Permanent Record: Mr. Largo

Moaning Lisa9

“Alright, class, from the top: one and two and three and. . .” – Mr. Largo

American primary schools are filled with godawful bands.  While a few students might genuinely like playing music and even have some skill, most of the members are kids that have no particular aptitude for music, aren’t overly fond of their instruments, and/or are only in the band because their parents made them join.  In this context, “band” is just another class or after school activity, something most of the kids will go through the motions for, if only to keep the adults off their backs.  At the head of this artistically doomed enterprise is the music teacher, someone who has, for whatever reason, ended up teaching on the lowest rung of musical education. 

Mr. Largo perfectly exemplifies every bad stereotype there is about school music teachers.  He’s an authoritarian, he long ago lost whatever passion he had for music or his work, and, as Lisa would reveal in Season 2, his most profound lesson to probably his best student was that “even the noblest concerto can be drained of its beauty and soul”.  We can see all of these traits in Largo’s brief two scenes in “Moaning Lisa”. 

In the first, at band practice, he not only lashes out at Lisa for not playing along dully like the rest of the students, but evinces not a whit of empathy for her or the hardscrabble Americans she invokes as her justification for straying from the sheet music.  All he cares about is making those kids play “My Country Tis of Thee”, and if their rendition is off key, off rhythm and only barely recognizable as the song they’re trying to play, well, he doesn’t care about that. 

In his second appearance, just after Marge has given Lisa her terrible advice about smiling no matter what, he point blank tells Lisa that he doesn’t want any more “creativity” from her.  For Largo, music isn’t about being creative, it’s about muddling through with strict adherence to the original, however inadequate or terrible sounding. 

As a character, and despite his inclusion in the opening credits, Largo never developed into a standby the way many other Season 1 creations did.  He didn’t become Lisa’s foil the way Krabappel and Skinner were Bart’s, and except for background shots he rarely appeared outside of the school.  But as with so many other characters, Largo didn’t need a great deal of backstory or his own star turn in an episode to make him seem like a real person.  He was a music teacher who, by temperament, talent and good, old fashioned apathy, was cut out to be little else.  He didn’t really like his job or his students, and that made him a perfect fit in Springfield and at Springfield Elementary.

12 Responses to “Permanent Record: Mr. Largo”

  1. 12 February 2013 at 11:20 am

    Even his name, Largo, is the musical direction given for slow and often plodding playing style. Subtle and fitting.

    Fast forward 20 years to characters like Crazy Cat Lady…

  2. 6 Anonymous
    12 February 2013 at 1:32 pm

    Speaking of “every bad stereotype”, it’s really disheartening to see Mr. Largo used like Smithers now, just another series of gay stereotypes that the show used to be above. And where did this come from, what evidence of his sexuality do we have from the first, say, 15 seasons?

    • 12 February 2013 at 7:06 pm

      I guess they figured somewhere along the line “Hey, his voice sounds kind of femmy. Let’s make him gay! That way we can have ANOTHER character to dump all of our gay jokes onto.”

      • 8 Stan
        12 February 2013 at 8:36 pm

        Actually he and Sideshow Mel kinda took on the “maybe queer” satire after Smithers came out of the closet by Season 13 or so.
        What they did basically was taking characters who looked weird because of the cartoonish direction the show has taken ever since, and make them act weird too. Oh I just wish I could up and unsee everything they have turned into.

  3. 12 February 2013 at 5:36 pm

    You can foresee Mr Largo and the Springfield Elementary “band” playing at the graduation ceremonies of departing students, just to justify his pay check. Perhaps he should have died a natural death like Dr Marvin Monroe?

  4. 11 Sumguy
    12 February 2013 at 10:49 pm

    I blame his underuse on Lisa’s “growth.” Early-season Lisa was a kid who might grow up to create new genres of music, but was too malformed in development and in too bad of a situation to ever have a hope of that. Mr. Largo foils that perfectly, but in comparison to Zombie Lisa, a supra-genius cause-of-the-week woman-in-a-girl’s-body, he just has nothing to say.

  5. 12 abra cadaver
    13 February 2013 at 1:00 pm

    Excellent analysis. “he long ago lost whatever passion he had for music or his work” sums up the guy perfectly, as well as my high school band teacher, who watched AMADEUS 50 times a year and only liked the Beatles and refused to accept any music that strayed from convention as ‘music’…

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