Lisa deserved better.
March 12, 2018 4:32 AM   Subscribe

I watched all 629 episodes of The Simpsons in a month. Here’s what I learned: The show hates Lisa.
(Previously)
posted by divabat (83 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
 
Shut up Meg.
posted by humboldt32 at 4:51 AM on March 12 [23 favorites]


Really glad i missed the last 22 seasons or so.
posted by ELF Radio at 4:56 AM on March 12 [30 favorites]


I like this piece, and I tend to agree with the general thesis, but I have a couple of observations.

If you are going to talk about The Simpsons as an anti-intellectual work, I don't think you can ignore the fact that the writing staff is famously well-educated. It doesn't mean the show isn't anti-intellectual, but there must be fertile ground for discussion there.

I also felt that even though the pattern of a "Lisa Episode" that the author describes feels instinctively correct, the actual examples the give seem like awkward fits.

The misogyny, though, that's dead on.
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 5:02 AM on March 12 [7 favorites]


I’d like to propose that during its Golden Age, The Simpsons wasn’t really about character or plot. The denizens of Springfield – very much including the Simpson family – were never meant to be characters in any traditional dramatic sense. They were caricatures: collections of amusing traits. In fact, during the Golden Age, the characters were often retro-engineered backward from jokes, or they were changed entirely simply in order to facilitate a gag (as when Bart says, “I am familiar with the works of Pablo Neruda”). The precision-engineered plots that defined the best Golden Age episodes (e.g. “Bart vs. Australia,” which begins with Bart & Lisa flushing bathroom products down the toilet and ends with the family being airlifted from the roof of the Australian embassy) existed not to bring about emotional catharsis but to facilitate the telling of jokes. The point of Golden Age Simpsons, in other words, was to make you laugh. This is why we all remember specific lines, and the specific inflections with which they are delivered (“I AM THE LIZARD QUEEN!”, “It’s a pornography store. I was buying pornography,” “Use a pen, Sideshow Bob”), and why we have a harder time reconstructing the plot of any given episode. At its peak, The Simpsons exhibited a kind of sunny, nerdish nihilism: it would sacrifice anything (character consistency, narrative logic, continuity) in order to be funny. Being funny was the show’s supreme value. There’s a name for this particular aesthetic: absurdism. During its Golden Age, The Simpsons was the greatest absurdist comedy ever made. Those of us who grew up loving Golden Age Simpsons didn’t love it because of the characters. We loved it because of its highly distinctive upbeat nihilism, and because of the sheer density of perfectly-delivered jokes that made up the true substance of every episode. We loved it because it was funny and that was it.
Good lord, every sentence of this paragraph is wrong.

The show was always about the characters. It was never just about comedy. A major goal in the show was to find a way to actually dig into the audience and make us/them honest-to-God care about these funny yellow cartoons. Bart being familiar with Pablo Neruda isn't changing his character to facilitate a gag, the gag is the unexpected -- yet bizarrely credible -- character swerve. Particularly in the early years there are many entire episodes which are earnestly there to tell an emotional story, episodes like Lisa's Substitute and A Fish Called Selma, which simply do not have punchlines. No, the show would not sacrifice anything in order to be funny, it was fundamentally grounded. Absurd things would happen but then reality would quickly snap back, because providing a base layer of expectation makes emotional stories more credible and absurd notes stand out better.

The show you're actually thinking of, the one which actually sacrifices anything at all for a gag? Family Guy. And latter-day Simpsons!
posted by qntm at 5:03 AM on March 12 [72 favorites]


The answer is misogyny. They just can't see a smart woman be successful.
posted by mikelieman at 5:08 AM on March 12 [9 favorites]


Worst. Post. Ever.
posted by chasles at 5:15 AM on March 12 [10 favorites]


or they were changed entirely simply in order to facilitate a gag (as when Bart says, “I am familiar with the works of Pablo Neruda”)

Homer shouting 'Ahh, cacti!' when he's hanging upside-down from the sky-writing plane isn't 'chaining teh character of Homer to someone who pedantically pluralizes latin words', the joke is that you wouldn't expect that line to come from homer. This article isn't getting off to a good start.

Lisa in the early seasons seemed to be keenly aware taht being a Simpson means never getting to enjoy your successes, " His life was an unbridled success until he found out he was a Simpson". The fortune teller confronts her with her resentment of her family when she shows a future where all she had to do was reject her family and she could marry Hugh and step into a posh life around her ideal match, and she can't do it. She has no crayon to push back in to make this meta-awareness goes away. The show hates her as much as any other Simpson, it just has to be much more devastating in its punishment of her. The Simpsons is fundamentally a pretty dark

FTA: "These futures feel like a betrayal of Matt Groening’s original idea of Lisa as “the one who will escape Springfield.”

I think this is a shallow reading of that statement. Gorening's previous work was called 'life in hell'. If Gorening wanted The Simpsons to be a story of Lisa's triumph, we'd have sene a lot more of that in the first few seasons. But that's not how comedy works.
posted by Space Coyote at 5:16 AM on March 12 [10 favorites]


I would argue the problem was that the writers abandoned the characters, turning them into empty vessels for the delivery of under-cooked jokes. And, yeah, misogyny. So terrible.
posted by tehjoel at 5:16 AM on March 12 [4 favorites]


A couple of years ago I started watching The Simpsons regularly again, after not having watched more than one or two episodes a year for well over a decade. At first it was a pleasant sugar-rush but then I noticed that even though various characters had joined the extended cast in the time since I had watched it, the writers had not bothered to give Marge or Lisa any friends. Homer and Bart have friends, and a rich social life in general, but Marge and Lisa are socially isolated except for their family. The show is so oblivious to women's lives to the point that misogyny barely seems the right word anymore, but I can't think of a better one.
posted by Kattullus at 5:17 AM on March 12 [86 favorites]


629 episodes in a month. Jeebus!
posted by triage_lazarus at 5:20 AM on March 12 [7 favorites]


I could never watch the Simpsons.

I grew up in Springfield, learned to play the baritone saxophone and started speaking French in middle school... and in my freshman year of high school, the Simpsons came out. I was "the smart girl" in our classes too.

Misogyny, yes. I could never watch it; cut too close to home.
posted by fraula at 5:36 AM on March 12 [32 favorites]


I think the article is largely right. Early Simpsons was an absurdist show that played both sides: it wanted us to love the stupid slobs Bart and Homer for their heart, but also admire Lisa and Marge for their dedication and responsibility. But the characters were always in service of the gag.

