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The Comical Evolution of Homer

Updated on April 21, 2017

Sophisticated Beginnings

Back in 1987, a bunch of clips starring a dysfunctional family aired on the Tracey Ulman show. Created by Matt Groening, The Simpson's episodic misfortunes proved a hit and eventually were picked up by the Fox Network. Now it holds the title of longest running cartoon sit-com in existence, with over 600 episodes, a movie, numerous video game incarnations, comics, toys and other 'craptastic' merchandise. But every show has a cornerstone. Family Guy has the slapstick bumblings of childlike Peter Griffon, Futurama has the down-on-his luck delivery boy, Phillip J. Fry, and Adventure Time, despite a colourful host of characters like Finn the Human, and Marceline the Vampire Queen, has the popular Jake the Dog. With regards to the Simpsons, it is Homer Simpson: the quintessential, beer and pork rinds-loving patriarch of a middleclass family in suburban Springfield.

A Homerific Classic Reaction

A Cornerstone Character

Allegedly admired by Sir Alec Guinness himself, The Simpsons was a ground breaking hit that took the 90s by storm. In an interview, Groening had this to say about his creation: 'What we try to do is do something that is a little bit different from your average cartoon you see on T.V. Why try to be a little bit more sophisticated and a little bit wittier.'

Some of the wittiest one liner's and misadventures centre around Homer J Simpson. Here is a character who has done everything from jump the gorge aboard a skateboard in season ?, episode ?, woefully teach his son hunting tips when the family get lost in the wild, and famously lose his mind ala ? of The Shining in one of the funniest moments to air on a cartoon. Although a simple safety officer of Sector 7G of the Springfield nuclear power plant, and long time frequenter of Moe's Tavern, the many adventures and experiences of Homer are what have made the show last this long. While some non-Homer character-centered episodes may be a hit with audiences, such as when Marge gets buff and revenge on a thief or how Lisa got her sax, The Simpson's formula always brings us back to the lovable father of three that famously quipped: “I believe that children are our future. Unless we stop them now.”

Children are our future concert???...I've never wanted a beer so much in my life

First Simpson Homer has landed

Every new show needs to establish its characters very quickly or else it will go the way of the dodo. Throughout a show's creation, show ratings and a solid bedrock audience hold sway over its continuation. What keeps many view goers is a very relatable albeit composite quirky character of Homer. He is not the perfect family man, works (or slacks off) at a dead end job and dreams of a better life where the beers on endless tap and the doughnuts fall like rain from the sky. At first, on paper, one can imagine he doesn't sound like an appealing character, but its through his emotional reactions and how he develops and acts through conflict that make Homer Simpson the most memorable character of the first season. Deep down, it also reveals the worries and socially conscious mind of the family breadwinner as he yells to his children: 'Be normal!'

Homer of the Wild

Homer J. Simpson's attempt at resourcefulness is a snapshot of man's eternal struggle to be dominant, to be the leader. Men often have their sense of pride attached to their skills, ingenuity and ability to problem solve...something that, in the episode 'The Call of the Simpsons' 'father figure' Homer fails at dismally. To add to the dilemmas encountered by a family lost in the wilderness after loosing their motor home, one can't help but remember that the whole episode actually started as a 'Meet the Joneses' competition of material values. Neighbour, Ned Flanders, shows off his immaculate RV, prompting Homer to out do him by getting one of his own. The whole episode neatly plays on that inbuilt animal desire in us to show off our success to others.

Survival Homer

In Crisis Homer

In Season three of The Simpson's an episode was broadcast titled 'Homer Defined.' It is an integral part of the development of the key character for one very good reason. Often in our own experiences we have learnt that when the proverbial shit hits the fan, you will find out who the real people are. The real leaders. Now Homer may not be leadership material, but this entertaining story of his panic amidst a meltdown boils down to, in a mere 22 minutes, a deeper meaning. One that comes to light when Homer is lauded for his quick thinking in a crisis. Known only to himself as a fluke of success, Homer becomes disheartened as he is praised for heroism that he does not deserve, which highlights our own great need for drive and purpose in our lives.

Homer's Meltdown

Oh Homer of Little Faith

Episode 'Homer the Heritic', in season 4 reveals to us something of the zeitgeist of our modern age: that people are turning from institutionalized religions in tides. It is an interesting episode to say the least, and if you are an avid Simpsons viewer, can't help but call to mind Lisa Simpson's pursuit of spiritual expression as she explores Eastern faith systems, which seems to be as much a part of turning away from Western religions, as people look for something deeper and more meaningful and that many see in beliefs such as Buddhism, Kabbalism and New Age mysticism. It is a great episode as it has Homer wanting to rebel against the rules of his Christian faith, which seems to speak of many true-heart Protestants, 'believers in exile' or protesters of religion. Ultimately, 'Homer the Heretic' ends with Homer making his peace with God, but despite its cartoonish entertainment, what The Simpson's manages here is something we all can relate with: seeking spiritual belief and deep cosmic or supernatural connection away from dogmatic religion and controlling beliefs about how we must live our lives.

The sins of comfort

No T.V. and no beer make Homer something, something

What was that famous line in 'Girl, Interrupted'?...sometimes the only way to stay sane is to go a little crazy. In Homer's decent into madness in Treehouse of Horror V, season 6, we see a comedic take on Steven King's famous novel 'The Shining.' Similar to the character of Jack Torrance who struggles with his alcohol abuse and his dismissal from the teaching profession, Homer, also marginalized by fortune, becomes enraged when his human comforts are taken away by his boss, C. Montgomery Burns. It is a message that is applicable the world around: the boss or the toxic working environment gets under our skin and we want to explode a little. Or perhaps it is what the boss, Mr Burns, represents: a success-controlled totalitarian system where Homer doesn't choose his ideal job or life, but is conditioned into it. It speaks to audiences as we all feel intuitively that being a little mad is ok, and that all the job, money and ownership we seem to strive for is sometimes counter to what we really want.

Homer go crazy? Don't mind if I do!

Will the human Homer please rise?

Lastly, in the evolution of Homer we see a very real and controversial topic being addressed: Homer's fidelity. In season 5, 'The Last Temptation of Homer' we see Homer attracted to another woman, Mindy Simmons, who seems to have more in common with him than his wife, Marge. This situation is not new to him, as he has had run in's with marge about his objectification or entanglement with other women in other episodes such as 'Homer's Night Out' and 'Colonel Homer.' Many viewers would fine it deplorable some of the things Homer gets up to including several controversial subjects: neglect, alcoholism, representation of foreign peoples and religions. But at his heart, Homer is a good person, as highlighted in his attempts to school Bart, take an interest in Lisa and show his love to his wife. To highlight his good naturedness, I thought the scene where Mindy and Homer are stuck in the elevator directly shows his aversion for something immoral. The result? Homer decides to exit the elevator and hilariously falls out.

And finally...honest Homer

The window of a dreamer's mind...Homer evolved


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