Minor Scenes: Marge and Moaning Lisa

I’ve been throwing around the idea of a new series, one that allows me to get some shorter posts out on this blog more often as well as provide an opportunity for me to look at smaller things that I don’t have a lengthy enough response to warrant a full essay.


The Simpsons | Season 1 Episode 6 | Moaning Lisa

While the show didn’t hit its comedic stride until a few years later, the first three seasons of The Simpsons are hard-hitting tragi-comic realism that somehow how got made under the guise of being the Bart Simpson experience.

The first season in particular is monumentally depressing at times (remember the time that Homer tried to commit suicide three episodes in?) yet alleviates this with absurd humour and a glimmer of optimism. It was, after all, a show about a dysfunctional family struggling to get by financially and emotionally, which is what makes the celebrity-stuffed morally-careless extravagance of some of the later episodes so unpalatable.

‘Moaning Lisa’, along with season 2’s ‘Bart Gets An F’, is the kind of episode I refuse to watch with friends, because I know I can’t get far without crying. This is in many ways the quintessential Lisa episode, and works effectively as an origin story. Like many children, not even just the smart ones, she is stifled and feels burdened by sadness. She finds a little solace in expressing herself artistically through music. It’s simple but it works.

This scene in particular is one that always stood out to me, and thankfully it’s one of the clips uploaded by one of those very helpful Simpsons Youtube channels that come around once in a blue moon.

The difference between Marge and Lisa has always been fascinating to me – mainly how they embody the generation gap between women who are more alike than they care to admit. Marge is a fairly passive person, and has had her rebellious youth slowly dampened by the responsibilities of adulthood and the eroding effect of institutionalised sexism.

In Lisa, she sees a girl who moans too much and will one day need to grow up and see the world as it is. Her growth this episode is realising she is contributing to the same system that suppressed her in the first place. Marge breaking this cycle to support her daughter and setting her on a new exciting path to personhood is inspiring to say the least.

The scene that surrounds it seems remarkably loose for what is a scripted, animated affair. Lisa’s quiet cough is one of those touches that made this show feel different from the start; more real than its live-action sitcom peers.

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