddest kid in grade number two.”

I remember being profoundly connected to that line, although i was probably in high school when i first saw it. But the existential futility is something I've connected to constantly as an adult.

If the writers dump on Lisa so much and make her lose so often, it could be a reflection of how they feel about their own futility in the world, and now making her toothless as a reflection of giving in to the relentless mediocrity of modern sitcoms for cheap laughs and possible ratings.

Which I think is why The Good Place is so great to me, it's like seeing a Lisa being created out of a Bart in Eleanor.
posted by numaner at 9:38 AM on February 26 [18 favorites]


I always identified the most with Lisa. I don’t know if the writers hated her. I mean, maybe they did, but all the characters are exaggerated I’m their own ways. Lisa seemed to embody all the things that can be frustrating about smart, caring people: she reads Junior Skeptic magazine, she’s smart but she knows it and can’t understand why people don’t agree with her obviously superior positions.

I never hated her for that stuff because I had the same issues myself. I was a kid watching that show, and a lot of the time Lisa’s stories were the ones that showed me you could be smart and weird and be happy, and sometimes they reminded me that I could be an arrogant know-it-all. It always felt like the writers were all coming from the same place.

Could be wrong, though.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 9:39 AM on February 26 [8 favorites]


I'm just sad that so many of Lisa's brainy factoids from the classic seasons turned out to be wrong.

In her defense, she's perpetually eight. Even intelligent eight-year-olds believe things that turn out to be wrong.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:42 AM on February 26 [16 favorites]


Well, she's the one who firmly grasps what you (and I) feel is the proper morality of the situation. Ted Cruz apparently disagrees, and believes that Homer's/Marge's/Bart's responses are in line with the proper morality.

This is especially perplexing, because evangelicals HATED The Simpsons when it first came out. They said it was sacrilegious and worldly and appalling. When my family mentioned watching it one time, people at our church reacted with horror. We were told that watching it was a sin, not because Lisa was a liberal, but because the entire show was worldly filth. (Yes, the show about a heterosexual nuclear family that went to church every week. That show.)

Anyway, having evangelicals now pretending that they are "men of the people, just like Homer Simpson" is more bizarre than I can express. It's the equivalent of seeing a Focus on the Family ad about using Dungeons and Dragons to proselytize to your unsaved friends, or a Chick tract about using yoga to get closer to Jesus.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 10:05 AM on February 26 [77 favorites]


I'm glad to read that Yeardley Smith has found fulfillment in her career: clearly her role as Lisa Simpson is so prominent, and her voice so unmistakeable, that I imagine it would make it that much harder to branch out and find other outlets for her abilities and her career. And doubly so for someone racked with insecurities and self-doubt. Good for her in conquering that!

...and I say that as someone who was unable to see past "Lisa Simpson" when watching her performance in Maximum Overdrive. Though, to be honest, that helped the entertainment value for a campy film whose soundtrack is entirely performed by AC/DC.
posted by Theophrastus Johnson at 10:10 AM on February 26 [6 favorites]


Ha! I was literally just about to mention seeing her in Maximum Overdrive! I was reading the article and I got to the point where it mentioned how unique her vocal timbre is, and it reminded me of how much she stood out in that movie as sounding like Lisa Simpson.

Also, it really does seem like Lisa was always written to be loved.

“Lisa’s basically a huge nerd, yet you don’t feel like punching her in the face every time she says something smart,” says Cohen. “Contrast this to Martin Prince, whose personality is that he can’t help rubbing it in your face how smart he is. With Lisa, you just feel like hugging her. She just wants what’s right, a world ruled by logic and justice. It’s a tricky performance Yeardley pulls off. She makes Lisa into the type of nerd that every nerd aspires to be. The kind that doesn’t get punched in the face.”
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 10:13 AM on February 26 [3 favorites]


As a kid growing up with this show, I always felt like I was the male Lisa Simpson. I got good grades, I played the saxophone, and I was a vegetarian. I guess it's not surprising that my politics came to resemble hers.
posted by J.K. Seazer at 10:13 AM on February 26 [3 favorites]


Lisa has always been my favorite Simpson.

As a bookish nerd, she's also the one I most connected with. Her desire to take books with her on a summer trip and/or to stay inside a library instead of going out to the beach to socialize were also things that resonated with me.

