Posted at 10:30 AM Jun 17, 2009By 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.