It’s been over twenty years since I can remember the first time I saw Matt Groening’s “crudely drawn” family of five deal with the almost surreal problems that life seemingly presents on a daily basis. From that moment I laid my eyes on “The Simpsons” I became enamored and, eventually, a life-long fan (more than likely I’ll be re-watching episodes when I’m old enough to shout at clouds). During my time as a “Simpsons” viewer I’ve discovered many relatable life lessons that I plan to share with you. Welcome to “The Simpsons Life Lesson” series (season one).
Parents: The Burden Bearers (Episode 1: “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire”)
After their original stint on “The Tracey Ullman Show”, Matt Groening’s “Simpson” family had a chance to not only be given a thirty-minute block on the “Fox” network, but also celebrate the holidays. Following Springfield Elementary annual Christmas pageant, the Simpsons returned at home in hopes of putting together the family’s Christmas tree and gathering little Bart and Lisa’s Christmas lists. But unlike his sister (who wanted a pony for Christmas), Bart took matters into his own hands in attaining his wanted Christmas present – a tattoo. Marge would catch her son getting tatted, stopping the completion of his intended “Mother” tattoo; leaving Bart with a heart-shaped batch of ink on his arm that read “Moth”.
Rather than wait and save up to get the tattooed removed, Marge used all of the family’s Christmas savings to restore Bart’s arm back to its original shade of yellow. But Marge still had hope that Christmas would okay thanks to Homer’s holiday bonus from his job at the nuclear power plant. But there was no Christmas bonus for Homer. Rather than distress and disappoint his family (canceling Christmas and such), Homer took a secret second job as a mall Santa to pay for his family’s presents. The actual payoff was terrible and left Homer wallowing in his own self-pity. Things would eventually work out thanks to gambling and animal abuse, but the overall lesson is your parents will go out of their way to make the tough decisions, sacrifice their own happiness and time for your well-being, and even embarrass themselves by being a mall Santa for a bunch of snot-nosed kids that aren’t their own.
There is Strength in Numbers (Episode 5: “Bart the General”)
Most, if not all of us have been in a situation where it becomes painfully obvious that whatever the end result is it’ll feature bodily harm. For Bart Simpson, an attempt at defending his sister’s honor turned bitter for him when he accidentally punched the toughest, baddest bully on the schoolyard in the nose; bringing forth the bully’s – Nelson Muntz – own blood. From that moment on, Muntz was out to avenge his injury and torture the eldest Simpson child. And guess what – Nelson completed his task more than once during the week.
Upset over the constant thrashing and his father’s advice failing him, Bart decided to ask for help from the only person in his family who fought in an actual World War: his grandfather. Grandpa Simpson introduced his grandson to a one-armed militarily weapons expert who helped formulate a plan of attack that would, hopefully, put Nelson in his place. But Bart needed an army. Putting out the notice that he could finally take down Nelson and his gang, Bart led a group of (seemingly) like-aged classmates through a saturation bombing utilizing water balloons. Stunned and cowering, Nelson was left prone to being hogtied and forced to sign a peace treaty.
If you’re ever in trouble and fear the actions of a bully who is out to get you, realize that you might not be the only one suffering from the persecutor’s torment. Though your foe might be stronger than you, outweigh you, and even have a group of cowardly followers, there are others just waiting to join your cause and teach that abusive bully a lesson. But remember that you can’t hit your own men in hopes of strengthening their nerves.
Sometimes You’re Just Sad (Episode 6: “Moaning Lisa”)
You know the phrase “Woke up on the wrong side of the bed.” On one random morning, Lisa Simpson awoke before taking a look at herself in the mirror to find an unhappy face staring back at her. An unbridled sadness had crept into Lisa’s heart. Like life itself at times, Lisa’s sadness was reinforced by circumstances beyond her control. The first Simpson’ baby girl was beaten down by dodge balls when she refused to move. Lisa’s lunch (and further lamenting) was halted by an inevitable food fight.
Even Lisa’s attempt at livening up her music class with some tremendous saxophone playing was condemned by her teacher. It just seemed no matter what she did or what others did to/for her (like Homer trying to cheer her up by bouncing her on his knee), Lisa couldn’t shake the sadness creeping through her very existence; an existence that was truly insignificant in a world full of a suffering according to her.
Just when it seemed Lisa’s depression couldn’t be shaken, she heard the familiar tunes of another saxophone player. The sad Simpson snuck out of her room, searching for this sound before discovering another fellow jazz/blues player letting out his deepest feelings and pain through song. Though Lisa hadn’t discovered the source of her sadness, she did find a little bit of unyielding joy that was reinforced by her mother’s parental guidance, acceptance and one of the most unusual aspects of a sit-com (animated or live action) where the parent actually admits to being wrong. Lisa eventually got over the terrible, unexplained feeling with the help of her mother and a jam session.
If your child is ambiguously feeling sad, the best thing to do is keep an eye on them and do your best to be the best parent possible. You might give bad advice and you child could run into the streets to play their saxophone with a stranger, but it’ll all work out.