And now I'm just describing one of my favourite episodes where Christina Ricci guest-stars and Lisa makes friends at the beach. :D
posted by Fizz at 10:34 AM on February 26 [5 favorites]


Lisa seems to deeply resonate with people like her who aspire to be smart, ambitious, 'cultured', etc., but they grow up in a working-class family in a small town and are pretty universally treated as a know-it-all or a special snowflake. People might be proud of you for being smart and cultured, but you're also very aware that the things you want for yourself will only continue to isolate you from your family and community the more you pursue them. You want to leave your town to experience more things, but you're hyper-aware that people judge you for thinking you're "too good" for this place, and you're both terrified that you'll end up 40 and never left your small town and Made Something Of Yourself, but you're also kind of envious of people who seem genuinely happy to stay with the town and family they know, and you wish you could force yourself into that mold sometimes.

All that is to say that I totally understand the alterna-future with Lisa and Milhouse. It's the most powerful fear and the thing you find deeply, temptingly comforting, to the Lisa Simpsons of the world.
posted by nakedmolerats at 10:40 AM on February 26 [88 favorites]


I want to believe that you can have fun and be rude and also live ethically. The Simpsons writers clearly don't.

I don't know that I'd go that far, but I do think the writers think there's an inherent tension between Lisa's perspective and Bart/Homer's (because, let's face it, Bart and Homer are basically the same character, at least compared to Lisa). The show continually sets up situations that explore that tension.

It's a modernized Goofus and Gallant, but—befitting the modern world—without the clear judgement that one path is necessarily more objectively correct than the other, and resulting didactic intent.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:44 AM on February 26 [3 favorites]


I was once at a college party when, as an ice-breaker I suppose, a guy asked me who my favorite Simpson's character was. I said that it was Lisa, and he rolled his eyes. "You're not supposed to pick LISA," he said. So I backed up and said something like "Oh, I suppose my REAL favorite character is Disco Stu, but I usually keep that quiet because he doesn't advertise." But in my heart? It's always been Lisa and it always will be. I see myself in her, and I see in her what I want to BE. Even now, at 40, I strive to have the conviction and resilience that Lisa Simpson embodies.
posted by Elly Vortex at 10:46 AM on February 26 [18 favorites]


Sorry to be commenting so much, but that was a great article. I hope Smith knows how important her character was to so many people. Remember that episode with the new kid, where Lisa suddenly starts feeling like second-best? I'm not saying I was a smart kid, but I believed I was a smart kid, and I remember that episode being one of the few things out there for me that honestly tackled the kind of insecurity that came with the territory. There weren't a lot of shows that had genuinely smart characters. Who else was I going to look to? Urkel? The nerds were always the punchline, even Martin Prince (and as a boy, I probably came across more like Martin than Lisa, minus all the enthusiasm). Lisa was the character who could be honest about how isolating smartness could be, and how much pressure came with it, both from your own expectations and from everyone else's. How much you could try to make up for your own unhappiness by at least knowing you were smart and talented, and how easily you could be completely deflated when something came along to challenge even that.

I don't know, I'm glad that show was around, and I'm glad they cared about her character so much. I think it probably meant a lot as a kid to see someone who even vaguely resembled my personality. Even her room in Bart Simpson's Guide to Life was the best one (I still remember it because that was where I first heard of Kentucky bluegrass being an actual grass, and wasn't there a ceiling that simulated the night sky?).
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 10:46 AM on February 26 [7 favorites]


The Venture Brothers included a storyline with Triana and Dean that was an interesting take on the Lisa/Milhouse future dread. Ultimately, Triana was guided and decided to leave the compound and pursue her own potential by the fear of being stuck in the comfortable, hemmed-in role that Lisa faces with Milhouse, which I thought was a nice touch.
posted by Existential Dread at 10:48 AM on February 26 [6 favorites]


The Lisa skull from Separate Vocations is my favorite little bit of Simpsons iconography, she's always been the real bomb throwing rebel contrasted with Bart's socially acceptable boyhood rebellion.

It's a pretty great episode
posted by jason_steakums at 11:08 AM on February 26 [6 favorites]


She’s incredibly complex and I think it’s nice to take a moment to appreciate how much she resonates with and represents the generation of overeducated bleeding hearts, the kind that I venture to say make up 99.9% of Mefites.

