As a ridiculous Simpsons nerd who's re-watched most of the classic episodes a number of times that'll sound like a jokey exaggeration if I admitted it, and because the Internet exists for the sole purpose of making ordered non-topical lists about our favorite things, I've collected this list of 8 Weirdly Out Of Character Jokes From Classic Simpsons Episodes.
Three quick notes before we begin:
1) None of this is actual criticism; it's nerdy, "Genius At Work"-shirted nitpicking purely so we Simpsons-obsessives can talk about The Simpsons. Think of it like a Bible Study, but with more important source material.
2) The examples here are confined to seasons 2-10.
3) This list doesn't include out-of-character moments where the out-of-characterness is the joke itself, like when Homer puts on glasses and instantly recites the Pythagorean Theorem. This is a very important distinction (in a very important internet list).
That said, onto the weird moments in the best thing ever made!
On the eve of his triple bypass surgery, Homer reassures Marge, "Don't worry, Marge, America's health care system is second only to Japan
Canada, Sweden, Great Britain
well, all of Europe. But you can thank your lucky stars we don't live in Paraguay!" It's a factually accurate jab at U.S. healthcare, but how is Homer able to recite international healthcare statistics with great specificity when he doesn't even know what Canada is ("Anyone could miss Canada on a map
all tucked away down there
"), he's never heard of Australia before seeing it on a globe, and he thinks Uruguay is called "You Are Gay"? But he knows 'Paraguay' and its poor healthcare ranking?
How do you explain THAT, writers of a thing from 1992 that is literally my favorite thing ever in every way?
When the Simpsons visit New York, Bart sees a group of Hasidic Jews and yells at them "Hey, it's ZZ Top you guys rock!" But we know from the Hullabalooza episode that Bart hates classic rock, telling Homer that no one cares about his stupid "Dinosaur Bands," and he's never listened to a Sting album or heard of Jefferson Airplane, Grand Funk, E.L.P. or B.T.O. (or their hit single "T.C.B." it was the 70s, there wasn't a moment to spare).
He's also a huge Michael Jackson fan, loves profane morning radio DJs, and frequently drops late 80s / early 90s rap references, lobbying to name the Simpsons' potential fourth child "Kool Moe Dee Simpson". How would Bart know what ZZ Top looks like, and even if he did, he really thinks they "rock"? I mean, what are we to believe, that this is some sort of a
magic xylophone or something? I really hope somebody got fired for that blunder.
When Principal Skinner loses his job, we see him at home wearing a "Principals Do It 9 Months A Year" novelty apron, which seems like an oddly racy choice for a guy who's so straight-laced, he doesn't even understand the Mad Magazine slogan "Up with mini-skirts!", he forbids his army platoon to sing a chant about a lady with a hole in her underpants, and he refuses to even say the word "ass" (though he will think it under telepathic circumstances).
Unless, of course, the reverse-implication here is that Skinner doesn't even get that there's innuendo in the apron and thinks it's a very literal slogan about principals' jobs. This reading is absurd and hilarious, but might not totally be out of the realm of possibility for the man so free of whimsy, he once delivered the line "The times they are a-becoming quite different," and who took great pleasure in the sound of his uniformed student body blinking in unison. I guess if Skinner's never even heard of Jurassic Park, we'll have to chalk this apron thing up to simple ignorance on the part of Billy and the Cloneasaurus' creator.
One of the weirdest sequences in early-Simpsons history (excluding out-of-reality moments like Homer's amazing photographic memory) comes in the touching Season 5 episode "Lady Bouvier's Lover"; At one point, when Grandpa is falling for Marge's mother on the dance floor, Mr. Burns abruptly cuts in and asks Marge's mom to dance, then proceeds to swing dance extremely adeptly while Grandpa gives him the frowning of a lifetime.
Mr. Burns is an actual leper who's physically incapable of giving a thumbs-up or using a bowling alley hand-fan without struggling, but then for one moment, he's a super-capable dancer who wins over Mrs. Bouvier with his dexterity? I call "balderdash" and/or "pish posh."
Part of the brilliance of the Lisa character is her equal balance of impossible-maturity (fantasizing about winning the Nobel Peace Prize) and believable childishness (fantasizing about impaling Bart on her Nobel Peace Prize), but she's certainly no stranger to death: She wrote an impassioned poem about the death of her cat that calls out her mother for saying it was 'sleeping,' she attended her Great Aunt Gladys' open-casket funeral, and she didn't buy a park ranger's humoring explanation that her lost father would be "just fine" (right before telling the other rangers to put on their corpse-handling gloves.)
Which is why, it's pretty weirdly out of character when Lisa asks Marge if some rabbits hanging in a Chinatown market are "dead," allowing for her response "no they're just sleeping
and inside-out." Yes, Lisa's eight, but she's also a qualified MENSA member who taught a baby the word "credenza," so in the words of Lionel Hutz after asking one witness one question, I rest my case.
Wait! I thought that was just a figure of speech! I meant "Case closed."
Bart's expensive collect call to Australia triggers an angry response from the boy's father (as well as Gus, his Member of Parliament, and the nation's esteemed Prime Minister), but just seconds before the phone call, Bart hadn't even heard of Australia (or the Southern Hemisphere), having randomly just selected it by spinning a globe (and failing to get responses from an Antarctic research facility and latter-day carphone-having Hitler.)
How would someone who thinks Rand McNally is a country where people wear hats on their feet and hamburgers eat people suddenly pull out an incredibly Australia-specific reference about a country he just found out existed? I know those words, but that sign makes no sense.
One of the more ambiguous aspects of Bart's character is his wildly varying opinions on women and sexuality; on one hand, he keeps a Playdude under his bed and has a crush on his older babysitter and Reverend Lovejoy's daughter, but he also resents Milhouse for constantly kissing a girl and also once declares "Why would anyone want to touch a girl's butt? That's where cooties come from!"
So when Bart skips school and sneaks into an R-Rated movie (a few episodes after missing out on his friends sneaking into Barton Fink, but before he and his friends sneak into Naked Lunch in a later episode), it's a little weird to imagine Bart sitting in an empty theater basking in a film called "Boobarama." But on the other hand, the title "Boobarama" is giggly and perfect. So, uh, in conclusion, isn't that what we're all asking in our own lives, "where's my elephant?" I know it's what I've been asking.
When Homer is accused of being a sexual deviant who sleeps nude in an oxygen tent that he believes gives him seeexual powers ("That's a half truth!"), a confused Lisa asks him "What are they saying you did?" and Homer gives her an analogy that invokes a birthday card where an alligator bit a little girl's bottom. How could Lisa a first-rate activist who went after Malibu Stacy for sexist comments (and one time threw red paint at Keebler executives) not understand sexual harassment at all, especially with 24/7 Homer Simpson news coverage and made-for-tv movies? Did she not learn anything from Homer S: Portrait of an Ass-Grabber? ("Ooh, portrait sounds classy.")
Or maybe I subconsciously just wrote this entire post as an excuse to make that Rock Bottom "Dramatization! May not have happened!" GIF. Well, I worked hard on this post, and in a way, I did it for both reasons. But in another more accurate way, "doing the entire post for this Rock Bottom GIF" was the reason.
Any other out-of-character classic Simpsons moments you can think of? Feel free to leave them in the comments. Or feel free to just call me and we can hang out and talk about them. What's the point of this story? I like stories.
(Simpsons GIFs by Alex Schmidt)