Why I Still Love The Simpsons: The Continuum of Nostalgia

The Simpsons went on the air in December 1989. I was born in April 1988. I don't remember a time in my life when I couldn't look forward to watching a new episode of The Simpsons. With FXX acquiring the rights to rebroadcast every episode of The Simpsons, starting today with a marathon of all 552 episodes plus the movie, as well as a complete online database, "Simpsons World," coming soon, it is likely the world will soon suffer a mass shortage of productivity.

As many will flock to the Internet to finally be able to watch "classic" episodes of the show, myself included, I will also be in front of my television on Sunday night at 8PM (or more realistically, on Hulu a few days later), awaiting a new episode. The reason is that I still believe that The Simpsons is a great show.

We've all had this argument. It's that same conversation about Indiana JonesDie Hard, SNL or, of course, Star Wars. With Star Wars, it is easier to separate the good from the bad because of trilogies. There's the good trilogy and there's the bad trilogy. There's a greater disassociation.
One of these things is not like the other.
The worst offenders are those that wait twenty years to return to their characters. This is the primary reason I was so against the prospect of a Ghostbusters 3 (which has luckily since turned into a "reboot" which I am actually okay with because of the same dissociation concept with Star Wars). The characters and a new story will never live up to the adventures you imagined taking place after the last movie. Star Wars: Episode VII is rumored to begin with someone rescuing Luke Skywalker after he was kidnapped shortly after the events of Return of the Jedi. So Luke's been locked up in a prison for the last thirty years?! Just like Lloyd Christmas was in a mental ward for the last twenty?! Whether the characters have been in some sort of hibernation since the last time we saw them or not, it's never going to feel right. Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of The Crystal Skull (a film harder to dissociate from the original three films, I simply refer to it as a "that weird fan film someone made") is arguably the greatest offender of a sequel well past its expiration date.
Or to put it another way.
With The Simpsons, however, like with Saturday Night Live, my enjoyment has been a continuum. My nostalgia hasn't had time to gestate over years of neglect. This is clearly something only television can provide. The characters haven't aged. Something only animation can provide. I'm not unaware that this continuum may have warped my perspective, but unlike many who make the argument against the show, I have actually seen all 552 episodes. So who can provide the better argument for the shows quality is debatable to say the least. Furthermore, what I've found impressive is how the show has continually been able to "reboot" itself as the years go by, sometimes almost outright.

"But it's not as good as it used to be!" "Who the hell cares?! It's still good, asshole. "
But are the characters and the stories of The Simpsons just an empty shell of what they used to be? I'd say no. I'd say that a show that's been on the air for twenty-five years has the ability to represent how society has changed over that period of time. Are you the same person you were in 1987? In 1990? In 2000? The Simpsons started off with the goal of depicting the modern family, flaws and all. Twenty-five years later, maybe it's still doing that. But unlike Bart and Lisa, you grew up and simply don't recognize the changes around you.

I'm not making the argument that the show has always been perfect. Far from it. There are certainly times in the late 1990s and early 2000s in which the show started to lose viewers due to weaker narrative storytelling. There may be too many characters and plotlines involving characters dying, but not really dying, etc. These are legitimate criticisms. Anyone, however, who says that the show "isn't worth watching" after season ten or so is not only kind of a jerk, but they're also just inaccurate. Some of the best episodes of the entire series (yes, that's right) have come in later seasons, such as 2007's "Eternal Moonshine of the Spotless Mind" or this year's "Brick Like Me." As any argument on the Internet can tell you, you're never going to change someone's mind if they just don't like something. People have different tastes. The only thing you can do is respect those differing opinions. If you think The Simpsons sucks, that's fine. I don't really care.

Haters gonna hate.
Like JJ Abrams' Star TrekI saw Kingdom of the Crystal Skill in the theatre like everyone else. But why? Because it was NEW. I thought that seeing something new for the first time would make me feel like a kid again, like watching Raiders of the Lost Ark for the first time. And maybe, for a few seconds, it did. The sad truth of adulthood, however, is that this is a futile, unachievable goal. Time only moves in one direction... unless you're JJ Abrams and you decide to fuck with timelines however the hell you want. 

So as the great Simpsons marathon begins today and in a few weeks when fans start marathoning old episodes online, I am curious if any of them will not feel the same nostalgia that they expected. Perhaps they'll find that, even though they've seen the episodes before, the joy of seeing them new in their youth is gone and will never be back. It has been replaced by encyclopedic knowledge and over-quotation of classic episodes. Personally, sitting on my couch on Sunday night, watching a new episode, commercials and all, still makes me feel more like a 10 year old kid than sitting at a computer screen watching an old episode in which I already remember every line. Of course, that doesn't mean I still won't do both anyway.

Though the day will come when The Simpsons goes off the air, a day that seems closer now with the tragic loss of Marcia Wallace, I will continue to enjoy watching episodes both old and new for the same reason I have always watched The Simpsons: it's still good.


Popular posts from this blog

I Don't Have Time For This

New Parallels That Emerge After That Controversial Game of Thrones Scene