[disclaimer: in any discussion of the Simpsons, I think we all agree the last 15 seasons should be ignored with the possible exception of the Treehouse of Horror episodes. There’s some kind of metanalysis to be made of the show becoming part of the awfulness of throwaway money making American culture that the show so perfectly satirized but that’s for another thread]

The show debuted at the tail end of the post world war Baby Boomer generation all American nuclear family dream and Lisa was the lens through which the creeping sense of “something is wrong” is viewed. She’s unhappy but she’s not unhappy because her material needs aren’t being met or because she hasn’t figured out how to be successful. She’s unhappy because of the cognitive dissonance all around her. She’s unhappy because most of the adults that are supposed to be providing moral guidance around her — parents, teachers, politicians, and preachers — are providing all the unconsidered platitudes and her critical mind is finding them unsatisfactory. Worse, in a world where her family doesn’t really get the contradictions they live with, indeed almost all of Springfield, she struggles to find a way to live with her moral stance when she knows she is powerless to change everyone around her. If that’s not a perfect character that sums up being a Smart Person in the Reagan/Bush/Trump America, I don’t know what is.

The show debuted just as I was separating from my own family of origin. I was going off to be a do-gooder punk and I left a family that bought into all the (white, Christian) American Dream bullshit unquestioningly and they mistook my well developed ethical framework as a personal rejection — why wouldn’t two TV sets and two Cadillac cars help him at all? Now 30 years later, still fighting the good fight while I’m feeling powerless to change the fact that capitalism’s mutated monster is flushing the American experiment in democracy down the toilet, I identify more strongly than ever with Lisa, particularly with her struggle to make peace with her place in society and to try not to treat everyone else as idiots.

I don’t think the writers hate Lisa. It’s true that things rarely turn out her way. But Lisa’s struggle is deeper than a typical 22 minute plot line. She doesn’t want to win the beauty contest, she doesn’t need to be the soloist in the band, she doesn’t need to win the forgiveness of her parents for some trouble she got into. What the writers have given her over the years are glimpses of wisdom, whether through her interactions with certain adults (her substitute, of Bleeding Gums) or the understanding that it’s ok to be an outsider and to have feelings about that or that there’s a time and a place to stand up and make everyone notice that you have an inconvenient point to make. And all of this is still relevant to a 50 year old overeducated do gooder who is trying not to despair over the hopelessness of it all and finding meaning.

I don’t know if Ted Cruz’ comparison really holds true of Democrats and Republicans. But the fact that he personally identifies with Homer and Bart absolutely reinforces my identification with Lisa.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 11:10 AM on February 26 [48 favorites]


She taught me about hermit crabs and why I shouldn't drink sea water.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:14 AM on February 26 [4 favorites]


Lisa Lionheart Doll [to sole little girl]: Trust in yourself and you can achieve anything.

Lisa: You know, if we get through to just that one little girl, it’ll all be worth it.

Stacy Lovell: Yes, particularly if that little girl happens to pay forty-six thousand dollars for that doll.
posted by hwyengr at 11:21 AM on February 26 [18 favorites]


"You don't control the birds. You will someday, but not now."
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 11:33 AM on February 26 [6 favorites]


Funny to see this posted today. I just this weekend read a blog post about how much The Simpsons hates Lisa, and I can't stop thinking about it.

I Watched All 629 Episodes of The Simpsons in a Month. Here’s What I Learned.

On reading other comments more closely, I think it's the one SansPoint refers to above.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:33 AM on February 26 [9 favorites]


As someone who has every reason to completely identify with Lisa and grew up right next to her (Simpsons premiered when I was 6 and my family watched it every week) I have always thought Lisa was an overbearing heavy handed unfunny unpleasant stereotype. (Although who on that show isn’t all of those things?) but I feel like I’m allowed to criticize Lisa because I have everything in common with her. So it’s interesting to read all these love letters to Lisa cause all the good things about her is something I’ve never thought about.
posted by bleep at 11:35 AM on February 26 [2 favorites]


Funny to see this posted today. I just this weekend read a blog post about how much The Simpsons hates Lisa, and I can't stop thinking about it.

