So on Friday I went and participated in the grand cultural event of the summer, seeing the Simpsons Movie. I suppose one could make the case that Harry Potter has attracted more attention and the coming out of the series' seventh and final book was more of an event, but I don't think it held the attention of as many adults, since the Simpsons fan base is much broader, having been on the air since 1989. Nor has it been as long a time coming, since this movie has been planned and talked about since the middle of the 1990s.
Anyways, I went and saw a matinee showing of it at the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville. There was a line to buy tickets when I arrived (I had gotten mine before hand) yet inside in the actual theatre there was plenty of seating. I wished
there were more people, it would have made it more of an experience. Still it was not empty and when something funny happened, there was enough laughter to fill the chamber so I never found myself the lone chuckler.
I don't know what I can say about the film. I did not leave disappointed, but the sense of fulfillment I got after leaving the movie was more of a sense of closure than the feeling of having watched a great work of art, or something that had me rolling on the sticky floor the whole time. Rather it was the pleasure of seeing a part of my childhood and teenage years coming to a close, going as far as it could and doing the most with a larger block of time and a screen. Simply seeing Home hurt himself or Bart skateboard on such a giant surface was an experience in and of itself.
There were plenty of jokes, and lines that will probably creep their way into my conversations, but only with those who are devoted fans. I don't know how much they will creep into he popular culture. The animation was different, it was highly computerized, and the plot was a little over the top, but I suppose it would have to be in order to justify an hour and forty five minutes. I thing in retrospect I wished had been present were more of the secondary characters. The movie was like an early episode, basically focused on the family and everyone else having more or less the same standing. Also, the fate of Homer's pet pig, which was left open and never addressed, was something that the film should have handled better. (I suppose he survives to create an opening for a sequel?)
I was raised on the show. My father was an enthusiastic supporter of it, I remember having friends I would give synopsises of every episode to, because their parents forbade them to watch it. I was there from the start, the early stories that were Bart-centric, to the summer wondering who shot Mr. Burns, seeing countless shows, presidents, and events parodied and satirized, and trying to watch the recent seasons in honest contemplation without the bias of having seen the show's glory days.
It was the most important source of humor for me and as I suspect, most of my generation. It gave us our appreciation for satire, wit, and irony, before we even knew what these were. When we were told about them, it was the Simpsons we turned to for examples. Even for moral and philosophical lessons, it was better than anything else. My father still shows the Simpsons in his Sunday School class.
Never was there a show that was such a bonding element for a group of young people. We mastered its lines and we recited them like psalms to the great gods of humor past, to show to each other we could be funny in an emergency, we had something to say if anything else failed us. The Simpsons became like a Gideon's bible, with a list of references that could be used for any situation, good or bad. "Worst (blank) ever!" is just one example of a malleable phrase that has found its way into a variety of unexpected places.
So when I saw the film, I felt like I was watching a fitting end, a the last hit by an aging baseball player, not the explosive end, nor the triumphant return, but an adequate attempt to show that it still could make me laugh and captivate me with the microcosm of the United States that is Springfield.
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