Words by Caitlin Johnston Art by Angharad Neal-Williams
The majority of my childhood was spent in front of the television. Now that I’m in my 20s, I’ll sometimes spit out random facts during conversations, or have a little bit of extra knowledge when faced with certain situations.
In an attempt to trace where in school I learnt these facts, I’ll have a little laugh to myself, because I saw it all on The Simpsons.
So, although television has been referred to as the ‘idiot box,’ I think that I became a little bit more S-M-R-T thanks to our favourite yellow family.
In my schooling years, English has always won the prize as my favourite subject. Only, as a kid, I was terrible at spelling and poetry. These episodes helped me to appreciate these areas a little more through classic Simpsons charm.
‘I’m Spelling as Fast as I Can’ (S14E12)
Lisa makes her way to the big leagues in the National Spelling Competition, where one of her competitors is asked to spell whether/weather (it is never specified which one). Using it in a sentence, the facilitator says “I don’t know whether the weather will improve.” It was a lightbulb moment when I realised the difference between the two — plus how to spell them.
‘Treehouse of Horror’ (S2E3)
A segment in this horror trilogy has Lisa narrating, ‘The Raven’ a “classic tale of terror by Edgar Allen Poe.” Turning this poem into a cartoon definitely helped catch my attention. I loved it so much I would watch it over and over until I had memorised the entire poem. This sparked my love for all classic literature and poetry. Lisa starts her retelling by saying; “don’t worry Bart, you won’t learn anything.” And while I don’t know if Bart actually took anything from embodying ‘The Raven,’ I can say with certainty that I did learn something.
Ah maths, I’ve always hated you and you’ve always hated me. I found you boring, and you found me stupid. I thank the creators deeply for inserting these mathematical tips and tricks.
‘Bye Bye Nerdy’ (S12E16)
To quiet down an auditorium of chatty scientists, Professor Fink horrifies the crowd by yelling “Pi is exactly three.” Honestly, it took me a while to understand (I believe some Googling was involved), but it is forever ingrained in me that Pi can never be exactly three.
From memory, The Simpsons delved into many history re-enactments over the years. Though stories are a tiny bit historically incorrect, I nonetheless enjoyed these versions, compared to reading about them in black and white textbooks.
‘Margical History Tour’ (S15E11)
Henry VIII had many wives throughout his life, meaning there had to be some divorces — and *ahem* deaths — along the way. As Thomas Moore (played by Ned Flanders) said, “divorce? Sorry there’s no such thing in the Cath-diddly-a-tic Church. But it’s the only church we’ve got so what are you gonna do?” Homer/Henry VIII’s solution was to start The English Protestant Church, and as I learnt, he damn well did it.
Personally, I haven’t travelled too much around the world, but the Simpson family certainly have. They’ve managed to cover all continents, and helped me expand my knowledge of other countries and cultures. There’s too many to list, but these moments have stuck with me throughout the years.
‘Bart vs Australia’ (S6E16)
This one hits close to home. Lisa explains to Bart that toilets in the Southern Hemisphere flush the other way. Bart checks this by calling a boy in Australia, only to disappointingly find that it’s “all draining clockwise.” You’ve got to admire Bart’s determination to back up this fact with some research, and yes, straight after the episode I did check my own toilet, and what can I say? Clockwise it is.
When I was younger it was difficult to wrap my head around politics. That’s why I’m super appreciative for this early episode that gave a nice dumbed down version of how elections and the US campaign processes run.
‘Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish’ (S2E4)
When Mr Burns’ power plant is potentially shut down due to hundreds of safety hazards, in a night of sadness and drinking, Homer accidentally proposes the idea that Mr Burns should run for governor. The episode then spirals into a 101 guide on how run for governor. Showing the amount of money it costs and the composition of a campaign team, being a; speech writer, joke writer, spin doctor, makeup man, personal trainer and personal investigator. All eventuating in a dramatically changed personal image for C.M. Burns. As Mr Burns finally says, “this is exactly the type of trickery I’m paying you for,” establishing my scepticism of politicians.
I feel I speak for many when I say, thank God for The Simpsons, right? After this throwback session, I can definitely say that I feel S-M-A-R-T.