Interestingly, the thesis of this essay, is supported only by the final 15 seasons. Future university departments of Simpsons Studies are going to have to find a way to deal with the Golden Age vs Post Golden Age dichotomy. One wonders if Shakespeare’s terrible last 20 plays were suppressed or retroactively attributed to Marlowe.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 11:49 AM on February 26 [12 favorites]


rabbitrabbit: That's the one! Thank you! I tried googling for "simpsons writers hate lisa" and variations, but couldn't find it.
posted by SansPoint at 11:54 AM on February 26 [1 favorite]


Don't forget The Family Guy effect. The Simpsons have had Seth Macfarland's low brow misogyny breathing down their necks for over a decade. On the same channel, every episode one half hour later.

I think "the last 15 seasons" are where it starts to get interesting as they struggle to maintain an audience, compete with various other media, all while trying to pull off at least a pastiche of warmth or compassion, hell, storyline.

Taken from another prospective, Lisa is our Charlie Brown.
posted by Max Power at 12:15 PM on February 26 [8 favorites]


Excerpt from I Watched All 629 Episodes of The Simpsons in a Month. Here’s What I Learned:
As originally conceived, Lisa was the character who would transcend the mediocrity of Springfield and become something great. Chris Turner, in his book Planet Simpson, quotes Matt Groening on his favourite Simpsons character: “At the end of the day, I have to admit that if I have a favourite it would be Lisa. She’s the only one who will escape Springfield.” And Al Jean, the current showrunner (and the man who has presided over the post-Golden Age shift in emphasis from jokes to characters), has said of the writing staff that “The character we’re closest to is Lisa Simpson, a character who reads a lot and hopes for a better life."
[...]
But if this is true, then why does The Simpsons – particularly in its post-Golden age seasons – consistently punish Lisa for her gifts? Why is Lisa the only character in the show who almost never gets what she wants or needs?
The answer to this question isn't a mystery: it's because the writers are, by-and-large, Gen-Xers and that generation (which is also mine) is notoriously cynical about the world and pessimistic about prospects for its improvement. In Gen-X comedy, bitter irony is liberally employed as both a bludgeon and a shield.

If you want an earnest, more optimistic depiction of a Lisa Simpson-type (and in my opinion, less funny) then look to Leslie Knope of Parks and Recreation.
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:31 PM on February 26 [22 favorites]


Growing up I felt like Lisa was very similar to me (bookish, shy, not into boys) and also being portrayed as completely ridiculous and lame.

Great life lesson :-/
posted by The Toad at 12:38 PM on February 26 [2 favorites]


And now I'm just describing one of my favourite episodes where Christina Ricci guest-stars and Lisa makes friends at the beach.

"Scanning for sarcasm - it's clean!"
posted by Paul Slade at 12:41 PM on February 26 [5 favorites]


If you want an earnest, more optimistic depiction of a Lisa Simpson-type (and in my opinion, less funny) then look to Leslie Knope of Parks and Recreation.

Or Amy Santiago on B99.
posted by praemunire at 12:49 PM on February 26 [7 favorites]


I really think you feel differently about Lisa depending on whether you started with, um, the Tracey Ullman Show shorts or twenty years later.
posted by praemunire at 12:50 PM on February 26 [3 favorites]


Ordinarily I'd say you should stand up for what you believe in, but you've been doing that an awful lot lately.
posted by history_denier at 12:54 PM on February 26 [4 favorites]


Another excerpt from I Watched All 629 Episodes of The Simpsons in a Month. Here’s What I Learned:
The view of marriage espoused by The Simpsons is one in which a woman must forgive her husband and stay with him, no matter how high the cost (in “Days of Future Future,” Marge literally commits suicide to be with Homer – she electrocutes herself so that she can live with the version of his personality that has been uploaded to a flash drive).
So Sati, basically? Yeah, that's a slightly conservative view of sex roles.
posted by clawsoon at 1:00 PM on February 26 [1 favorite]


I think that The Simpsons had so many episodes that analysis like "Lisa having to marry her loser husband Milhouse" as a sign of her failure is kind of cheap - I mean Milhouse that was a movie star (lousy episode no matter how quotable it was - and rejected the industry?), fluent in Italian due to vacations in Tuscany, had a girlfriend (before?) Bart, and so on?


