(Make sure you read part one) 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 three – part two).
Pranks Can Backfire (Episode 13: “Radio Bart”)
Another day, another year older – while that previous statement might sound somewhat demeaning, the truth is Bart’s tenth birthday arrived like any other day. But Bart saw the tenth anniversary of his birth as a chance to take advantage of everything Springfield had to offer thanks to a variety of coupons. As fun as the day was leading up to his birthday party was as disappointing as the party itself when Bart received dull and unwanted presents galore; including his father’s key gift: the Superstar Celebrity Microphone that allowed a person to speak through localized AM radio systems. To say Bart was saddened by his gifts would be an understatement.
Well, Bart’s opinion of his father’s gift would eventually change thanks to his mother’s voice. Bart, being the prankster that he is, started using his newest toy to spy on his sister, scare his neighbors by pretending he was God, and even fooled Homer into thinking Earth was being invaded by aliens. But nothing topped Bart’s attempt at tricking people than fooling the entire town into believing one little, orphaned boy named “Timmy O’Toole” had fallen down “the old well”. When Bart’s sister Lisa discovered her brother was responsible for the prank, she reminded Bart that he had put a label on the radio used to communicate everyone (Bart also received a label maker thanks to his aunts). Trying to save face, Bart would become the boy who cried wolf as he had actually fell into the well and had to admit his disgusting action before requesting real help.
Don’t let arrogance (or your obsession with labeling) blind you from crafting a prank that one would want to stay anonymous while performing. You could end up helpless in a well trying to figure out how well a musician can dig in an effort to save you.
Can’t Win, Don’t Try (Episode 17: “Homer at Bat”)
It was that time again for the workers of Springfield’s Nuclear Power Plant to gather together in preparation for the yearly softball league. Homer, more confident than ever, revealed to his son and coworkers a homemade baseball bat dubbed “Wonder Bat”. When seeing the bat, Bart wasn’t the only one impressed by this piece of potential slug-tastic hardware … until Homer stepped onto home plate for the first time with Wonder Bat. On his first swing, Homer knocked that ball out of the park (actually clobbering a nearby picnicking individual. Homer would go on a streak across several fields and against multiple teams, leading a charge of wins for his team until that magic day when his boss Mr. Burns made a bet with the owner of neighboring Shelbyville’s power plant.
Fearful of his team’s skill level, Mr. Burns hired legitimate Major League Baseball players such as Ken Griffey Jr., Jose Canseco and Roger Clemens. But no hire was more important than Darryl Strawberry as he took Homer’s spot as the team’s right fielder. When Homer lamented about this turn of events, Bart tried to remind his dad that Homer had taught his wide-eyed son that he could be whatever he put his mind to. Homer reneged on his previous motivational techniques, causing Bart to summarize his father’s true beliefs, “Can’t win, don’t try.”
In the end, Homer’s intended message didn’t reflect his actual actions. Even knowing that he wasn’t better than Darryl Strawberry, Homer still went out to bat when given the opportunity in hopes of doing greater things than anyone had ever seen from him. Just because everyone seems better than you at something, never stop trying to be the best you can be (even if it means taking a baseball to the noggin).
Negative Reinforcement Works (Episode 23: “The Otto Show”)
Springfield Elementary’s bus driver Otto was/is known for a few things; from his drug-addled slacker attitude to a penchant for heavy metal. But Otto’s driving skills leave a lot to be deserved. When forced to beat the clock in an effort to get the kids to school before it was too late, Otto wrecked the bus and revealed he had no driver’s license. Otto, thanks to the help of Bart (the person mostly responsible for his time mismanagement the day of the accident), found a place to stay. Obviously upset that another mouth was in his house to feed, Homer demanded Otto get his driver’s license and get out of home as soon as possible. But Otto’s sheer stupidity and inabilities as a driver caused him to fail where many others haven’t. Eventually, Homer’s words riled up Otto enough for him to finally pass his test (thanks to some help from Homer’s sister-in-law, Patty – who enjoyed hearing Otto make fun of their mutual nemesis). For those who doubt the power of negative reinforcement, understand that even an elementary school dropout can achieve pseudo-great things if there’s someone willing to call him or her a “sponge”.
All a Man Needs is an Idea in America (Episode 24: “Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?”)
One season earlier, Homer was introduced to his long-lost, incredibly wealthy brother Herb. Trusting his brother a little too much cost the rich man his automobile empire, forcing Herb to become a hobo. But sitting around the barrel fire one night, Herb reminded everyone that in America a man with an idea can succeed … if they have the money to get that idea off the ground. Overhearing a baby crying, Herb found his idea to start his road to finical redemption. Herb would make his way back to Springfield with one request for his brother after seeing a newspaper that Homer earned the “Montgomery Burns Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence” and 2,000 dollars as a reward (in truth it was a cash payoff to avoid the potential lawsuit Homer would place on the power plant after finding out about the radiation killing a majority of his sperm). Homer eventually helped his brother in creating a device that translated a baby’s babbling noises into plain English.
And little did anyone but Herb know that his idea was sheer genius and provided him the fortune he lost oh-so-unceremoniously not too long ago. Only in America can a man go from eating out of a trashcan while using a rat as his pillow to living in the lap of luxury all thanks to one simply created, yet technically complicated idea and the money to turn potential into reality. And who knows, maybe the person you help will buy you the best recliner ever!