26
Feb
13

Permanent Record: Jimbo Jones

The Telltale Head14

“That one looks like a school bus going over a cliff in flames with kids inside screaming.” – Jimbo Jones

Like any other organization or group of people, a school has a natural hierarchy.  The adults are separate from the kids, obviously, but even within groups there are levels and layers.  For the adults there are staff and faculty, for the students there are grades, gender, circles of friends and lots of other ways the students sort themselves out.  One of the things that made Springfield Elementary so compelling and recognizable as a place, even though it’s fictional and inhabited by people with bulging eyes and no chins, is that the show captured the social ecosystem of a grade school with such trenchant clarity.

Among the kids in Bart’s class we have Milhouse, a weak kid who latches onto Bart, Martin, a true nerd who kisses the teacher’s ass, Sherri and Terri, the goody two (four?) shoes twins, and Nelson, the kid who gets to be the bully by dint of being bigger than everyone else.  “The Telltale Head” shows us some of the kids outside of Bart’s class, specifically the three older bullies: Dolph, Kearney and, above all, Jimbo.

Whereas Nelson is in the same grade as Bart and therefore serves as his daily tormentor, Jimbo and his cronies are older.  They wouldn’t pass up an opportunity to harass Bart, but he’s much too small fry for them to care about on a day to day basis.  In the school hierarchy, Jimbo and company are far above Bart.

When Bart and Jimbo first meet, we see this discrepancy in Bart’s awe of Jimbo (“you’re the worst kid in school”) and Jimbo’s total ignorance of Bart (“what’s your name, man?”).  As the story progresses, we see Bart trying as hard as he can to hang out with the older kids his idolizes, so he goes along with things he isn’t comfortable with (stealing from the Kwik-E-Mart, stoning the statue) while struggling to seem cool.

For his part, Jimbo plays the elder bad boy perfectly.  He’s okay with boosting candy and Playdudes and throwing rocks at inanimate objects, and he likes that Bart’s got a smart mouth and willingness to go along with stuff.  But he’s willing to dropkick Bart out of his orbit in an instant once it becomes clear that, for all his enthusiasm, Bart is still too much of a little kid to hang out with them.

Later episodes would use both sides of the relationship.  So Jimbo and Bart will work together when their interests are aligned (like the escape from Utility Basement B in “Whacking Day”), but Jimbo will easily turn on Bart when that suits him (“As soon as the check clears, I’ll let you go”).  When he wasn’t around Bart, Jimbo (and Dolph and Kearney) were the show’s way to make fun of sullen teenagers.  They’ll chase Bart down for doing ballet, but they’ll also rush off to the library to read about the Founding Fathers because of Ralph’s moving portrayal of George Washington.

Like so many of the other recurring minor characters, Jimbo and company made Springfield feel more like a real place.  They didn’t have to be good or bad, and none of them ever really got their own episode, they just had to be there, acting like the mostly harmless juvenile delinquents that they are. 


1 Response to “Permanent Record: Jimbo Jones”


  1. 1 Frank
    27 February 2013 at 2:34 pm

    one of my favourite scenes from THOH 5 – from snpp:

    Jimbo: It’s hard for me to clean this giant pot when you keep spilling
    meat tenderizer all over me. [click] Oh, great, now I gotta
    work in the dark.

    Uter: [cutting in line] Oh, lunch lady? Please to have another
    sloppy Jimbo? [to Bart] Das ist gut, nein? [chomps]


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