When the writers decided the world is not just absurd, the world is shit, Bart and Homer became heroes and dedication and responsibility something to be mocked and punished. Crossing the line from absurdism into nihilism is what changed. Both are true to Groening, but one is funnier than the other.
posted by rikschell at 5:41 AM on March 12 [31 favorites]


Ugh sorry for all the typos in my previous comment. To be a little less of a Simpsons defender, it does seem like the show is frozen in time and has not picked up on some of the things that make modern cartoons so much more beloved. In Bob's Burgers we first were shown Tina and everyone assumed she as just the punching bag Meg character, but the show gives her so much space to grow, and shows her family supporting her in a way that isn't just standing by with kind words while the status quo gods take away all her gains. Lisa staying a vegetarian was in my mind a very early demonstration of how powerful a long-running show could be if it stuck to its guns when characters did change.

King of the Hill even made fun of the trope of characters not changing by having Connie and Joseph grow more mature while Bobby stayed physically the same.

So I don't think the Simpsons failed in its original premise because Lisa doesn't change that much, its universe is a cruel one that enforces idiocy, and trying to push back, whether you are Frank Grimes yelling at Homer or smart Homer not laughing at a comedy film, is ultimately futile. But Lisa also has a certain amount of hubris that is her own undoing, and to the extent that she is the character the writers put most of their relatibility into makes the show so much darker than, e.g., Family Guy.

We've now moved on, and we have shows like Steven Universe and Bob's Burgers that demonstrate that letting us love the characters and witch them grow gives much more creative fertile ground, and attracts incredibly devoted fans and engaged creators. But the Simpsons had to exist as such a big previous step before we could have this new age of cartoons.
posted by Space Coyote at 5:41 AM on March 12 [20 favorites]


You start to notice how often Lisa features in the show as the victim of unjust or even meaningless punishment – that is, how often she suffers for no real reason, and how seldom her suffering is redressed in any meaningful way.

That is because this is how the real world all too often works. Reward and punishment are often meaningless and unjust. Good people are often thwarted not just in spite of, but because of the things that make them good. Intelligent, kindhearted women are often held down by mediocre, casually cruel men. That's the world.

The Simpsons (when it's good) doesn't try to present a vision of a better world. If anything its world is a darker one than our own, although it's easy to miss this because its episodic format means there are never any long-term consequences. The genius of The Simpsons is not that it inspires the viewer to go out and do good in the world; its genius is that it allows the viewer to laugh at a world that is not fair, not just, not even particularly meaningful, a world where bad things happen to good people for bad reasons.

I identify with Lisa Simpson. The fact that her giftedness is also her enduring curse is what makes her character compelling and funny.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:42 AM on March 12 [40 favorites]


It was always clear to me that Lisa was the one you're supposed to identify with: yeah, the one who's supposed to escape Springfield but never will - not any more than she can escape the fact that she's a Simpson (despite the ending of Lisa the Simpson in which she learns that Simpson women are smart and accomplished). In persecuting Lisa, I didn't feel as though the show was being misogynistic; I feel like it was showing misogyny, and tying misogyny to class and education in ways I found troubling.
posted by entropone at 5:44 AM on March 12 [20 favorites]


I thought if the show "hated" anyone, it was Marge. She gave up long ago. While there's no winning for Lisa in Springfield, she still carries the spark with remarkable resiliency. Really, there's no winning for any kind of competency in Springfield. Just ask Grimey. Art imitates life. Lisa gets it worse. She's competent. And a girl. Does anyone expect Springfield to ever treat Lisa the way she deserves?

But, yeah, I think the article is kind of off. Nobody in The Simpsons ever really wins. Lisa is one of the characters who usually deserves to win. But being in the Springfield universe means being beaten down eternally. And that's the the tragic, nihilistic comedy. We all live in a Springfield of one kind or another.
posted by 2N2222 at 5:44 AM on March 12 [5 favorites]


Beaten to the submit button but I feel that Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival and I are are saying similar things here.
posted by entropone at 5:45 AM on March 12


I haven't even seen The Simpsons since...season 10? Season 11? So my perspective is limited, and I'm sure many things have changed.

But this:

You start to notice how often Lisa features in the show as the victim of unjust or even meaningless punishment – that is, how often she suffers for no real reason, and how seldom her suffering is redressed in any meaningful way. ... Lisa is the only member of the Simpson family who almost never gets what she wants and needs.

...always seemed to me like the point of Lisa as a character. It's not that the show hated her. It's that the world (as reflected and satirized by the show) hates her, and people like her.

Lisa is a nerd. She's intelligent, and thoughtful, and sensitive, and introverted, and woke, and willing to doubt herself, and believes in doing the right thing. She tilts at windmills of ignorance and injustice. She believes in science and civility and compassion. She reads and thinks well above her grade level. She's the one who tries to steer the family away from reckless and foolhardy choices. She's idealistic. By many measures, Lisa is the best person on the show.

When Lisa gets a "Kick Me" sign taped to her back for, well, being Lisa, I never took it to be saying "ha ha, Lisa sucks". Quite the contrary: I took it to be commenting on how much the world sucks for being such an inhospitable place for genuinely good, well-meaning people like Lisa.

Yes, Lisa always finishes last, inescapably. It's bleak and cruel. But that's the point. The world often is cruel to Lisas.

At least, this was my feeling pre-season-11-ish, when I was still watching. The show did seem to take a crueler and more nihilistic turn around then, which is part of why I stopped watching.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 5:56 AM on March 12 [99 favorites]


Futurama Forever!!
posted by Pendragon at 5:58 AM on March 12 [7 favorites]


Gorening's previous work was called 'life in hell'.

Was it the "Clip Show" that mentioned Groening recycling Jeff & Akbar, creating the Simpsons to pay off a debt? My memory isn't what it used to be. ( See also: Tying an onion to your belt... )
posted by mikelieman at 6:06 AM on March 12


I could be *very* wrong, because I'm not a total Simpsons expert—but it seems that the special quality the author says is missing from later episodes is Conan O'Brien. Love him or hate him (and I have always loved him) Conan is one of the modern masters of mass marketed absurdism. His original show from the 90's was rife with these kinds of weird characters and gags that existed solely to make a joke or create a funny moment.

