Recently, I read an article with the thesis statement that “The Simpsons” no longer matters. Granted, I’m a fan and have been since the beginning. And while I’ve seen a few clunkers in the mix, for 20 years, they have been consistently entertaining. But more than that, they have established a cultural shorthand that is undeniable.
The article talks about how it has lost its edge to shows like “Family Guy” and “American Dad.” That may be so, but that doesn’t diminish the relevance of the Simpsons. I’ll give you an example.
Max was looking at some Minimates online. For those that don’t know, Minimates are little Lego-like figures modeled after popular film and TV shows. He collects the comic book versions and was looking for news on when the new sets would be out. He came across a Minimate he couldn’t identify. It was a T-1000 terminator from the second movie (the one that was made of liquid metal). The figure was from the scene where the terminator had long hooks for hands and got his head split open by a shotgun blast.
Now, Max, hasn’t seen the film and really isn’t familiar with the Terminator franchise. So, rather than explaining to him about Sarah Connor and Skynet, I made reference to something he would know.
“You know that episode of the Simpsons where Homer decides he likes Ned Flanders and then begins spending so much time with him that Ned starts to dislike Homer?”
“There is that scene where Homer melts out of the shrubbery to talk to Ned and then, holding two golf clubs, chases Ned’s car down the street.”
“Right. Then he catches the car and uses the clubs to drag himself up on the back of it.”
“Right. That was a reference to the second Terminator film in which that character uses those hook hands the same way.”
And that’s why the Simpsons will remain relevant even after the show stops airing. It has reflected our society and culture for so long, I can use it as shorthand when talking about various aspects of current culture. In fact, I reference the Simpsons so often that I can feel my friends’ eyes roll whenever I mention it.
I’ve finished my dealings with the insurance company and am expecting a check any time now to replace my stolen property and fix my “dwelling.”
[Simpsons reference: Marge Simpson studies to get her real estate license and gets discouraged because of the complicated rules and regulations she has to memorize. “What’s a ‘dwelling?'”]
It has been a relatively painless process. Rosie, my claims adjuster, was great and worked quickly to get my paperwork shuffled through so I could get a check in time for Christmas. My hat’s off to her.
One interesting thing that’s come out of all this is that I’ve gotten to know one of my neighbors. He is a photographer and musician. While he was talking to the police about what he saw on the day of my robbery, he noticed one of my cats lurking about.
“That’s the neighborhood cat,” he said.
“He is that,” I replied. “That’s Speedy.”
“So he’s your cat?”
“Yes. We’ve had him since he was a kitten.”
“That cat comes over to my house all the time. I’ve got photos of that cat. I’ve been calling him Gnee. He likes to sleep in the bed of an abandoned pick up truck behind the auto shop.”
I asked him to send me some photos of my cat.
There have been plenty of stories (and at least one Simpsons plot) dedicated to our pets living secret lives. My neighbor told me that he has a group of friends over once a week to play music and that Speedy shows up there without fail. He sent me links to videos he created and in them, Speedy is hanging out on his friends’ laps or on the couch.
That amuses me no end. Max has taken to calling Speedy a “two-timing jerk” or, alternately, claiming Speedy isn’t his cat, but some “mystery cat” that looks a lot like Speedy, but isn’t him.
I’m thinking of buying one of those collar cameras and putting it on Speedy to see what he gets up to when he’s wandering the neighborhood.
My brother wrote a very sweet and poignant account of Christmas morning at my grandparent’s house and what it meant to him that everyone was there. He has been a little frustrated that the tradition of going to my grandparent’s house for Christmas breakfast has been changed. It was a family tradition for many years, but it has never been a tradition that was etched in stone. Before they had grandchildren, my grandparents would spend Christmas day with their kids. When I was young and everyone could fit around my grandmother’s giant dining room table we had dinner on Christmas Eve. It was exciting because it meant Christmas was that much closer.
Eventually, there were just too many of us. So, we stopped eating around that table and started spreading around the house, gathering around card tables and other furniture, mixing it up with cousins all of which had families of their own. There were too many to get gifts for everyone, so we started drawing names and having a secret Santa. We moved it to breakfast on Christmas morning and, since my grandmother died, moved the gathering to my grandfather’s church.
Each year it becomes more difficult to organize and easier to hurt someone’s feelings in the process of trying. My hope is that my family understands that while traditions are great, they should be a means to an end. Getting everyone together to celebrate Christmas however it can be managed should be the goal. I think everyone understands this and while letting go of tradition is hard to do, we’ve all done it before and we’ll continue to do it every year.