“Bobo, I know I say this every century, but I’ll never leave you behind again.” – C.M. Burns
There is a danger, particularly acute when talking about something as ephemeral as a television show, to be overly fond of the past. Most of the time, the good old days weren’t that good; they sucked and were full of polio and bigotry. But The Simpsons is the exception that proves the rule. Those first eight seasons were – are – that good. They dissect and satirize modern American pathology so well that it likely can’t be done better, and certainly not on a platform as broad as network television.
Distinguishing that from the safe, monotonous drone of Zombie Simpsons isn’t important the way addressing climate change or resettling refugees is important, but on the less immediately meaningful level of what we remember as a society, it is vital. The Simpsons stands a good chance of defining our era the same way Shakespeare and Mark Twain define theirs. It is us distilled, all the way to our rotten and forgivable cores, and when people a hundred years and more from now want to understand us, that hilarious shorthand is where they’ll turn. The Simpsons is as good as we can do; it’s smart, funny, insightful and unashamed. It seems a pity to confuse the future about what is and is not the genuine article.