As for the hating Lisa thing, this is a schtick that it seems lots of these "irreverent" Fox animated shows (that are really just aping the Simpsons) employ. Family Guy does it, American Dad did it—and they're all awful. (Ok Family Guy had it's moments, but they were long ago.) I think I would agree with escape from the potato planet's assessment of why the Simpsons does this to Lisa, at least in the earlier episodes—and that is to show that the world can be a shitty place for caring, smart people.

I miss 1994 Conan.
posted by littlerobothead at 6:12 AM on March 12 [6 favorites]


Wikipedia tells me the running time of a Simpsons episode is between 21 and 24 minutes, so I'll assume the average duration of an episode is 22½ minutes. 629 x 22½ = 14152½ minutes, or 235.875 hours in total. Taking an average-ish calendar month of 30 days, that's 7.8625 hours per day, every day for a full month without a day off.

The author writes "Over the last month, this is what I did. It wasn’t the only thing I did, by any means. I would put an episode of The Simpsons on in the background, while I was cooking, or doing boring admin work, or what have you. So I didn’t pay complete attention to every single second of every episode." Even so, 235.875 hours strikes me as an awful lot of presumably unpaid time, a great deal of 'what have you', to make a point about a fictional character (regardless of its merit). And that's not counting the time it would have taken to write the 5000+ word post...
posted by misteraitch at 6:20 AM on March 12 [2 favorites]


The sad part is not so much that Lisa's existence at age eight is rotten, so much that the promise that she'll escape one day - it'll only take a few years, really, maybe eight to ten years at most, for her to get out of there - will never be realised, because the show is locked into a single status quo, a sliding timeline, in which none of the characters can ever age. This changes the Lisa Simpson life story from being a sad-but-ultimately-hopeful snapshot of a life before things got good for her, into this weird inescapable hell. It compounds and repeats and becomes harder to bear than any reality.
posted by qntm at 6:22 AM on March 12 [15 favorites]


Springfield is purgatory.
posted by Beholder at 6:27 AM on March 12 [15 favorites]


The Simpsons in fact nominates “pick a dead end and chill out till you die” as the only approach to existence that it’s prepared to unreservedly endorse.
This is absolutely necessary for the show to have gone on for 29 god-damn seasons.
posted by thefool at 6:31 AM on March 12 [3 favorites]


Even so, 235.875 hours strikes me as an awful lot of presumably unpaid time,

I have a dual monitor setup, with one on the left, and one center. I routinely put on netflix series' on the Left Hand Screen, while doing my work on the center one. So, queue it up in mplayer, and just let it go in the background while working, and it's not so unreasonable to scratch an itch one has.

(I've watched pretty much every episode of Doctor Who from S01E01 this way over a couple of years)
posted by mikelieman at 6:34 AM on March 12 [2 favorites]


The show hates Lisa in roughly the same way Spider-Man comics hate Spider-Man.
posted by Artw at 6:38 AM on March 12 [13 favorites]


I noticed that even though various characters had joined the extended cast in the time since I had watched it, the writers had not bothered to give Marge or Lisa any friends. Homer and Bart have friends, and a rich social life in general, but Marge and Lisa are socially isolated except for their family.

Even stipulating that the show is mean to a smart girl because the world is, that's a damning observation.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:38 AM on March 12 [26 favorites]


When the writers decided the world is not just absurd, the world is shit, Bart and Homer became heroes and dedication and responsibility something to be mocked and punished. Crossing the line from absurdism into nihilism is what changed. Both are true to Groening, but one is funnier than the other.

Frank Grimes. That's when the show turned sour.

Then Maude Flanders. That's when it curdled and spoiled.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:41 AM on March 12 [11 favorites]


In this podcast (I think) Dana Gould (or one of the hosts?) mentions that the original producers (I forget which one in particular) insisted that every episode "have heart" in among the bleak/absurd humor and that all of the main characters do have positive integral character aspects that are not violated. Homer always at least *tries* to be a good husband and father despite himself. etc. etc. This clearly became less and less important over the years.

Also, by the way, you can watch almost any episode at this (probably illegal in some way) site: http://pixa.club/en/the-simpsons/. They also have Futurama.
posted by thefool at 6:41 AM on March 12 [8 favorites]


I read this this morning, and immediately spotted two instances in which the "formula" was subverted if you just kept watching:

[Season 5 episode 14] is a near-perfect pattern episode: Lisa Offers Her Gift to the World, in the form of a doll that might actually encourage girls to be independent and smart, and her Gift is Rejected when the girls prefer the superficiality of a Malibu Stacy with a new hat).

Except right at the very end, when Lisa is about to give up, one little girl does go for Lisa's doll. She picks it up, listens to it say "girls can do anything!" smiles at Lisa, and leaves. Lisa is cheered up because "at least some girls will get what I was saying".

And in "LIsa's Substitute", she is heartbroken when he leaves, but he leaves her with an encouraging note that teaches her that him leaving doesn't leave her wholly abandoned.

And then there was that epside where she does get a bunch of friends while the family is on vacation. She tries to go "cool" to get friends, but Bart exposes her to them as a nerd, but they don't care, and decorate the Simpson car with a mosaic reading "Lisa rules" as a good-bye present.

....Like fraula, I was also the unappreciated smart kid in my hometown (actually, I was one of a few), and can definitely relate to the "have a gift, show it to the community, they don't want it, you get shut down" cycle. But the golden age also showed the little moments of "except there's one person who does get it, and that gives you hope to keep going" and that's what finally propells you the fuck out of town to go somewhere better. So I think the "cycle" is actually part of why Lisa does escape.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:44 AM on March 12 [30 favorites]


....Like fraula, I was also the unappreciated smart kid in my hometown (actually, I was one of a few), and can definitely relate to the "have a gift, show it to the community, they don't want it, you get shut down" cycle.

We were all that kid (or thought we were). That's why we're here.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:47 AM on March 12 [49 favorites]


I have a dual monitor setup, with one on the left, and one center. I routinely put on netflix series' on the Left Hand Screen, while doing my work on the center one. So, queue it up in mplayer, and just let it go in the background while working, and it's not so unreasonable to scratch an itch one has.

(I've watched pretty much every episode of Doctor Who from S01E01 this way over a couple of years)


But.... Why ?!?!?!?

How can you follow the plot of a show if you are working ? How can you work if you're watching a show ?

