Ay, caramba! 'The Simpsons' 30th anniversary: Fox's iconic animated comedy has kept its relevance through 3 decades
The show has achieved memetic status with its uncanny ability to have predicted some iconic moments in history
If there is one television show that has managed to remain zeitgeisty in the last three decades of its existence, it is Fox’s animated comedy, ‘The Simpsons’. While many believe the show’s landmark fall from grace began some twenty years ago with the episode ‘The Principal and the Pauper’ (season 9, episode 2), it is an undeniable fact that ‘The Simpsons’ is as much a fixture of popular culture as is ‘Harry Potter’ or ‘Batman’.
In fact, the show has achieved memetic status with its uncanny ability to have predicted some iconic moments in history. Now in its 31st season with more than 600 episodes, the show recently celebrated its 30th anniversary December 17.
On that occasion, SEMrush, a trends data provider, took a comprehensive look at Google searches about the show. Analyzing data from 2015 and ahead, SEMrush found some interesting things.
For starters, Bart Simpson is the most Googled character in the U.S. -- in the context of the show, of course. The other most-searched characters on the show are Homer Simpson, Sideshow Bob, Marge Simpson, Lisa Simpson, Mr. Burns, Ned Flanders, Krusty the Clown, Apu and finally Ralph Wiggum.
While Bart beating Homer is certainly a surprise -- Homer is, after all, the face of the show -- what is more surprising is that Apu ranks so low in the list. This, especially considering the recent controversy regarding it. Apu Nahasapeemapetilon’s character has bothered many for a long time.
He’s an Indian immigrant in the town of Springfield who also happens to be the proprietor of Kwik-E-Mart, a convenience store (a parody of Wal-Mart or 7-Eleven). While a recurring brown character in a late '80s TV show can be called oddly progressive, all that changes when you realize that the voice behind Apu's character is by Hank Azaria's.
That and the fact that Apu’s character is the manifestation of every Indian stereotype the West can imagine. Apu holds a Ph.D. in computer science and graduated first in his class of “seven million” at “Caltech”, Calcutta Technical Institute, not California.
He runs a convenience store, something that is a common stereotype of brown people in the United States, after the ubiquitous "desi" taxi driver, of course. Apu has eight children. And finally, Apu has a horrible accent.
American stand-up comic and writer of Indian origin Hari Kondabolu, in fact, created a whole documentary film called ‘The Problem with Apu’ to address just that. How then, does this character rank just above Ralph Wiggum (arguably the show’s dumbest character) and just below Krusty the Clown?
Okay, maybe clowns kind of have become more relevant with the Joker, so that can be a possible explanation. SEMrush also found that the question “Did ‘The Simpsons’ predict Trump?” was one of the most searched ones. Not for nothing, the show actually did. It predicted Donald Trump would become president back in 2000 in the episode ‘Bart To The Future’.
The episode envisioned Lisa Simpson, with an uncanny resemblance to Hillary Clinton, becoming the first female president of the United States. In the show, she says, “As you know, we’ve inherited quite a budget crunch from President Trump.”
Yes, the show in its third decade may not have kept up with the funnies as well as it did earlier, but one can never deny the fact: ‘The Simpsons’ will never lose relevance.