Sam Simon, 1955-2015

“Television! Teacher! Mother! Secret Lover!” Clutching a portable TV set in the snow, during a masterful parody of  The Shining, television is all that can prevent Homer from murdering his family. I can relate. Growing up too fat for sports and too suburban for diversions, I spent my childhood watching America’s most dysfunctional family: The Simpsons. It was therefore with a feeling of acute sadness that I received news this week of the passing of Sam Simon, the man who helped to create Springfield. Simon died aged 59, after being diagnosed with terminal colon cancer in 2012. Since his diagnosis, the nine-time Emmy Award Winner and co-creator of the longest-running prime time show on US television, set about giving away his $100 million fortune, primarily to animal welfare charities.

Simon’s formative role in The Simpsons helped shape it into what it is today, insisting that voice actors read their parts collaboratively, creating the authentic cadence and comic timing for which The Simpsons has become familiar. In its 26th series, The Simpsons is undoubtedly one of the most important shows of all time, constituting a foundational  viewing experience for a generation. Its genius  isn’t relegated to childhood nostalgia, as continued viewing highlights its layered brilliance. Jokes that are beyond child comprehension are fully appreciated by adults, a testimony not frequently applicable in the genre of animated comedy.

Given the instrumental role The Simpsons played in my childhood, it is reassuring that my cartoon education was well-rounded. The Simpsons has parodied a staggering canon of literature, cinema and historical events. My adult introduction to the films such as  Crimson Tide felt profoundly familiar, as I had already seen their plots played out in Springfield. Lisa Simpson was the first feminist I knew and loved, and my guarded attitude towards right-wing politics is doubtless influenced by the show’s mockery of all things conservative. My boundless gratitude belongs to Sam Simon, for his fundamental role in creating the animated world, where my youthful mind gorged itself.

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