How.. how..
posted by Pendragon at 6:55 AM on March 12 [19 favorites]


(Also that is not every episode of Dr Who)
posted by Artw at 6:59 AM on March 12


It's still good
It's still good
posted by flabdablet at 7:03 AM on March 12 [6 favorites]


One last thing I've thought about as I've been watching a lot of Simpsons episodes lately (randomly jumping around between seasons.) The change in the opening sequence says a lot. The newer version consists of cramming in as many recurring side characters and references to locations and things from past episodes as possible, contains Homer being violently smashed through the garage door instead of running through it, creating an over the top cheesy outline of his body, and generally mostly just kind of dumb slapstick throughout instead of odd funny occurrences. Just another little annoyance when comparing to older seasons.
posted by thefool at 7:08 AM on March 12 [1 favorite]


How can you follow the plot of a show if you are working ?

The number of episodes a show has is inversely proportional to the amount of direct and uninterrupted attention any one episode rewards/commands.
posted by griphus at 7:16 AM on March 12 [8 favorites]


When the kids started watching them they'd watch the current ones (in the last five years), and I'd tell them the old ones were much better, and they'd say no, Dad, they look so old and nobody has a mobile phone and ...

... and now they realise I was right.

When was the last time it had a gag even approaching the quality of 'Sex Cauldron'?
posted by GallonOfAlan at 7:17 AM on March 12 [4 favorites]


Occurred to me as I read the piece - if Springfield continually validates Lisa, of course she would never leave Springfield. The real losers are the ones who stay and can't understand why it is such a hellhole.

Not that this validates the "Simpsons hates Lisa" angle, but... it does stay consistent with the vision.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:26 AM on March 12 [1 favorite]


Well, if you read my comment, while I said it hits close to home, I never said I was unappreciated. Was I bullied? Yeah. Grew up in an abusive home, too. But, and this is key, I also had wonderful friends and teachers (I was lucky in that sense, have always said so).

Again, I could never watch the show, and still haven't, so all I know about it is what I hear. I didn't like how bleak it sounded.

It was always clear to me that Lisa was the one you're supposed to identify with: yeah, the one who's supposed to escape Springfield but never will - not any more than she can escape the fact that she's a Simpson (despite the ending of Lisa the Simpson in which she learns that Simpson women are smart and accomplished). In persecuting Lisa, I didn't feel as though the show was being misogynistic; I feel like it was showing misogyny, and tying misogyny to class and education in ways I found troubling.

See... I got out. All my friends watched The Simpsons and disliked how Lisa was written because they knew me. No one ever called me "Lisa", not even bullies. Not teachers, not friends, not anyone.

I kinda wish that sort of Lisa had been written for people to identify with. I get the jokes and how her hubris is used "against" her, but gosh golly gee darn it would be nice to have a female character who's proud of her achievements and is allowed to be so. That probably wouldn't be The Simpsons, granted, but it could be any other show. Is there one? Is there a Lisa who creates a happy, fulfilling life in popular television? (rhetorical question...)
posted by fraula at 7:32 AM on March 12 [1 favorite]


> Is there a Lisa who creates a happy, fulfilling life in popular television?

I've always thought of Leslie Knope as grown-up Lisa, who granted doesn't leave her wacky home town but I think is even better off because of it
posted by Space Coyote at 7:35 AM on March 12 [44 favorites]


My pet theory is that The Simpsons was good when it was about class. In old Simpsons episodes, they were genuinely about as financially insecure as you would expect a working-class family with only one working parent to be. Now they have three laptops.

You have to look at the "anti-intellectualism" of The Simpsons in that context. Barbara Jensen's book Reading Classes talks about education as a double-edged sword for working-class families, where education is looked at as a key to a better life but at the same time it's something that can alienate you from your family and your community. I don't think early Simpsons is anti-intellectual so much as it is really, really grim about the other edge of that sword.

The more the show drifted away from those underpinnings, the less the way Lisa got punished for everything was grounded in anything that made sense. She stopped living in a family or community that had any reason to punish her for being smart and sensitive. And I think the subtext drifted from "The world will punish you for being earnest and righteous and caring, but it's still the right thing" to "The world will punish you for being earnest and righteous and caring. Your own fault for not keeping your heart to yourself, LOL!"
posted by Jeanne at 7:40 AM on March 12 [34 favorites]


they look so old
Heh, I wonder why they don't remake the old episodes shot by shot, although it seems the 3D animation now is much stiffer now than traditional cel-shaded animation was. Plus, the modern writers/showrunners seem to have to chips on their shoulders: Family Guy and Old Simpsons.

The sad part is not so much that Lisa's existence at age eight is rotten, so much that the promise that she'll escape one day - it'll only take a few years, really, maybe eight to ten years at most, for her to get out of there - will never be realised, because the show is locked into a single status quo, a sliding timeline, in which none of the characters can ever age.
I continue to say one of the problems of the Simpsons after a point was that for such a long-running show with such a well established background is that instead of moving forwards and outwards, it completely crystallized because they were scared of losing ground to KotH/FG/B'sB.
posted by lmfsilva at 7:43 AM on March 12


When was the last time it had a gag even approaching the quality of 'Sex Cauldron'?

i thought they closed that place down
posted by entropicamericana at 7:47 AM on March 12 [14 favorites]


To extend the Doctor Who derail, if the OP is talking about S01E01 from 1963, it doesn't take much attention. The show is in ostensibly 25-minute bites, but there's often quite a bit of recapping at the beginning of each episode, to say nothing of endless minutes of filler running through corridors. TV was made at a different pace then. The Simpsons, crammed with background gags and in-jokes, though, I feel like you could only get much from if you'd already watched each episode a thousand times ... oh, I get it now.
posted by rikschell at 8:03 AM on March 12 [1 favorite]


"...instead of moving forwards and outwards, it completely crystallized..."

So, the show should have taken its own advice, and moved forward, not backward; upward, not forward; and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom.
posted by mystyk at 8:12 AM on March 12 [25 favorites]


The thesis of "This character consistently suffers more than any other, therefor the series hates this character" is so absolutely wrongheaded as to be almost the opposite of correct. Lisa in the world of The Simpsons is very much like Britta Perry in the world of Community - the author insertion who is punished for every good intention because that's what we identify with most strongly and characters are revealed through conflict and drama.

