Minor Scenes: Springfield’s Culture

Minor scenes is just a series where I can write some shorter posts on small scenes from TV and film that I think are worth talking about, even if they don’t warrant a full essay.

The Simpsons Season 5 Episode 6 | Marge on the Lam

There’s something very distinctive about small town culture – or, more accurately, the lack of it.

Moving from a middle-of-nowhere village or town to a city, or even just visiting one, gives you a taste of what there is out there. It always seemed odd to me, having the ability to grab cheap tickets to the next up-and-coming indie band as a teenager, go to your first play at eleven years old, and have the only real obstacle for spending an empty day in the calendar be money.

This is one of the many, many ways that the writers of The Simpsons nailed a specific feeling, or tone, of a place that many of us have felt like we have lived. Springfield, while set in a different country to my own and full of all sorts of colourful characters, plot-specific districts and an amorphous geography, always seemed like a reflection of my own hometown.


Not only do the characters of the show not have the ability to view or take part in certain cultural events or art scenes (in the early seasons at least), but they don’t have the context to understand it. There are those like Lisa, who finds small avenues of culture where she can and desperately longs to move somewhere where she’ll find more of it – but her parents are a little different.

With little awareness of what they could have, this generation are fine to live without it for the most part. This is best summed up in the episode ‘Marge on the Lam,’ when Marge gets tickets to the ballet. Homer insists that he enjoys “all the meats of our cultural stew,” but is oblivious to its true meaning, happily fantasising about something far less… sophisticated.

As a second hitter to this gag, it turns out Homer isn’t the only one.

Telling his co-workers that he’s got to take his wife to the ballet that evening, Lenny replies: “Gonna go see the bear in the little car, huh?”

Homer doesn’t actually make it there, but Marge does – making a new friend in neighbour Ruth Powers

Once she’s there, Marge finally gets her outlet and sees one of the meats of Springfield’s cultural stew – perfectly happy to see her town’s less refined version of the performative dance.

Previous ‘Minor Scene’:

Captain’s Orders

Minor Scenes: Captain’s Orders

Minor scenes is just a series where I can write some shorter posts on small scenes from TV and film that I think are worth talking about, even if they don’t warrant a full essay.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a big step up for the MCU, which until that point had been putting out solid, entertaining movies confident enough in their balance of comedy and set pieces to not really change. 2014 was the year to shake things up, first with this spy thriller variation on the superhero sub-genre, then the irreverent space opera that was Guardians of the Galaxy capping the year off.

Bringing a character like Captain America to the big screen isn’t easy – and likely even harder than other straightforward and upstanding superheroes like Superman. America itself isn’t exactly the most popular country on the planet, so how do you sell a man who not only comes from an era where jingoism was the name of the game for comic books – but wears the stars and stripes as his uniform?


Well, the answer is that you focus on something else: Steve Rogers. A man blindly serving his country isn’t particularly compelling, but a man whose life offered him no respite from tragedy yet still puts himself on the line for the sake of doing what’s right? That is something that you can sell – and it worked.

The Winter Soldier saw his character confronted with the moral greys of government oversight and preemptive warfare, and so gives us a character whose arc is to not really change. Luckily, the people around him, and the situation itself, gives us plenty to work with, from secondary characters to people you would assume wouldn’t even get a name in the credits.

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