Four Lessons Philadelphia Can Learn from The Simpsons
I’m not (necessarily) proud of it, but I spent most of my weekend with The Simpsons. At best, I’m a casual fan, but on a rainy Saturday, FXX’s 24-hour, 552-episode Simpsons marathon proved to be a pretty seductive mix of cozy nostalgia, surprisingly timeless writing, and non-judgmental hangover company.
Then, things got weird. After six or so uninterrupted hours in Springfield, it became apparent that the allegedly fictional town is based on none other than Philadelphia.
Officially speaking, series creator Matt Groening claims that Springfield is inspired by a number of generic small towns, and the ambiguity of where, exactly, it could exist is a long-running joke on the show (trust me — I haven’t got off my couch in days). Briefly, the honor went to Springfield, Vermont, when Fox held a contest promoting The Simpsons Movie.
However, Philadelphians will recognize the mix of casual corruption, enthusiastic alcoholism, rabid fandom, and blood-sucking, soul-crushing monopolies as, well, home sweet home.
Personally, I’m OK with this — I can get down with a place where my jeans stay in style for 25 years. My issue is that Springfield has, over the years, figured out how to do Philadelphia better than Philadelphia.
Here’s what we could learn, or at least stand to remember, from our four-fingered friends.
Stop Texting New York Already
Barring a grumpy Homer, the Simpsons have a good time in New York City — and then they pile into their wheezing station wagon, drive home, and forget about it. Philadelphia’s raging, unrequited crush on New York has finally gone from embarrassing to problematic. As long as we have an inferiority complex, we will have Dîner en Blanc. As long as we have Dîner en Blanc, we will have pain. It’s time to move on.
Don’t Mess With Moe’s
Although Moe’s occasionally reinvents itself for half an episode, it always returns to the disreputable hole-in-the-wall that Springfield needs it to be. There’s a part of me that’s happy I can order food at The Khyber these days. I’d pick Johnny Brenda’s over most corner bars most of the time. But let’s remember, in our craft-beer haze, how to kick back and enjoy a Duff in a dive. (Disclaimer: Ironically, Fishtown’s own Moe’s Tavern was an indefensible dump that was involved in at least one murder. Good riddance.)
Stay Scrappy for the Kids
Springfield occasionally turns to everything from Mafia handouts to oil drilling when filling holes in the underfunded school district’s budget. Successful? No, but you’ve got to admire the persistent (if not legal) resourcefulness. Is the cigarette tax the high-five miracle we need? I don’t know — I don’t have kids, and I’m no expert on education policy, as I thought my Doritos-dusted Saturday made clear. But it beats hoping schools open on time with magically stocked classrooms.
Embrace the Weirdos
From Krusty to Troy McClure, from Bumblebee Man to Groundskeeper Willie, Springfield has plenty of room for weirdos. Let us never forget that we created our Milton Streets, our Fancy Brigades, our terrifying mascots — and that we wouldn’t be nearly as Philadelphia without them.
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