I shot this video of the rain yesterday morning. It’s been raining for a couple days now. We really needed the rain. We’ve been in a drought and wild fires have been burning in the southern Appalachian mountains. Rain seems to slow everything down and I took a post-holiday break these last couple days to wind down. The reason I shot the video is that I had my tablet in my hand because I’ve recently found myself playing The Simpsons: Tapped Out quite a bit.
I’ve also been meaning to write something about The Simpsons for a long time. The game and a Thanksgiving promotion of all the episodes back to back reminded me. I’m an avid fan of The Simpsons. Always have been, ever since I watched the first episode. It started in 1987. Yup, that’s pre-Simpsons. I was 14 and at the mall with my brother and mom when I spotted School Is Hell at the book store. I guess the title piqued my interest and I bought it. The book was part of a comic strip that Matt Groening self published entitled Life is Hell. He described the comic series as “every ex-campus protester’s, every Boomer idealist’s, conception of what adult existence in the ’80s had turned out to be.”2 I read and loved that comic book. The sarcasm, wit, and dry sense of humor made it feel like something really unique to me.
I watched the first episode of The Simpsons in 1989. I got a t-shirt with Bart on the front imprinted with the words “Underachiever. And Proud of It Man!”. It’s from season 2, episode 1 – “Bart Gets and F”. The school psychologist says “of what laymen refer to as “fear of failure.” As a result, Bart is an underachiever, and yet he seems to be proud of it.”3 It was an effort to catch all of the early shows, mind you these were pre-Tivo days and the episodes ran directly opposite of The Cosby Show, which my father had on in the living room. I actually watched the shows on this tiny black and white television I had in my bedroom. I remember trying to get my father to switch over the living room TV and him replying that he ‘just couldn’t get into animation’. I watched them all regardless and I’ve seen every episode since then for the last twenty-six years.
Which is why I like playing this little game. They’ve taken the time to story-line every little bit of dialogue between characters. The voice track is spot on and the game cites episodes for each property. The game play is slow and could be described as city building, but It’s almost like reading a book. Every new character unlock is fun. It’s almost like playing a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure – Life is Hell‘ comic.
Although my classmates didn’t exactly share my enthusiasm after seeing my t-shirt in 1989, I think anyone can agree now that there is some substantive value to the show. The writing and character development are brilliant observational social commentary written and performed by a tremendous group of talented folks. The guest list is phenomenal5, and the accolades are extensive. To me, It is unquestionably one of the greatest pieces of American art and popular culture.
You might say that The Simpsons are postmodernism, being skeptical of ideologies, acknowledging that truth is a product of a social, political, and historical systems. Here’s a screen shot I took of a recent episode Trust but Clarify which seems to indicate just that.