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Dear college students: watch ‘The Simpsons’

| Thursday, February 8, 2018

Does anyone watch “The Simpsons” anymore? I know I could tackle much more pressing issues in my rare opinion piece, but this question has really been bugging me. Sadly, the cartoon has been a shell of its old self for about a decade now. Even so, I think it’s strange that I rarely meet another person my age who loves this TV show as much as I do. After all, it has been on for nearly 30 years and been in major syndication for my entire conscious existence. In 2007, the show generated a feature film that earned half a billion dollars at the box office. A lot of college students watch some shows from the ‘90s, like “Seinfeld” or “Friends.” Why does “The Simpsons” get snubbed?

I suppose I ask this question because ”The Simpsons“ has always been influential in my life. When I was about four years old, I told my preschool teacher about a hilarious episode of “The Simpsons” I had watched while on a family vacation in Ireland over the summer. There are a few things to unpack in that sentence. Firstly, yes, I was the kind of kid who did not just explain what he liked to his friends, but also to his sexagenarian teachers. Secondly, I loved that “Simpsons” episode enough to, at age four, recall it during the school year when I likely saw it in July. Thirdly, you may, like my teacher, question why I was watching “The Simpsons” at four years old.

My preschool teacher did have a point, it was probably not appropriate for a young child to be watching a show with so much adult humor. And for a little while after that day in preschool, I did not watch it. Luckily for me, however, Tim Lane had a theory. You see, my dad understood that “The Simpsons” was an extremely clever show, largely written by Harvard graduates. He theorized that watching the Simpsons would not only be harmless, but could even teach me plenty of things I would never encounter otherwise. I think time has proven him right. I would ask my brother, sister or my parents about any joke or reference I didn’t understand, and if that didn’t work, thanks to a new website called Wikipedia, I could just ask the computer. By age 10, I had a cultural vocabulary that vaguely resembled that of a nerdy 40-year-old history buff. I could probably trace back a hefty amount of my knowledge, useful and useless, to “The Simpsons.” It may sound like a stretch, but one could even argue that without the minor educational boost I received from the show I would not have gotten into Notre Dame. So thank you Dad, and thank you Matt Groening.

At its absolute best (i.e. any episode that aired in the 90s), “The Simpsons” was everything a television show could be all at once. The show was a loving tribute to the cartoons that the Baby Boomers and Generation X-ers cherished. That tribute was then loaded with the wittiest cultural and historical jokes in comedy, molded to fit a dynamic storyline with multiple plots weaving together seamlessly and hermitically sealed into a 22-minute time slot on Fox. It was a touching show about a family and a town that resembled an entire nation, and it never shied away from making fun of America’s flaws.

I guess, like a good episode of “The Simpsons,” I’m trying to make a few points all at once. Be like my dad, and think before blindly following the advice that others deem to be common sense. Be like young me, and consume entertainment that makes you curious and opens intellectual doors for you. Lastly, just watch the show. I promise that you’ll laugh and fall in love with Springfield the same way that I did. For every good Netflix show, there are five terrible duds. Why take a chance? Check out “The Simpsons” — it is too good to be forgotten.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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