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 five).
Your Family History Could Be Found Anywhere (Episode 1: “Homer’s Barbershop Quartet”)
The annual Springfield Swap Meet opened up “The Simpsons’” fifth season, revealing to the world a lost piece of the family’s history that featured Homer Simpson becoming a music sensation. The year was 1985 when Homer joined fellow Springfield locals’ Chief Wiggum, Principal Skinner and “Kwik-E-Mart” proprietor Apu to present themselves to various audiences as a barbershop quartet band. It wasn’t long before the band gained great interest and a new member was added – in this case neighborhood drunk Barney – to round out the group and make it truly marketable (replacing Chief Wiggum).
Like The Beatles before them, the quartet now going by the band name “The Be Sharps” produced a big hit – “Baby on Board” – that took the world by storm before The Be Sharps imploded thanks to creative differences mostly started by Barney’s “Japanese conceptual artist” girlfriend. The story ended rather somberly as with The Be Sharps being dubbed “What’s Not Hot” in “Us Weekly” magazine, but the band’s impact could still be felt on the music industry eight years later (or maybe just in Springfield).
Any member of your family could have a rock star-like past just waiting to be unearthed by people who experienced the phenomenon, but were too young to remember. So go forth and visit every nearby yard sale and swap meet you can find. Who knows, maybe you’ll discover anything from a Methuselah “rookie” card to your father’s hit of an album on vinyl.
Embrace Your Inner Child (Not Someone Else’s) (Episode 7: “Bart’s Inner Child”)
Who knew a trampoline (or a tramampoline/trabopoline) could create such a change in one town? After Homer’s plan to turn a free, pre-owned trampoline into “HomerLand” – a poor man’s carnival featuring a mud pit, a maze of soiled mattresses and, of course, the trampoline. But the plan proved to do more harm than good, both to the kids who looked to enjoy a day of fun in the Simpson’s backyard and Marge Simpson’s image of herself as her family confirmed how everyone sees her: as a nagging boring-body needing some kind of self-help guru providing simple answers to complicated problems. Thankfully, Brad Goodman had become the latest in a long line of popular, flavor of the month infomercial therapists.
Marge convinced her family to visit a Brad Goodman seminar, only to discover that their rebellious son was the perfect example of what the guru thought everyone should be: a person without a filter. Brad encouraged the townspeople to, “Be like the boy!” essentially creating an entire Springfield of Bart Simpsons. The end result was Bart losing his identify while a slacker attitude spread throughout the town and caused things to fall apart. Eventually, everyone accepted the fact they had been mislead and opted to stick to being who and what they were/are. Though Goodman’s statements were faulty, his intentions were right: Don’t look to please everyone else at all times and embrace who you are. With this knowledge of who you truly are, you can live healthy with a fully developed ego integrity and well-defined boundaries.
It’s Hard to Gain a Son’s Respect (Episode 8: “Boy-Scoutz ‘n the Hood”; Episode 15: “Deep Space Homer”)
During a sugar-fueled spree of figuratively painting Springfield red while delivering something of a Broadway musical style montage, Bart Simpson awoke the next morning with a hangover and a new outfit gracing his body: a Junior Campers’ uniform. While Bart was apprehensive about joining the Boy Scout-like troop, he later embraced being a part of the organization (mostly thanks to the promise of earning a pocket knife). Of course Homer, seeing no benefit in the Junior Campers and being a pseudo-jock, mocked his son vehemently. Things were made even more awkward when Bart found out about the upcoming father-son rafting trip that made Bart believe his rather stupid dad would embarrass him. Thanks to an inferiority complex and a need to take over the trip headed by Ned Flanders, Homer proved his son correct and led his child, Ned and Flanders’ eldest boy Rod into the middle of the sea. Just when it seemed Homer had put them at death’s door, Homer’s addiction to food and a dog-like sense of smelling hamburgers allowed the four to discover a Krusty Burger on an off-short oil rig. Saved and near food, Bart found great pride in his father.
But a few episodes later, things were back to normal and Bart thought of Homer as nothing more than a big doofus who couldn’t prevent his son from writing “Insert Brain Here” on the back of his head. Sulking in his own ignorance and anger, Homer made a phone call to NASA to complain about the boring nature of space shuttle launches. Once again, a not-so-well thought out phone call by Homer resulted in something positive as Homer (and his fellow drinking buddy Barney) were chosen to be a part of NASA’s attempt at popping the dwindling Nielsen ratings. Homer accepted the offer mainly because he wanted to prove to his son that he wasn’t a boob. Though Homer almost killed everyone including himself during his space trip, the act worked as Bart accepted his father as a true hero.
If you have a son, expect there to be a battle for his respect. It might result in your intelligence being questioned, your body reaching the point of starvation, and the good possibility that you might be shot into space with some of the greatest heroes known to man, but it’ll be all worth it when your writes “Hero” on the back of your balding head.