‘The Simpsons’ season nineteen episode ‘Eternal Moonshine of the Simpson Mind’ features one of the most brilliant and possibly one of the most important montages in ‘Simpsons’ history. In one minute we see the life of Homer Simpson flash before our (and his) eyes after being pushed off a bridge by Patty and Selma after he decides to not commit suicide. We are shown the typical: dejection, rejection, parental fights, abandonment, bad grades, teenage angst and awkwardness, happiness, love, despair, his slow descent into alcoholism as his life slowly but surely waxes and wanes towards his inevitable death, all the while Homer’s expression barely changes from one of ennui.
From birth to present day we see his struggles: his mother leaving, his father struggling to hold it all together while raising his son and sinking into alcoholism much like his son eventually will. We see Homer’s struggle with his weight starting in childhood, his hair grows and we see it recede to the two hairs that we know and love; we are shown his happiness with Marge (as well as her disappointment in the man she loves, showcased in the background as she silently watches and enables him to become an alcoholic), and we see his struggle to figure out who he is even as a middle aged man.
What this montage shows us is that life is often hard, often not; filled with happy moments, sad moments; moments when all we want to do is curl up and die, yet Homer Simpson has never given up, has never resigned himself, at least not fully, to the fact that his life will never change. He often embraces this fact, often derides it and more often than not sinks into the sweet, sweet oblivion that alcohol provides him (as depicted through his creation of a small pyramid, the Taj Mahal and what appears to be part of the New York skyline). The montage is clearly showing us everything we already know about Homer Simpson, yet it does so in a very atypical ‘Simpsons’ way: by taking out the humour we know and love Homer’s life struggles are not reduced to some joke, rather they are given the weight they so deserve.
In this one moment we are shown just what everything in this man’s life has led up to and that is this: A loving wife, three amazing children, countless jobs, alcoholism, and struggles with identity and where he fits into the world. Homer Simpson’s life is not just his own, it is a reflection of the lives we all live, the various roles we take on, the ups and downs and where they take us. It is a life worth living and ‘The Simpsons’ writers deftly tell us that we should not give up, for to do so we may miss out on the good times to come (as represented by the fact that when Homer lands it is in a moon bounce at the surprise party Marge has thrown for him, itself the catalyst for why Homer has no memory in the episode). We the audience are given a glimpse into the mind of a character who so often speaks his, yet does not always accurately portray how he actually sees his life, and because of this we are given a deeper understanding of just what it means to be Homer Simpson, and indeed we are given a very poignant glimpse into what it means to be human.