by: Maddie Borth
I grew up with The Simpsons.
Before I could talk, I could say “D’oh.” I’ve won so many games of Simpsons Scene-It that many of my friends refuse to play with me. Sometimes, my family and I communicate entirely in Simpsons quotes. My ability to relate almost every single life event to a Simpsons scene is often bewildering to those in my anti-capitalist, feminist friend circle, who often question my loyalty to the Simpsons franchise. However, what they often don’t understand is that this show shaped not only my sense of humor, but also my politics, often from the wisdom of the precocious eight-year-old Lisa Simpson.
Lisa has always been my hero. At age four, I longed to be just four years older so I could be as mature and wise as Lisa. When my eighth birthday did not come with the adult-written maturity Lisa displays, I was more than a little disappointed. Her vegetarianism honestly inspired my own, and many of her political observations made quite an impact on me when I was closer to Maggie’s age than Lisa’s. Having fully formed my feminist outlook within the last five years, watching Lisa-heavy episodes now remind me of how well-developed Lisa’s character is, and how often this radical vegetarian feminist acted as the voice of reason.
Below are Lisa Simpson’s best moments, as written by her protégé.
“Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” (Season 1, episode 1)
Season One’s Christmas episode is one that focuses primarily on the more marketable men in the Simpsons family, but offers one of my favorite Lisa-lines. When waiting for their father to return from work, Aunts Patty and Selma sit on the couch speculating on what is keeping him away from his family—with Lisa in earshot.
Selma: Where is Homer anyway?
Patty: Typical of the big doofus to spoil it all.
Lisa: What, Aunt Patty?
Patty: Oh, nothing dear, I’m just trashing your father.
Lisa: Well, I wish that you wouldn’t. Because aside from the fact that he has the same frailties as all human beings, he’s the only father I have. Therefore, he is my model of manhood, and my estimation of him will govern the prospects of my adult relationships. So I hope you bear in mind that any knock at him is a knock at me, and I am far too young to protect myself against such onslaughts.
Okay, so maybe the “model of manhood” part is a bit problematic, but you gotta give the girl credit for standing up for her dad.
“Lisa the Beauty Queen” (Season 4, episode 4)
After suffering from some body-image issues, Lisa is unwillingly entered in the “Little Miss Springfield Contest” by her father, who hopes that the pageant will boost her self-esteem. Although initially horrified, Lisa decides to participate in the contest. Lisa ends up taking second-place and, after the winner in unable to fulfill her duties (due to her scepter acting as a lightning rod), Lisa is crowned Little Miss Springfield. However, after discovering that her image is being used to market cigarettes to children, Lisa uses her public appearances to speak out against the ills of society—much to the frustration of the contest’s sponsors.
Kicking over the cigarette-shaped parade float the company required her to ride on, Lisa announces, “I am tired of being a corporate shill! From now on, I will speak out against the evils in society from dog-napping to cigarettes!”
For her next act as Little Miss Springfield, Lisa appears at a college football game to sing the National Anthem, but begins by saying, “Before I sing the National Anthem, I’d like to say that college football diverts funds badly needed for education and the arts!”
What a badass.
“The Springfield Connection” (Season 6, episode 23)
My absolute favorite Lisa Simpson line is once again from an episode in which she is not the star. When Marge becomes a cop, Lisa vocalizes her concerns about the prison system to her mother while on a tour of the Springfield Police Station. Unfortunately, Marge reacts in a way I’m sure many activists are familiar with.
Lisa: Mom, I know your intentions are good, but aren’t the police the protective force that maintains the status quo for the wealthy elite? Don’t you think we ought to attack the roots of social problems instead of jamming people into overcrowded prisons?
Marge: [pauses] Look, Lisa, it’s McGriff, the Crime Dog! [uses a hand puppet] Hey, Lisa, help me bite crime, ruff, ruff!
Lines like this just do not appear enough in prime time
“Lisa the Greek” (Season 3, episode 14)
In an episode where Lisa acts as the moral center, Lisa tries to get closer to her father by watching weekly football games with him. Homer soon discovers that Lisa has a talent for predicting the winners—something that Homer uses to earn money gambling.
Lisa’s best line is in the beginning of the episode when she tries to get Homer’s attention by sharing her handmade Malibu Stacy doll’s shoebox apartment.
Lisa: Look, Dad! I made a modern studio apartment for my Malibu Stacey doll. This is the kitchen, this is where she prints her weekly feminist newsletter…Dad! You’re not listening to me!
In the utopia Lisa creates, feminists have the time and resources to print a weekly newsletter. Maybe someday.
“Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy” (Season 5, episode 14)
This is, in my opinion, Lisa’s greatest episode. Lisa takes on Springfield’s answer to Barbie when the company releases a blatantly sexist talking doll (not unlike Mattel’s 1992 release of Teen Talk Barbie). Lisa takes a tour of the doll factory and asks her tour guide, “Is the remarkably sexist drivel spouted by Malibu Stacy intentional, or is it just a horrible mistake?” After discovering that she will get nowhere with the company, Lisa takes her concerns to the doll’s original creator, and together they create a talking feminist doll: Lisa Lionheart. This episode is full of great activist lines, but my personal favorite is when Lisa is recording lines for her new doll.
Lisa (reading from a list of lines for the Lisa Lionheart doll): When I get married, I’m keeping my own name! (pauses) Wait, maybe that should be ‘if I choose to get married.’
The same episode also addresses the issues of ageism when Lisa and her grandfather sit together at the kitchen table.
Lisa: It’s awful being a kid. No one listens to you.
Grandpa: It’s rotten being old. No one listens to you.
Homer: I’m a white male, age 18 to 49. Everyone listens to me—no matter how dumb my suggestions are! (Homer pulls from the cupboard a can marked, ‘Nuts and Gum! Together at last!’)
Can we all start referring to instances of white male privilege as “Nuts and Gum?”
Madison Borth is a third-year Sociology student at DePaul University. She is the treasurer of DePaul’s Feminist Front and is involved with many other activist groups on campus. In her free time, she can be found dumpster diving for old magazines, creating mixed media art, studying German, reading zines and contemplating gender roles.