The Simpsons moulded my entire childhood. Whatever I was doing on Sunday nights invariably became a race against time until I heard the iconic theme music and bounded downstairs for that week’s new episode. I had books, posters, and a directory of classic quotes.
Every self-respecting Simpsons fan has a favourite character. Answers vary from oafish and lovable patriarch Homer (naturally), to one-off fan favourites like charming megalomaniac Hank Scorpio. I always found it really hard to narrow it down, but there was one person I would never have dreamed of choosing. Lisa Marie Simpson.
As an 8-year-old girl, I found her the most annoying character on the show. She was irritating, a serious foil to her more fun brother. Lisa came across as wound-up and a total buzzkill, and nobody I knew really seemed to have anything positive to say about her.
When asked why I disliked her all I used to say was ‘she’s annoying’. The real reason is I had a fear of something that I knew was true, deep down in my soul. I too, was a wound up buzzkill. I was a Lisa.
Let me explain a bit. As a child I was studious and craved the approval of teachers, every gold star on an essay providing me with proof I was ‘good’. I moralised to adults about littering and kept a regular nature diary, carefully noting the Latin names for all of the flowers I recorded. This is all typical behaviour of a common-or-garden Lisa.
Relating to Lisa but being desperate not to was hard. An episode where she had to deal with an academic rival, Alison (hey, Winona Ryder) and the jealousy that came with it hit far too close to home for me, and her efforts to impress her hip new friends on her beach vacation made me cringe with self-recognition. I also wanted desperately to be cool and impress the other kids at school, so my inherent Lisa-ness was something I didn’t want to play up.
But as I became a teenager I started to view Lisa in a new light. Having matured a little, I began to see that the world wasn’t often a fair place for her.
She wasn’t just a precocious kid with a superiority complex (although there certainly is an element of that, tbf). By revisiting the older episodes where I had written her off as an 8-year-old nag, I found instead a girl who was the moral centre of the show – whose passion for doing the right thing was now something that actually… inspired me.
Lisa consistently rails against unfair systems, from sexist Malibu Stacey dolls or Mr Burns polluting Springfield with slurry. She worries about being mediocre, being alone, and not fitting in like all of us – but there’s nothing wrong with wanting things to be better, and it’s not uncool to try. Lisa Simpson really CARES. Now I embrace my innate Lisa-ness, and you should too.
Here are just a few of Lisa’s best moments, that made me realise how brilliant she really is.
Lisa VS Malibu Stacey
Lisa Simpson: feminist icon. After she receives a Malibu Stacey doll who only speaks in sexist cliches about how she likes shopping and can’t you know, use her brain, Lisa goes on a valiant fight to change things.
Lisa The Beauty Queen
In this old episode, Lisa is entered into a beauty pageant by Homer in a misguided attempt to make her feel better about how she looks. Lisa is up against Amber Dempsey (and her false eyelashes from Paraguay), and although she doesn’t win first place, her performance still SLAYS.
Bart To The Future
In Bart’s vision of the future, we see Lisa become the President of the United States. And frankly I feel like we would be in a better position if that were true today.
Bart Sells His Soul
Although Lisa and Bart are fundamentally different and often fight, when the going gets tough Lisa is always prepared to help him out.
Summer of 4ft 2
This episode deals with Lisa and the crushing disappointment that comes when you aren’t fitting in at school. After she changes her image to impress some cool kids at the beach and is outed as a nerd by Bart, she worries about how she’ll ever make friends. A lot of people can identify with how hard that is, and she sums up the panic *perfectly*.
Lisa The Vegetarian
After a visit to the petting zoo, Lisa makes the decision to be a vegetarian – much to the confusion of her carnivorous family. She receives a whole heap of judgement at home and at school and eventually snaps at Homer’s barbecue when he wants to serve an entire roast pig. But eventually, with the help of Apu and world famous veggies Paul and Linda McCartney, she tries to understand her dad a little bit more.
In this flash forward episode, we see Lisa fall in love with Hugh Parkfield. He’s intelligent and handsome, the perfect man. Except for one thing. He hates Lisa’s family and compares her to a flower that ‘grew out of a pot of dirt’. This insult causes her to call off the wedding, and she’s dead right too.