And Another Thing: This Is Your Brain on <i>The Simpsons</i>

Ashley Spurgeon is a lifelong TV fan — nay, expert — and with her recurring television and pop-culture column "And Another Thing," she'll tell you what to watch, what to skip, and what's worth thinking more about. 


So it’s come to this — a third column about The Simpsons! As a known possessor of the dreaded Simpsons-brain (a condition found in persons whose still-growing psyches were fundamentally altered by too much childhood access to the Fox Network), I can state with authority that one symptom is befriending others who have the same affliction. And like all members of societies hidden from mainstream view, we share a secret language of perfectly cromulent shibboleths and mystical symbols representing difficult to define, esoteric concepts that are at once recognized by fellow travelers:

I’ve considered getting that tattooed prominently on my person, more than once. (A subgenre of art in and of itself.) Our sense of humor is also, on some level, completely broken. There are the non-sequiturs that pass through our minds on a daily basis: “I wash myself with a rag on a stick"; “I’ve created Lutherans"; “Get confident, stupid"; truly the refrain of the damned. A couple of weeks ago, a Simpsons-brained friend passed along the following link: 

All the sugar videos I've made up until now

If you’re not going to click, and I’m honestly not sure I’d suggest doing so if you don’t recognize yourself in this column, the video is a mash-up of various Golden Age Simpsons scenes re-edited to include another scene from a Golden-Age Simpsons episode, wherein Homer hallucinates dancing with anthropomorphic candy to The Archies song “Sugar Sugar.” This creator has made altogether about 20 minutes' worth of “Sugarposting” content (basically an episode’s worth), as well as similar videos for “Mendozaposing,” “Lemonposting” and so forth. Simpsons-brains know. 

Anyway, I love this shit. In fact, I watched every one a couple days later, I tried to explain the series to my partner (normal-brained, not Simpsons-infected) in the hopes of getting him to enjoy along, and he said: “The video you watched the other day that kept playing The Archies? Yeah, I overheard it. I can’t do that again.” This man loves the worst dad jokes, sub-stoner humor and Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol — but understand there are limits. Absolutely cannot blame him — in addition to the aforementioned psychological problems of knowing exactly where every single one of these Sugarposts is going to go and watching it anyway, this kind of sense of humor has also been filtered through 20-plus years of increasingly cracked internet culture, leaving it pretty much indescribable, let alone funny, to almost every human being on planet Earth. 

The Simpsons has been part of Anglophone internet culture (and beyond!) since almost the show’s beginning — alt.tv.simpsons, basically a messageboard about the show filled with nerds so insufferable it was literally parodied on the show itself (ah, attention, the true goal of every crank) appeared in 1990, which was 30 years ago for those keeping track at home. Meme culture, generally, has been very good to The Simpsons. From children being wrong to knowing how to escape life’s most uncomfortable situations, it feels like there’s an appropriate Simpsons meme for any occasion. One of my favorites is just Lisa staring at an empty plate. And while I love this show, it was never good about race — luckily, going all the way back to the '90s, a thriving culture of bootleg Simpsons art and merchandise has been available for the discerning streetwear shopper, and Black Barts abound. 

Arguably, the “Steamed Hams” meme is the most well-known of all recent Simpsons ephemera — it was created a year after “Sugarposting” and caught on in the wider world of Online, for whatever reason these things happen (the linked article suggests “steamed hams” is a particularly funny combination of words, which is hard to argue with). One common way of finding Simpsons-brained people in the wider world is to start discussions about how The Simpsons “predicted” various world events. Two prescient examples are, sadly, President Donald Trump and pretty much the one-two punch of a deadly flu-plus-terrified populace begging for placebos-plus-killer bees. There’s an entire Disney+ category of “Simpsons Predicted” episodes, and by the way, Disney owning the Fox and its content was also predicted. 

As much as I’d like to pretend having this brain grants the powers of prediction, it’s just not true. The Simpsons has always been a satire, and as we know, satire doesn’t work. Politics, media, the vox populi (i.e., a frothing mob complete with flaming torches) — “Truth is stranger than fiction,” they say (send the Pulitzer to my mother), even the fiction turns surreal. The show has always been known for its good writing, but the shitposts, remixed characters, and twisted-up Lisa-face memes, and honest-to-goodness hilarity of people being chased by wild bees is also a reminder of the animation — thick, yellow, ugly, flat, extremely pointy and/or bushy though it may be  has ended up acting as a fairly accurate reflection of American life.

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