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The anti-heroes of the time

Homer Simpson and his "dad" Matt Groening have revolutionized popular culture over the course of 20 years. New Time met the latter.



[animation] It started 20 years ago. April 19, 1987, the first The Simpsons episode aired. July 27 this year, history is rewritten as the long-awaited feature film about the animated nuclear family gets cinema premiere.

- 20 years ago, The Simpsons was considered a risky and insane investment, says the series' creator, Matt Groening, to Ny Tid.

He is dressed in summer clothes, and looks comfortable where he sits laid back and relaxed. He looks like a middle-aged American tourist who is in Germany to check out the October party. It is also something he himself jokes about.

- Last night I was out with some friends here, and we talked about a possible Simpsons episode where Homer comes to Munich to drink beer at the October party. He discovers that he is a month late, and must stay here a year longer than planned, until the next October party occurs. That's how easily an idea for an episode can emerge.

- But seriously, there are many talented people working on writing the episodes, and even though we just passed number 418, it is really not difficult to come up with new, fresh ideas.

Focus on The Simpsons has changed over the years, Groening says.

- In the first episodes, Bart was the main character, but now it's Homer. I have become more and more in love with him. He is a typical middle-aged man. When he has the opportunity to make a mistake, he makes mistakes, and I think there is something very charming about that. This is also the case in the film adaptation.

In The Simpsons Movie, the family father has to take action when he manages to root for a disaster that will soon create problems far beyond Springfield's borders, and eventually catch the interest of President Arnold Schwarzenegger.

And just as Reality's California governor has climbed high since breaking through in the Mr. Universe bodybuilder competition in 1967, Los Angeles-based Groening has come a long way since he began his career as a underground signer in the late 1970s. He was best known for the peculiar comic strip Life in Hell when he was commissioned by the TV channel Fox to make a weekly animated feature for The Tracey Ullman Show in 1987. In all his haste, Groening made sketches of a dysfunctional family, the names of family members, Lisa, Maggie, Homer and Margaret, were taken from his own.

The boy's name was the only thing he changed – to Bart – so that the similarities would not be too striking. Two and a half years later, The Simpsons received its own program, with half-hour long episodes, each week in prime time. The series then quickly went from cult series to a global, popular cultural phenomenon.

Simpsons mania

"It was once in the early 1990s that I realized that The Simpsons was about to become something very big," says Groening.

- In the spring, the pure Simpsons mania broke out. You could buy t-shirts and posters on every street corner in New York. It probably also helped the popularity that the show was condemned by then President George Bush, the 53-year-old chuckles.

"We need a nation closer to the Waltons than to the Simpsons," Bush said, even describing the Groening phenomenon like this: "We started from something as conservative and conventional as a family sitcom. We made the characters ugly, and designed them into something that looks nothing like anything else in the animation world. ”

Homer and companion were not the first dysfunctional family. The Flintstones were the most successful animation series before, but were meant for children. In the 1980s, the series had a close relative in Our Worst Years (Married… with Children). The The Bradleys family, designed by Peter Bagge from 1985 until today, is described as "The Simpsons on acid". But when The Simpsons got their own TV series, it was considered a risky venture.

- There was no one who knew of any animated TV series for adults in prime time.

Will not age

Groening says he is constantly asked why he does not let the characters develop and age.

- I think they are the best at the age they are. Lisa is probably the one who has a bright future, she wants to go to college and get a solid education, and certainly move from Springfield. Homer will never escape fate, he will remain the same in Springfield. And Bart is facing a rather sad teenage fate. As a ten-year-old, he is cute enough, but if he continues in the same way for a few more years, he will end up in prison.

- There have always been rumors of a Simpsons movie. Why has it taken so long?

- I did not want to do it just to do it. I was waiting for the right opportunity, the right plot. It has been more than enough to work with the TV episodes, make sure they are of a high quality. It is time consuming to develop a feature film.

The Simpsons Movie has become not only a collection of episodes, but a cinematic experience.

- The thought of hearing a full cinema hall laugh at "my" family is of course appealing. Besides, you can do things on film that you can't do on TV. Nudity, for example. On TV we get problems if we show Bart's ass. But we break that barrier in the film. When people heard that there will be nudity in the film, I got a storm of protests and angry letters from fans. I answered them in a few words: “I guarantee you will not be offended. If you do and do not laugh, I will personally refund your cinema ticket. "

Premiere in Springfield

One week before the world premiere on July 27, the first official screening will take place in Springfield. 14 American small towns with the same name as the town in the series have competed for which is most similar to the original, and the winner – with over 15.000 votes – was the small town of Springfield in Vermont.

- Some of the Springfield towns claim that the inspiration comes from their town, because they have a mayor who looks like Mayor Quimby or because they have a nuclear power plant. Everyone has their own reasons for claiming that their Springfield is most similar to the one in The Simpsons. There was even a city in New Zealand that tried!

- I reckon I have to complain to all the Springfields who did not reach the top of the competition. Hehe!

But if the interest in Springfield is great, it is even greater for the head of the Simpson family, Homer Simpson. He has been voted the greatest American of all time, and ranked above Abraham Lincoln, Bob Dylan and Martin Luther King jr. In the Oxford English Dictionary, Homer has made his entrance, where his irritating outburst "d'oh" is listed as "an irritating grunt".

Groening admits that Homer is his favorite, and has a simple theory of why people like family dad so well, despite all his shortcomings.

- Buster Keaton once said that the audience loves "the slow thinker". I also think that is the case with Homer Simpson. ■

Translated and processed and off

Nils Vermund Gjerstad


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