The Simpsons premiered way back on the 19th December 1989 and continues today, making it the longest running American sitcom. And, with a contract that will see it through till at least 2019, the show will turn 30 years old, a truly remarkable achievement.
When The Simpsons first aired it was faced with criticism due to its confrontation with conservative family values – in particular Bart Simpson who questioned, fought and talked back to authority at every opportunity. As a result he was seen as a bad influence on American youth.
When “The Simpsons” was in its second season, First Lady Barbara Bush, in an interview with People Magazine, called the show; “The dumbest thing [she] had ever seen, but it’s a family thing, and I guess it’s clean”. Unfortunately, the edited version of the quote removed the second part of the sentence to make it appear a sharper criticism. As a result, show producer James L. Brooks and The Simpsons writing staff decided to respond, in the form of a polite letter written by Marge Simpson.
September 28, 1990
Mrs. Barbara Bush
The First Lady
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Dear First Lady:
I recently read your criticism of my family. I was deeply hurt. Heaven knows we’re far from perfect and, if truth be known, maybe just a wee bit short of normal; but as Dr. Seuss says, “a person is a person”.
I try to teach my children Bart, Lisa, and even little Maggie, always to give somebody the benefit of the doubt and not talk badly about them, even if they’re rich. It’s hard to get them to understand this advice when the very First Lady in the country calls us not only dumb, but “the dumbest thing” she ever saw. Ma’am, if we’re the dumbest thing you ever saw, Washington must be a good deal different than what they teach me at the current events group at the church.
I always believed in my heart that we had a great deal in common. Each of us living our lives to serve an exceptional man. I hope there is some way out of this controversy. I thought, perhaps, it would be a good start to just speak my mind.
With great respect,
First Lady Barbara Bush responded to Marge with an apologetic letter of her own, which she hoped would bring an end to the controversy and showed a certain humility given that her quote was presented not entirely in context.
How kind of you to write. I’m glad you spoke your mind; I foolishly didn’t know you had one.
I am looking at a picture of you, depicted on a plastic cup, with your blue hair filled with pink birds peeking out all over. Evidently, you and your charming family — Lisa, Homer, Bart and Maggie — are camping out. It is a nice family scene. Clearly you are setting a good example for the rest of the country.
Please forgive a loose tongue.
P.S. Homer looks like a handsome fella!