Ladies We'd Like To Bring to Life: Marge and Lisa Simpson

Posted at 10:30 AM Jun 17, 2009

By Geoff George

In the days before Hulu, before Youtube, I can remember coming home from middle school every day, grabbing a jar of JIF, a spreading knife, a sleeve of saltine crackers (whatever, I ate a lot), and settling in with The Simpsons on FOX-KFXA at 5:00 and 5:30. The show raised my basic knowledge of the world on two fronts: Its writing informed my ideas about parody, subtlety, and self-referential humor, and Marge and Lisa shaped my ideas of female identity (pardon the buzzword). I would cite the near-frightening amount of Simpson side projects, books, trivia games, Wikipedia entries, Youtube mash-up videos and the like as evidence that I'm not alone in being influenced.

There's Marge the wife and Marge the mother, but neither role's ever been portrayed passively. Homer's gotten kicked out when he's deserved it, and it's only thanks to Marge that the kids haven't been lost to Social Services (except for that one time when they went to the Flanders'). Plus, the makers were smart enough to show some of her other sides, including Marge the second-wave feminist, Marge the working mom, and even (one of my favorites) Marge the cop:


Then you've got Lisa, who's pretty much impossible not to love as a youth role model. Intelligent, independent, precocious, a reader, writer, and maestro of the saxophone. Okay, she's got few friends (wah-wah, pity pity), but she's strong enough on her own. Here's an old clip of the Lisa I remember best, making such delicious meat of milquetoast Milhouse .


I always thought Family Guy (an inferior show if you ask me) made a huge mistake by establishing the daughter, Meg, as frumpy, dowdy, and nearly unworthy of mention. It makes for a good laugh here or there, I guess, but she's since become merely a foil for jokes, a non-character whose disappearance from the show would likely go unnoticed.

By contrast, Marge and Lisa (and Maggie too, I suppose, marginally) complete The Simpsons. Without'em, the show would just be Homer and Bart committing acts of stupidity for half an hour.


Matty said:

There are numerous occasions in the show that demonstrate Lisa's feminist side. For example, she mentions visionary female historical figures in the episode 'Bart vs. Thanksgiving' when she makes a table centerpiece with Georgia O'Keefe, Susan B. Anthony, and Marjory Stoneman Douglas. Also, the episode 'Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy' is about Lisa's efforts to make Malibu Stacy, a barbie parody, into a doll that is a better role model for young girls.

Lisa is a fine and also very rare example of a character with fervent, political beliefs that is not attacked in a sitcom, but whose ideas are explored.

As you can see I really like The Simpsons too.

Anna said:

I would totally be friends with Lisa-in-real-life. The episode that smacked of "Heavenly Creatures" made me realize how much I missed having a close girlfriend during my youth. Being labeled "the smart kid" will sadly always have an effect on one's social life. I feel Lisa's pain. Remember the summer vacation where Lisa dressed up like a slacker to befriend that group of cool kids? It still gives me a tear when the kids accept her at the end after Bart exposes her. Long live the Simpsons!

Geoff said:

Agreed, Matty. I wanted to include her Malibu Stacy clip too, but I just didn't have the room. Here's a link if you'd like to reminisce.

And, Anna, the episode in which Lisa befriends the cool kids is excellent. "Like, you know, whatever!"

BorgQueen said:

Lisa rocks! I was a smart geek in middle & high school (and uh, yeah still am) and I could relate to Lisa on many occasions.... she was also the voice of reason in her insane family and her insane society, a role to which I felt destined on many occasions.

Also, Matty I bow to your Simpsons knowledge.

Stick said:

As much as I lvoet he Simpsons I perfer another 90s cartoon character- Daria. (And Jane too.) We need more people like this milling about high schools.

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