The Simpsons Shines Again

The Simpsons Shines Again November 4, 2022

Image: The Daily Beast

As a millennial, I am well aware of the unassailable fact that The Simpsons stopped being good after Season 10. Granted, I haven’t watched much of the show after Season 10 (largely because that’s what was in syndication when I was in college), but it still feels true. So I was pleasantly surprised the other night when the wife and I happened to catch the most recent Treehouse of Horror.

Frankly, it was excellent. It captured all of the genius of those original seasons of The Simpsons with none of whatever it was that I assume made everything since then terrible. Specifically, there was a coherent plot line (technically three of them) that used both subtle and not-so-subtle humor to poke fun at the more ridiculous aspects of our culture while simultaneously upholding and celebrating those parts of our lives that are worthwhile.

The last two shorts (for those who don’t know, most Treehouse of Horror episodes are comprised of three short sketches) are interesting, with one offering a take on Westworld that references those classic Simpsons episodes and the other a spoof of Death Note (the Japanese anime, not so much the Netflix capitalization on the Japanese anime). But I want to focus on the first one, a parody of The Babadook. Again, this short has a coherent plot, rather than just being a string of one-liners loosely tied together by the inanity of the characters delivering them. In it a vicious spirit escapes a book and possesses Marge with the goal of killing Maggie and destroying the family. Along the way, some of the difficulties and travails of being a mother are exposed, such as the hard work Marge endures so that the family can survive (and even enjoy life, as with the photos of Homer and the kids playing while Marge does chores).

[Spoiler alert] Yet what saves Marge and Maggie in the end is what’s good and noble about being a mother: her love for her family. This is the kind of love that only a mother can have for her child. That’s not to say that fathers can’t love their children–obviously we can. But the way the relationship is portrayed here is a very specific expression of the mother/child relationship that is something unique to them and which excludes us–the episode wouldn’t have worked if Homer and Marge were switched. (There are of course plenty of episodes about how Homer loves his kids, as “And Maggie Makes Three” in Season 6.) What we see here is an excellent picture of how God has set up this part of the family and structures the bond between mother and child. That this portrayal is clever, artistically well-done, and not primarily concerned with making a dogmatic point (and instead is primarily concerned with telling a good story) makes this episode of The Simpsons the sort of thing that Christians should be on the lookout for in society.

Again, I was pleasantly surprised by what I found. Whether it will be enough to get me to go back to the show after a twenty-year hiatus remains to be seen…

Dr. Coyle Neal is co-host of the City of Man Podcast an Amazon Associate (which is linked in this blog), and an Associate Professor of Political Science at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, MO

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