That said yes later era Simpsons sucks a lot, misogyny is pervasive, and the conservatism of 1989 that the show was originally sending up is baked into its DNA in a lot of ways now.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:16 AM on March 12 [9 favorites]


The number of episodes a show has is inversely proportional to the amount of direct and uninterrupted attention any one episode rewards/commands.

This is true. See: Frisky Dingo.
posted by Pendragon at 8:19 AM on March 12 [8 favorites]


My son requested that we watch an episode of the Simpsons last fall which was kind of strange as we hadn't watched an episode in close to a decade or ever talked to him about it. I'm not sure why... I think he might have seen an old toy in a second hand store or something. In anycase, so we watched whatever the latest episode was - I forget what it was about. Towards the end he turns to me and asks: "Is this supposed to be funny?" I respond "I think so." and his response was "Oh. Its not very funny." "Did you want to watch another one?" "No thank you." he told me and went to play with Legos.
posted by Ashwagandha at 8:20 AM on March 12 [5 favorites]


Heh, I wonder why they don't remake the old episodes shot by shot, although it seems the 3D animation now is much stiffer now than traditional cel-shaded animation was. Plus, the modern writers/showrunners seem to have to chips on their shoulders: Family Guy and Old Simpsons.

It's funny you should say that, since Family Guy is what the show looks like now. Go back and watch the old episodes, they're full of different camera angles and moves and so on that the show eventually stopped bothering with.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:29 AM on March 12 [1 favorite]


So, queue it up in mplayer, and just let it go in the background while working

This is perhaps the only plausible explanation for the author’s spectacularly wrong thesis.

(I speak only of seasons 1-7, which was an entirely different show. There are still gems in s8 and 9, I think, but they became the exception rather than the rule, and everything became sort of mean.)
posted by schadenfrau at 8:49 AM on March 12 [2 favorites]


The thesis of "This character consistently suffers more than any other, therefor the series hates this character" is so absolutely wrongheaded as to be almost the opposite of correct.

This is exactly right. The idea that the Simpsons' show is misogynistic and anti-intellectual misses the entire point of the show. The show is essentially about Lisa, and how she is constantly rejected by Springfield. That she will never (or rarely) receive any affirmation for her gifts or generosity of spirit is akin to all of our own existences -- we wondrous, unique creatures who each encompass an entire universe, we drift through life largely unnoticed by our fellow humans (if we're lucky!) in a world of absurdity and cruelty and suffer disappointment after disappointment only in the end to suffer the cruelest insult of all: oblivion and complete anonymity.

She's the hero and our Every(wo)man. Bart and Homer are the villains -- and it's our character flaw (and Lisa's) that we feel for them, too, even as they construct the anti-intellectual and misogynist edifice we suffer in.
posted by touchstone033 at 8:53 AM on March 12 [14 favorites]


they were genuinely about as financially insecure as you would expect a working-class family with only one working parent to be. Now they have three laptops.

Computers used to cost a lot. Now you can get a decent one for $250.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:57 AM on March 12 [2 favorites]


Good article, worth a complete read. Or at least read in the background while you're doing other things, it is awfully long, particularly the paragraphs describing variants of the Lisa Formula.

I don't quite understand the claim of misogyny though. I'm not arguing, I just don't quite get it. Lisa is absolutely the victim in every episode. But isn't she the sympathetic victim? The show seems more about depicting how awful misogyny and anti-intellectualism is to people like Lisa, how smart girls like her suffer. But that suffering is generally depicted as a tragedy, not a comedy. It's not like Family Guy where the way everyone shits on Meg is depicted as her deserved fate in life, the right way the world should be. I could imagine a more positive show where the Smart Girl occasionally gets a win, but that's not The Simpsons. Is that misogyny?
posted by Nelson at 9:05 AM on March 12 [3 favorites]


I really feel so many of these hot takes are played out, and saying the Simpsons hasn’t been funny in 20 years (frequently said by people who haven’t watched in 20 years) is approaching almost meaninglessness.

This one is particularly bad because he admits he had the show playing in the background. It took me abiut 3 months to watch about half the show’s run. I wish the writer would do it right if he’s gonna do it at all.

It was shitty they didn’t hire writer Mimi Pond for season 1 because Sam Simon was going through a bitter divorce. That young, all male writing staff have admitted it wasn’t always easy to write for Marge and Lisa and that can come through in the show, but it doesn’t read as misogyny.
posted by girlmightlive at 9:06 AM on March 12


Lisa in the world of The Simpsons is very much like Britta Perry in the world of Community - the author insertion who is punished for every good intention because that's what we identify with most strongly and characters are revealed through conflict and drama.

Yeah, no. It's not co-incidental that both those shows were primarily written by men. The way that Britta went from being a smart fuckup the first season or so to an idiot who couldn't even bartend successfully (when it was supposedly how she was making her living) by the end makes the idea of her as an author insert particularly ridiculous.
posted by tavella at 9:11 AM on March 12 [13 favorites]


not any more than she can escape the fact that she's a Simpson (despite the ending of Lisa the Simpson in which she learns that Simpson women are smart and accomplished).

I just rewatched this episode and was really surprised when Lisa wasn't thrilled by the Tchaikovsky and Poe references in "When Buildings Collapse."

Also, that particular episode really does seem to fly directly in the face of the thesis of this article.
posted by 256 at 9:17 AM on March 12 [1 favorite]


To extend the Doctor Who derail, if the OP is talking about S01E01 from 1963, it doesn't take much attention.

While I personally can't watch things without my brain focusing on it completely, I think if you're simply watching a show to fill time I'd agree with this. But I'd argue that watching long running shows, particularly ones that were designed to be ephemeral and not intended to binge, with a closer eye can be rewarding. It can be helpful to watch them with an understanding of how exterior forces, particularly cultural ones, can shape their narratives.

When I rewatched Doctor Who several years ago, I read along with the often snarky & opinionated but very informative About Time series. It filled in a lot of the cultural and historical information I was unaware of along with information about the ratings of individual episodes. You start to see patterns in the writing and direction, understanding how the production changes over time, you see how transient pop culture references leak into the narrative, understanding what shows they were directly competing with and how that rivalry shaped episodes as a direct response. Yeah its just a show but sometimes these patterns can tell us about ourselves or the cultures that produced them in hindsight.