About "You are Lisa Simpson" -> "I went, Oh my god. All you need is already inside of you." I think that is a terrible thing to tell an 8 year old. That note sucks. Her original thought was correct.
posted by The_Vegetables at 1:31 PM on February 26 [1 favorite]


Isn't Lisa everyone's favorite? She always struck me as the heroine of the show, despite all the Bart Simpson t-shirts back in the day
posted by emd3737 at 1:42 PM on February 26 [1 favorite]


I have read one or two books, and on the strength of that am willing to say that Lisa Simpson is really unusually complex for a female character in any medium—definitely more complex than, say, any female characters written by Charles Dickens or Philip Roth or quite a lot of writers of very fat and wordy books. She is far, far less of a cardboard cutout than, say, Nancy from Oliver Twist.
posted by Aravis76 at 1:48 PM on February 26 [14 favorites]


A deep Love for anything can inspire a Roy Batty kind of obsessiveness to live another day...and coming to this topic and comment page feel likes I'm Batty surprising Sebastian in his lair: Really got some nice toys here...

How Groening's (pronounced "complaining" I recall clarified early on) constellation can be examined strictly through Lisa is a touchy doorway for me. Like when she sees through time with Apu's curry. And Lizard Queen is a cool-kid, psychedelic chuckle, but many episodes so referred and an entire Homer episode. But Lisa's reference to Sea of Grass and hers and Bart's reconciliation on the rooftop (to summon the animation of her kiss of him can bring a tear) set so much to come, cycled many glorious times, plays into the whole Commercial Market struggle to come that several posters touch on.

There was a time when MacFarleechy impressed me because he was a sponge in terms of comic set-ups and seemed to revere and consolidate them all (including Groening's ...Is Hell series) with equal glee. But his personal hangups and go-tos become apparent with time and success and all that genius without something to temper it becomes nothing but Commercial Market audacity...We Live In A Political World, and the humors are our way through, but c'mon, Sebastian: Show Me the Man.

Know that Groening readily stepped away from writing for every show after the 3rd season, I believe it was. A few members of the forum, very few, know the dynamic of having a staff of writers working for your production: It's humbling.

bART, the boy who earns a C- in art, is homage to C.Brown and, in the first seasons, Homer became the "heaviest" vehicle (heavy like my brother) for, as I termed it, Groening's Constellation. To have a favorite character? Sure. As a way "in", but not through. For all the humanity and ineluctable feminist lensing of Lisa, can the comprehension and compassion of, say, how Mr. Burns finds expression be any less?

No.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 1:48 PM on February 26 [2 favorites]


I always associate a line from the Mr Bergstrom episode with Metafilter: Homer – "Now you'll have lots of special people in your life, Lisa. There's probably some place where they all get together and the food is real good, and guys like me are serving drinks."
Lisa, this is your promised land (and Homer, quit making it about your self-pity).
posted by threecheesetrees at 2:07 PM on February 26 [1 favorite]


Isn't Lisa everyone's favorite?

I like Maggie. She's such a little trooper!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 2:07 PM on February 26 [4 favorites]


I forgot to add, so thank you, threecheesetrees: Bergstrom is voiced by Dustin Hoffman at a point in the series when guest-stars were big medicine. So the irony of his personal choices and presented sensibilities within a feminist discussion is...big medicine.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 2:11 PM on February 26


So hard to choose a favourite, but I think we all particularly love her here.
posted by Segundus at 2:13 PM on February 26 [1 favorite]


Love is inclusive.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 2:17 PM on February 26


I use the phrase "semitic good looks" fairly regularly.
posted by humboldt32 at 2:49 PM on February 26 [1 favorite]


To me, it’s the simplicity of the characters that is the central principle of The Simpsons. The humour proceeds from seeing how they display the same behaviour no matter what situations they are decanted into.

But I love the fact that people are finding depth and complexity there after all.
posted by Segundus at 2:53 PM on February 26


Poor Lisa. I guess the thing that changed is that the Harvard guys who wrote her went from believing in the good of intellectualism, even if it was mostly futile, to being so totally absorbed into late-capitalist cult of celebrity where constantly feeding the Id is the only remaining value. I, too, noticed a depressing shift from portrayals of future Lisa at least having the promise of a meritocratic escape to trapping her in Springfield as a sort of comeuppance for her moralizing and aspirations.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 2:55 PM on February 26 [9 favorites]


The train, how like him: Traditional, yet environmentally sound.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 3:16 PM on February 26 [1 favorite]


...and I say that as someone who was unable to see past "Lisa Simpson" when watching her performance in Maximum Overdrive

Her appearance in the second episode of Mathnet is weirdly appropriate. It's like watching her play a live-action Lisa.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 3:44 PM on February 26 [4 favorites]


You people talking about the Simpsons like there was more than eight seasons. That's just weird. Next you're going to tell me there was a third Godfather movie.
posted by Ber at 4:05 PM on February 26 [7 favorites]


Above all, Lisa Simpson is the one character in the Simpsons who, if she actually watched the Simpsons, would get all the jokes.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 5:18 PM on February 26 [22 favorites]


I have always thought Lisa was an overbearing heavy handed unfunny unpleasant stereotype. (Although who on that show isn’t all of those things?)
bleep

Everyone, because Golden Era Simpsons is perfection and your opinion is both wrong and bad.

