A Beginner's Guide to The Simpsons

by Mr. Burns Dramaturg Shannon Heibler

"The reason why the town is called Springfield is because when I was a kid I watched Father Knows Best, which took place in a town called Springfield. And I always assumed it was the next town over. We get letters from people all over the place telling me they know it's their Springfield."

-Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons

You may never have visited The Simpson family in Springfield, but they’re almost certainly familiar to you if you’ve watched any other television shows, movies, or plays. The creator and writers of the show wanted each and every character to resonate with viewers, as though they already recognized them in their friends and coworkers, annoying neighbors, politicians, and own family members.

Homer Simpson is the idiotic and bumbling, if well-meaning, patriarch. A low-level grunt at the local nuclear power plant and mainstay of nearby Moe’s Tavern, Homer has cultural relatives in Ralph Kramden (The Honeymooners), Al Bundy (Married... with Children), and Fred Flintstone (The Flintstones).

Marge Simpson is truly devoted to Homer and their odd little family. While Marge is an artist and has held many jobs around Springfield, she’s happy to be a stay-at-home mom whom you might recognize in Kitty Foreman (That 70s Show), June Cleaver (Leave It to Beaver), and Carol Brady (The Brady Bunch).

Bart Simpson started as a cultural pariah, with parents everywhere blaming the fictional character for their children’s bad behavior, but he’s ultimately a good son and big brother. Trusty slingshot in hand, Bart fits right in with the titular Dennis the Menace, Bobby Brady (The Brady Bunch), and The Beaver (Leave It to Beaver).

Lisa Simpson is every parent’s dream as a caring, soulful child with straight A’s, even if she can be a little preachy. Lisa’s loveable bookworm, activist, and saxophone player can also be seen in Rory Gilmore (The Gilmore Girls), Sondra Huxtable (The Cosby Show), and Jan Brady (The Brady Bunch).

Maggie Simpson represents .33 child of every “average” American household. Though she’s just a baby (and has been for nearly 30 seasons), she accomplishes more than any other Simpson, frequently rescuing her loved ones from their own mishaps. She is best likened to Tabitha Stevens (Bewitched) and maybe Michelle Tanner (Full House).

Sideshow Bob Terwilliger was once the beloved sidekick for local kids TV mainstay, Krusty the Clown. Worn down by what he viewed as mind numbing popular culture, Bob was driven to a life of crime in his attempts to culturally elevate, and is almost always foiled by the Simpson children, usually Bart. Sideshow Bob is the Eagleton to Springfield’s Pawnee (Parks & Recreation).

C. Montgomery Burns owns Springfield’s nuclear power plant and therefore controls the city’s electricity, which he has held hostage a few times over the years. Mr. Burns is well over 100 years old and the epitome of an evil tycoon. He has real world roots in Howard Hughes and Donald Trump as well as the fictional Charles Foster Kane (Citizen Kane).

It is no wonder that with characters so deeply rooted in our lives and our television laden culture, The Simpsons has made such a lasting impression on us. They have evolved in their time on the air, right alongside America and one can only wonder how they will carry on long after the world we know ceases to be.