The Simpsons and the Perpetual Present

Maggie Simpson was a baby when I first watched the Simpsons in the mid nineties. I hadn’t watched an episode in years, until earlier today when I decided to try out the subscription to Disney plus Luke got me for Christmas (thanks bro!) by watching the first episode of the latest season. The program was as amusing as I remembered it being, packed with all the contemporary cultural references it has always had. Yet what struck me as strange was the fact that Maggie was still a baby, and none of the characters had aged at all from when I first encountered them, despite the program still feeling very contemporary. This is obviously only possible because program is a cartoon; the cast would have visibly aged had The Simpsons been live action. Yet it is odd to see characters we have known for about thirty years seemingly occupying the perpetual present. In the episode I watched earlier, for instance, there were references to YouTube, a website which didn’t exist when the show first aired; yet the characters speaking about it were the same age they were thirty years ago when they were referencing things like Bill Clinton being president. To put that another way, I find it strange to think that, were the Simpsons a real family, Maggie would have grown up, graduated from university and got her own family by now; yet she still sucks the same red dummy that she did when we first ‘met’ her. Only a program like The Simpsons can constantly comment on the contemporary world, using the same set of unageing characters.

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