An ode to Lisa Simpson
Allie Tollaksen | Thursday, March 27, 2014
Ask any one of my friends and they’ll tell you that one of my favorite hobbies is meeting friends’ parents. There’s something so fun and fascinating about meeting parents: You finally get to see, just a little bit, why your friend is the way they are. This is undoubtedly true about my parents as well — I’m a spitting image of my mom with my dad’s sense of humor.
But there’s another figure in my upbringing that had an enormous influence on who I am today. Like me, her interests include “music, science, justice, animals, shapes, feelings.” Unlike me, she is permanently eight years old. Her name is Lisa Simpson.
Growing up with older siblings, especially my brother Patrick, I was exposed to “The Simpsons” at far, far too early an age. We used to sit around the family room almost every night, flipping between two different episodes of the show, which ran at the same time on two different stations. With this method and my brother’s admirable dedication, I had watched hundreds of episodes by age 10, when Patrick left for college.
During that time, Lisa Simpson became a heroic figure in my young life. She was smart, sensitive, musically gifted and a little bit of a troublemaker. I didn’t understand many of the jokes or references in “The Simpsons” at that young age, but I did know I wanted to be just like Lisa. Clad in a dress and pearls, with a baritone sax and a passion for reading, she is, at least to me, iconic and a role model in some strange way.
When I turned 10, inspired in part by Lisa, I became a vegetarian. By 11, inspired entirely by Lisa, I started reading about Buddhism. She taught me about feminism, environmentalism, social justice and, maybe less importantly, how to say “foliage” correctly.
At a young age, Lisa showed me how to stand up for myself. I learned that girls can be smart and silly at the same time (I loved the fact that she would participate in prank phone calls with Bart), that grit and vulnerability can coexist and you shouldn’t be embarrassed about your passions.
While my parents joke about how I, the youngest of five siblings, was exposed to things inappropriate for my age, it’s only after leaving home that I realized, in the case of “The Simpsons,” I benefitted in some way. Other shows depicted little girls in categories: you were the “sporty one” or “girly one” or “brainy one.” It was only on a show not meant for me that I learned those categories don’t exist, that you can be all those things without apologizing. For that, I thank Lisa.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.