But that aside, the show actually agrees with you about Lisa, at least the "overbearing heavy handed" part. That's one of the points of the character: she has a firm sense of morality but is still feeling out the world and be too over-enthusiastic or self-righteous. The show (used to, at least) routinely point this out or make fun of it, e.g.(from the episode Bart Star where Homer is coaching a kids' football team):
Lisa: [Lisa appears at the gate, with one of her trademark confrontations]
What position have you got for me?
[crowd gasps]
Lisa: Thats right. A girl want to play football. How about that.
Ned: Well, thats super-duper, Lisa. We've already got four girls on the team.
Lisa: [let down] You do?
Ned: Ah huh. But we'd love to have you onboard!
Lisa: Well... football's not really my thing... after all... what kind of civilized person would play a game with the skin of an innocent pig?!
Ned: Well, actually, Lisa, these balls are synthetic!
Janey: And for every ball you buy, a dollar goes to Amnesty International!
Lisa: [crying] I've gotta go!
posted by Sangermaine at 8:04 PM on February 26 [15 favorites]


I haven't seen any new episodes in the past 7 years or more but last I checked I thought they still had the fire, somewhat at least. I'm not on the haters train.
posted by Liquidwolf at 8:55 AM on February 27


I'm not a fan of the recent episodes, but the writers are in a weird spot.

Springfield is this reasonably prosperous American small town where Homer can support a family of four on his cushy blue collar job, everyone goes to the same mainline Protestant church, edgy preteen boys say things like "eat my shorts," languages other than English are seldom spoken, the family doctor has all the time in the world for you, and even the evil energy tycoon's reach barely goes as far as the Shelbyville line. If you introduced the show now, it would be seen as a weird, right-wing, retrograde MAGA hallucination of a setting.

The Simpsons is set in more or less the same era of Americana as Stranger Things or Donnie Darko, except it's also simultaneously set in the vastly different modern world, 30 years later. Every time Homer so much as looks at a smartphone you get this uncanny valley feeling. How do you write anything set in that universe?
posted by smelendez at 10:00 AM on February 27 [9 favorites]


The Simpsons is a master act in terms of comedic writing, but is still a product of its time. In the Donald Glover profile that was posted recently, Glover mentions that he was inspired by illicitly recording the show and learning about comedy from it. I've heard countless other comedians and writers of various stripes mention the same thing. I do wonder how its influence will carry given more good seasons than bad at this point, and the dated aspects of the good seasons. This is a big point in the recent The Problem With Apu documentary, and it's a shame that such a classic piece of American culture and comedy is tainted with a decent amount of stereotypes and lazy reactionary thinking.

I watched one or two new episodes a year, and one thing that stands out to me is that the timing is off. Classic jokes always seemed to land perfectly, but in more modern ones... I dunno, it's hard to describe. Like the other day I watched Marge Vs. The Monorail, and the first two acts are basically one joke after another, but it doesn't feel rushed or frantic. Watching a recent episode where Bart and Lisa are competing against each other in bowling, and it's just like one reference after another, but none of them seem connected, and none of them landed.
posted by codacorolla at 1:31 PM on February 27 [2 favorites]


More and more, the writers seem to think a pop culture reference is as good as (or even the same as) a joke. It isn't.
posted by Paul Slade at 5:41 AM on February 28


It was, for me, the celebrity guest appearance that did the most damage.
posted by thelonius at 1:09 AM on March 13


thelonius: I agree, though specifically about the increase of celebrity guests appearing as themselves. (It happened occasionally in early seasons, but usually in ways that fit the plot. Now, it seems like they shoehorn in a celebrity guest and make the plot work around them.)
posted by SansPoint at 6:41 AM on March 13 [2 favorites]


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