I think the Simpsons is the same kind of beast that could reward from a deeper reading. Its transformation from a character driven satire on late 80s conservatism into a cameo ladened gag shotgun I think might be interesting. Only half watching them, dividing your attention with other things, does a disservice to the project I think though.
posted by Ashwagandha at 9:30 AM on March 12 [1 favorite]


> touchstone033:
"That she will never (or rarely) receive any affirmation for her gifts or generosity of spirit is akin to all of our own existences -- we wondrous, unique creatures who each encompass an entire universe, we drift through life largely unnoticed by our fellow humans (if we're lucky!) in a world of absurdity and cruelty and suffer disappointment after disappointment only in the end to suffer the cruelest insult of all: oblivion and complete anonymity."

That sounds like more of a Shelbyville idea...
posted by chavenet at 9:32 AM on March 12 [3 favorites]


As early as “‘Round Springfield” (Season 6 episode 22), Lisa is confronted with real suffering, when her hero Bleeding Gums Murphy dies. In 29 years, no other member of the Simpson family is ever asked to mourn a permanent loss in this way

But the episode does NOT end with her just mourning. She buys the rare, expensive record that Bleeding Gums Murphy released and gets the Jazz station to play it. Then, the station signal gets boosted by divine intervention so the whole town hears his music and Lisa gets to talk and jam with the spirit of Bleeding Gums Murphy. Isn't that a victory?

And it's not true that no other Simpson family member went through this. What about when Homer when his mom had to leave? And in a later episode her mom dies, and I think Homer never gets a good a closure as Lisa did with BGM.
posted by FJT at 9:38 AM on March 12 [9 favorites]


Also, hat particular episode really does seem to fly directly in the face of the thesis of this article.

Agreed. I kept waiting for the author to mention Lisa the Simpson, but maybe he was doing something else while that was running. See also, Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington, Lisa the Beauty Queen, Lisa's Rival....

Lisa has a core of hope despite living in a nihilistic universe, and the show used to demonstrate that regularly.
posted by camyram at 9:53 AM on March 12 [1 favorite]


The way that Britta went from being a smart fuckup the first season or so to an idiot who couldn't even bartend successfully (when it was supposedly how she was making her living) by the end makes the idea of her as an author insert particularly ridiculous.

Are you familiar with what Mr. Harmon thinks of himself?
posted by likethemagician at 9:54 AM on March 12 [3 favorites]


The way that Britta went from being a smart fuckup the first season or so to an idiot who couldn't even bartend successfully (when it was supposedly how she was making her living) by the end makes the idea of her as an author insert particularly ridiculous.

Harmon is/was one of those writers that falls into the ironic misogyny trap. The sense you get from his work is that intellectually he knows sexism etc is bad, and he wants to be on the side of good, but that viscerally he still feels sexist a lot of the time, and when push comes to shove, he does what he feels. So a pretty perfect example of a certain type of Man of the Left. (See also Harmon’s recent apology for his years-long harassment of Megan Ganz while acting as showrunner of Community.)

Also Britta is not the writer/storyteller stand in. Abed, the guy on the spectrum who can only relate to other people through the medium of stories, and is often so exacting and committed to his version of reality that he becomes cruel and abusive, is Harmon.
posted by schadenfrau at 10:03 AM on March 12 [36 favorites]


Abandoning what I was writing because schadenfrau said it better!
posted by tavella at 10:06 AM on March 12 [1 favorite]


Britta was based on Harmon's ex-GF per his commentary in Harmontown.
posted by asteria at 10:32 AM on March 12 [5 favorites]


My pet theory is that The Simpsons was good when it was about class. In old Simpsons episodes, they were genuinely about as financially insecure as you would expect a working-class family with only one working parent to be. Now they have three laptops.

That's very true. It also gets sent up by the Grimes episode, and has only become more ironic since then. Homer's "crummy" job with no post-secondary education that allows him to support a five-person family, with two cars, and a five bedroom house, while putting in almost no effort has taken on a vastly different quality than in the late 80s.

Also regarding the class element, a common theme in the good seasons is that Lisa is a striver, which neither side of the divide likes. Lower classes don't like to see people acting jumped-up, and find the cultural signifiers of the upper classes to be arrogant and pretentious. Upper class people don't like to see people putting in effort, and think that the cultural signifiers of wealth should be effortless. Lisa is caught in the middle, and whenever she gets a chance at cultural relevance it tends to be batted down for her trying too hard (as an example from a later season, her attempt at creating a documentary).
posted by codacorolla at 10:49 AM on March 12 [17 favorites]


Britta was based on Harmon's ex-GF per his commentary in Harmontown

Jeeeeesus Christ.
posted by schadenfrau at 11:06 AM on March 12 [11 favorites]


"The show seems more about depicting how awful misogyny and anti-intellectualism is to people like Lisa, how smart girls like her suffer. But that suffering is generally depicted as a tragedy, not a comedy."

People keep making that argument and to me it comes across as being a bit obtuse. A writer can claim they're doing one thing, they can even believe they're doing that thing, but really they're doing something quite different. It's the effect that matters, not the intent -- and this effect becomes clearer over time, over continued elaboration. In this case, we have 29 years of it.

Imagine a film satirizing racism in the US. The satire is pointed; the film leverages the audience's identification with the protagonist as a way to induce a profound discomfort that exists both within the superficial narrative and the audience's experiences in a racist culture.

Let's say one version of the film ends on a happy note; the biting satire is leavened with the slightest bit of hope.

And let's imagine there's an alternative version, one that is more brutal and realistic -- it subverts the audience's expectation of an unrealistic feel-good ending and delivers, instead, a wrongness they can't ignore, a stark example of the injustice the film is examining.

That kind of message has its power in being uncompromising, in not giving the audience the fantasy they want, but rather a brutal sort of semi-realism that makes the audience uncomfortably aware of the wrongness it's exploring. And this works because it's unexpected, it's novel. It works because it stands in contrast to the happier alternative the audience expected. The contrast forces the audience to notice their discomfort, to be aware that there's something wrong that they'd have preferred to ignore.

Both versions have the same essential message. The latter version is more true-to-life in a way that calls attention to itself, a way that reinforces that message.

But now imagine a series of films, all following that latter formula, all with that harsh ending. The ending, the wrongness, becomes formulaic. It's expected, it doesn't subvert the audience's expectations. Rather than making the audience uncomfortable with what's wrong, the repetition, the institutionalization of the wrongness makes it familiar and unremarkable. If at first this ending was intended to force the audience to recognize a difficult truth about the society they live in, this formulaic repetition has the opposite effect of merely representing in film the status quo as unremarkable. It's no longer a subversion, it's a reification.

