The Simpsons Folder
Winchester Residents Mull How ‘Simpsons’ Relates to Life
By Andrew Martel, The Winchester Star, 2004
No fewer than 23 states have a town called Springfield, but only one has seen the sun blocked out by the local power company — or relocated five miles down the road to escape an overflowing trash heap.
Since 1987, this fictitious Springfield has been the home of the animated every-family, The Simpsons, along with a cast of hundreds of supporting characters.
The show, already the longest-running cartoon on prime time, will premiere its 16th season at 8 p.m. Sunday on Fox.
The show’s popularity has grown so greatly that even those who cannot stand it identify with some small part of “The Simpsons.”
Starting with the setting, local viewers can spot parallels between their hometowns and Springfield.
Winchester is no exception. Both Winchester and Springfield were founded more than 200 years ago by stout pioneers: Col. James Wood and Jebediah Springfield, respectively.
They were both battlegrounds during the Civil War.
And both have annual community celebrations. Springfield’s is for whacking snakes, Winchester celebrates the bloom on apple trees.
With hundreds of characters on the show, just about any career or personality has its own caricature on “The Simpsons.”
Here are a few examples.
The Convenience Store
Vanessa Lewis has managed convenience stores off and on for 20 years, most recently at the X-Press Mart, 1856 Valley Ave.
That’s long enough to identify with Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, Springfield’s resident convenience store owner.
Apu embodies the stereotype of an immigrant clerk. He once worked 96 hours straight, has been a robbery victim multiple times, and would offer a chipper, “Thank you, come again!” to even his mortal enemy.
“The workaholic thing I can relate to, that’s for sure,” Lewis said as she sat in the X-Press Mart’s back room Friday afternoon.
She was never a fan of “The Simpsons,” but watched it with her children when they were younger to screen out anything objectionable.
In those four years, she found things to enjoy about the obnoxious Simpsons clan.
Her favorite character is 8-year-old Lisa Simpson.
“She was always the meek one. You just always have to like her,” Lewis said.
Many parents, like Lewis, were put off by the show’s crude humor and coarse language. The nonpartisan Parents Television Council (www.parentstv.org) gives “The Simpsons” a mixed review overall, saying on its Web site that the show “sends a mixed message on parenthood: while the father is a bumbling idiot, the mother is a loving and patient wife and role model.”
The cave-like Moe’s Tavern, where Homer Simpson and his cohorts drink, is a far cry from Coalie Harry’s, 28 E. Piccadilly St., bartender Jackie Heavner said.
Still, she laughs at the thought of hapless proprietor Moe Szyslak, who is hounded by crank calls — “I’m looking for Amanda Hugginkiss?” — and loathes discounts.
“We don’t get crank calls,” said Heavner, who has served drinks for two years. “Everybody here is pretty much loved.”
Heavner, 26, watched the show when she was younger, but said she has outgrown it in recent years. Still she has a favorite character: Maggie Simpson, the baby.
Lionel Hutz, voiced by the late comedian Phil Hartman, has boasted that he “argued in front of every judge in this state — often as a lawyer.”
That characterization is extreme, Winchester lawyer William A. “Beau” Bassler said. But he takes the show’s parody of lawyers in good humor, pointing out that the show has also lambasted doctors and scientists as well.
“I can’t say I relate with Lionel Hutz, but I did consider him a very funny character,” Bassler said.
But Bassler, who counts Moe or Homer as his favorite characters on the show, recalls one excellent send-up of the justice system.
The episode centered on the appointment of a no-nonsense “Judge Judy” character who replaces the kind, gentle judge who presides over the juvenile court, which Bart Simpson frequents.
“That … resonates with the political climate we’re in,” Bassler said. “You’re seeing some newer judges coming in who are very tough, while the older judges, especially with juvenile justice, were working toward rehabilitation.”
The Comic Book Shop
Katherine Kwolek does not subscribe to cable or own an antenna. But even she knows about the Comic Book Guy.
Despite his frequent appearances, the overweight, smug, and self-important proprietor of Springfield’s Android’s Dungeon & Baseball Card Shop does not have a name.
Kwolek, who owns Four Color Fantasies, 80 Weems Lane, with her husband, Michael, said he is quite true-to-life for some comic book fans.
“He is the caricature of the comic book store owner. We have seen him at many times,” said Kwolek, who learns about “The Simpsons” from reading their various comic book titles.
“The store owners are men, overweight, sitting there just reading the books,” she said.
“The Simpsons” writers often use Comic Book Guy to poke fun at the fans who take their show, and cartoons in general, way too seriously.
Some “Simpsons” fans have started calling for an end to the classic cartoon, but others, like Bassler, see the show staying ahead of the curve. As seasons go by, the show has grown more savvy and even sophisticated, Bassler said.
“The early seasons were kind of Bart-centered,” he said. “Once it moved [the focus] to Homer, I think it got much smarter.”