How convincing the claim is that subversion was intended and is the result has a great deal to do with the person you're asking to accept this. If you're not personally the target of the racism depicted in the film, it may be easy to believe that these hypothetical dozens of films, with this repeated message that white supremacy always wins, is critiquing white supremacy. Maybe. But if you're a person of color, you'd likely ask why this needed to be normalized in what is supposedly a critique of racism? It's not as if any person of color doesn't already know that racism often prevails. So what exactly is the point here? It's not a surprise, not after dozens of films, not anymore. If it once was, it's no longer forcing us to be uncomfortable at the harsh truth of triumphant racism, but rather leading us to accept it as inevitable. I don't doubt that there's someone who might want to say this, and even believe they weren't endorsing or supporting racism. And yet.

As schadenfreude wrote: "So a pretty perfect example of a certain type of Man of the Left."

I think that for each of us, in different respects, if this isn't our life, our experiences, we may have a very poor understanding of where the line is between mention and use. We may think this is critiquing the sexism that Marge and Lisa live with, but really it's enacting it.
What once was arguably provocative becomes commonplace and normalized. That becomes the message, there is nothing subversive about it.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:43 AM on March 12 [20 favorites]


The Simpsons was better when it was about Bart (Gen X), than when it became about Homer (Boomer), because we already have enough sitcoms about a dumb, brash, loutish but well-meaning white guy getting endless chances to do it right for once.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 11:46 AM on March 12 [8 favorites]


The show was always about the characters. It was never just about comedy.

I think of character-driven comedy as being the sort which sets up a number of distinctive personalities and allows the humor to emerge from the way they bounce off each other. I'm not sure The Simpsons was ever exactly that, because the characters are pretty generic and archetypal. But early on what was written onto them was both clever and humane, whereas later they tend to become flat caricatures.
posted by atoxyl at 12:00 PM on March 12


Count me in as thinking that the author's thesis is dead wrong; The Simpsons was never about pure absurdism, and it has tended towards that more and more over time, as it has become progressively less of a good show.

There were totally absurd shows on during the supposed "golden age" of The Simpsons, and they weren't exactly great TV. (I mean, cf. Beavis and Butt-Head if you want to. Now, there was a show that didn't give two shits about anything other than a cheap laugh.)

In its original incarnation, before it became too wrapped-up in itself, the show was essentially a send-up of the multiple-camera "live studio audience" 80s sitcoms which followed All in the Family and had, by 1989, ceased to be particularly edgy. (AitF was, during its initial run, pretty edgy and progressive, something that I certainly didn't appreciate when I saw it on re-runs.) In many of the early episodes, The Simpsons' humor depends heavily on what you expect from the "family sitcom" format, and what actually occurs. Part of that is the characters never really learning anything or growing at all, which is admittedly nihilistic, but totally in line with Groening's earlier work.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:16 PM on March 12 [7 favorites]


To counter this idea of the show's anti-intellectualism, consider that Lisa's interests, while they may be obscure and pretentious to her family and her classmates, are references to real things that the audience is expected to recognize, and even cheer for. The writers get Gravity's Rainbow and Gore Vidal, and they assume we do too.

Most of the time on TV (Friends, Modern Family) the smart person's interests are parodies of intellectual pursuits, and the audience is set up to agree at what a waste of time they are. Lisa, instead, gets her strength and identity from her intelligence and her interests, even as she has to resolve how that sets her apart from her family that she loves. It's what makes her the heart, not just the brains, of the show.
posted by hydrophonic at 12:26 PM on March 12 [7 favorites]


The show also wasn't quite so nihilistic as we are taking for granted in this thread, partly I thin we are just buying into the essay's framing which is pretty inaccurate. Status Quo is God has saved the characters many more times than it has damned them, and it's come about because they overcame their own cliches more often than not - Homer or Bart does something thoughtful, Mr. Burns or Principal Skinner relents, the town mob forgives and puts down the torches.
posted by Space Coyote at 12:28 PM on March 12 [1 favorite]


I think the author is only remembering the episodes that support the thesis they seemed to have going in, which is, in my opinion, a misreading of the tragic nature of Lisa's character -- as others upthread have already articulated very well. Her aspirations of reason and fairness are repeatedly dashed precisely because it is unreasonable and unfair. Lisa is a character of hope. And characters of hope only work in a context of hopelessness, otherwise their hope is purely decorative.

Marge, on the other hand, is just a misogynist punching bag, though not quite in the same way as Meg on 'Family Guy' (ugh). Marge is much more overlooked, a much less considered effigy. She's grey and wan and passive and compromising. It's like telegraphing, "We thought some women jokes would go good here, so just stick this placeholder here until we figure out how to come up with a funny woman character, or decide such a thing even truly exists." Like Lisa, she's chiefly defined as feminine by being earnest and forgiving. Basically a less moody Wilma Flintstone. A explanation for the existence of child characters, and little more.

Seeing some more recent episodes of 'The Simpsons' left me -- like some have mentioned upthread -- with the impression that the jokes are more cruel, and work harder to glorify ignorance. In early episodes there was a wink-wink nudge-nudge quality to the worship of ignorance that seems to be gone now; celebrating ignorance is perhaps the one thing that is more earnest than in the past.

I also recognize it has been very popular lo these last few millennia for older folks to praise the familiar and eschew the new. Children on lawn, onion on belt, et cetera. So maybe finding new episodes of 'The Simpsons' unfunny just means I'm getting on in years.

But it definitely is and always has been misogynistic AF, but in a lazier, less pointedly angry way than 'Family Guy' (ughhhh).
posted by Construction Concern at 1:02 PM on March 12 [6 favorites]


Thanks for explaining the misogyny, particularly in terms of the repeated treatment of Lisa and Marge. 29 years sure does reinforce and normalize that kind of shittiness.

One of my favorite Lisa episodes is Moaning Lisa, where Lisa is sad and Marge tells her she has to put on a big smile so everyone knows what a good mommy she has. What a hideous moment! But then Marge has an epiphany and tells Lisa it's OK to be sad sometimes, to just be herself and feel however she feels. I remembered this all as some later season episode but apparently it's from the very first season.
posted by Nelson at 2:21 PM on March 12 [6 favorites]


Lisa is confronted with real suffering, when her hero Bleeding Gums Murphy dies. In 29 years, no other member of the Simpson family is ever asked to mourn a permanent loss in this way

In season 19 Homer's mother, Mona, dies after Homer refuses to forgive her for abandoning him. So this isn't exactly true.

I do agree that the show has a lot of casual misogyny that unsurprisingly comes from a writer's room that is overwhelmingly male. Which was apparently how Sam Simon, whose influence on the show has kind of been swept under the rug, deliberately set up the writing staff. This is why Mimi Pond wrote what became the first episode of the show, but was never offered a job there.

Looking through the show's history there are barely any women featured as prominent writing voices. Nell Scovell wrote a freelance script in season two. Seasons three and four had no scripts credited to women writers. I think the room did have a couple of women as writer's assistants in the fourth season, notably Lona Williams who acted on the show as Lisa's counterpoint in "Lisa the Beauty Queen." I don't think they had a woman as a full-fledged writer until Jennifer Crittenden in season 5, though she doesn't have a script credit until season 6. The next woman with an episode credit is Rachel Pulido, show-runner Bill Oakley's wife, in season 8. Next season 10 has Jane O'Brien and Julie Thacker, show-runner Mike Skully's wife. In season 11 you have Carolyn Omine, who becomes the longest-serving woman writer on the show, as she still works on the show today. You also find Deb Lacusta writing an episode with her husband Dan Castellaneta in season 11. The next time a new woman's name shows up on an episode is season 15 with freelancers Robin J. Stein and Julie Chambers, who wrote the episode with her husband David. Then again another show-runner's wife in season 17, this time it's Stephanie Gillis, Al Jean's wife. Valentina Garza shows up in season 20. Miranda Thompson writes two episodes in season 29 with Tim Long.

So, in thirty years there are just over a dozen women that have writing credits on episodes. This is a show that has 127 different writers credited on episodes. A show that has 629 episodes has 58 with women's names on them. There are few women in the writing room throughout the show's history. For a show that is largely written in the room it becomes very obvious why the show has a sort of low-grade misogyny throughout it: every episode goes through multiple rewrites by a group of what is overwhelmingly men.

I don't bring up the relationships that some of the writers have to men who work on the show to discredit them, but rather to illustrate that the show's producers do not seem to do any in-depth work in finding funny women to write episodes of the show.

I love, love, love The Simpsons, but in its thirty years society has, rightfully, in my opinion, started to demand art from people that aren't nearly as white/straight/cis/male as The Simpsons has been. It now has a lot of "problematic fave" around it. It's hard for me to comment about its treatment of Lisa. I want to say I don't think the show hates smart, ambitious women and girls like Lisa, but it certainly doesn't treat them like the rest of the characters. Also, do yourself a favor and don't go watch Homer Badman from the sixth season where Homer is falsely accused of sexual harrassment. That's a rough one to watch.
posted by Regal Ox Inigo at 3:52 PM on March 12 [16 favorites]


Yikes, just to underscore Regal Ox’s point above, only 9.2% of Simpson’s episodes have a woman in the writer’s credits. Or, to out it another way, more than 90% of the episodes have zero women in the writers credits.

And yeah, I agree with everyone who says it shows.

The thing about women characters who get punished versus male characters who get punished is that when it happens to male characters it’s a statement. It’s Job. And when it happens to women its just the way of the world. Its Eve and childbirth and menstruation.
posted by mrmurbles at 4:20 PM on March 12 [12 favorites]


Though age slippage Marge and Homer may be the Gen X ones now. Possibly verging on millennial.
posted by Artw at 8:54 PM on March 12


xkcd: "If you were Bart and Lisa's age during the first few seasons of The Simpsons, this year you're the same age as Homer and Marge." Lisa would be 36 and Bart would be 38.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:48 PM on March 12 [4 favorites]


I really assumed I'd like this, as someone who stopped watching the Simpsons around season 10. Yes, pander to me and explain what great judgment and discernment I had! The Lisa story arc seemed like an OK criticism, but I didn't find the examples totally convincing, then when they got to episodes I'd seen I was filled with doubt, until the Round Springfield mention was wrong like the 13th chime of a clock (ie, "not only received with utter incredulity as regarded itself, but threw a doubt on all the assurances that had preceded it.")

FJT already pointed this out but here is the full episode story. Bleeding Gums' passing is treated not as a moment of despair, but of how Lisa's life is enriched by knowing an amazing person. And there are literally miracles associated with it validating Lisa in case you didn't get the message. It's everyone else who doesn't get to find transcendence in their little town.

Most of the time on TV (Friends, Modern Family) the smart person's interests are parodies of intellectual pursuits, and the audience is set up to agree at what a waste of time they are. Lisa, instead, gets her strength and identity from her intelligence and her interests, even as she has to resolve how that sets her apart from her family that she loves. It's what makes her the heart, not just the brains, of the show.

This is a good observation. I never identified with Ross-the-scientist and I certainly never respected him. But I always identified with Lisa when I was watching.
posted by mark k at 10:02 PM on March 12 [3 favorites]


The writers do not hate Lisa Simpson. Lisa is consistently punished for her gifts because she functions as a cynical explanation for the writers' own failures. The episode description of medieval Lisa unsuccessfully trying to bring science and reason to a barbarous feudal world neatly sums up how the writers see themselves in everyday life. It's not possible for her to have an arc with development like Bart or Homer because she starts each episode an already perfect, virtuous intellectual. Instead, she is ground down by society, because that is the justification for the writers' mediocrity. Things would be better if only everyone else weren't so backwards. It's a fantasy, not one of power, but one free from blame for the problems in the world.
posted by davejh at 1:06 AM on March 13


Yeah, no. It's not co-incidental that both those shows were primarily written by men.

They're not, though. The Simpsons is, for sure, as Regal Ox Inigo expounds upon at length up above, but NBC dictated a writer's room of at least half women for Community (now, that writer's room was home to Harmon's harassment of Megan Ganz, but saying Community was primarily written by men isn't exactly fair or accurate.)
posted by Navelgazer at 6:37 AM on March 13


Post-Golden Age Simpsons is consistently unable to imagine a future in which Lisa fulfils the promise of her childhood excellence.

This is very, very common for gifted children, though - the mediocre adulthood. Especially if there aren't people around you who push your gifts in the right direction, and we know that Springfield Elementary is an incredibly crummy school which barely knows how to handle her.
posted by mippy at 11:03 AM on March 13 [2 favorites]


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