The 25th anniversary of The Simpsons was this week! The half-hour sitcom began airing way back on December 17, 1989!
If you were raised on the humor of The Simpsons, as I was, you might have a bevvy of insults and comebacks culled straight from the show. For a hot-90s-minute, I was requesting that people “don’t have a cow, man” or for people to “eat my shorts”. Everything was totally coming up Milhouse whenever I dropped a Simpsons joke.
But that didn’t mean that younger-me understood every episode. The Simpsons really wasn’t a kid’s show, but we all somehow watched it. As a child, I had a limited frame of reference for all of the humor – and while this made the show appeal to both younger and older generations, it also made the show great to re-watch now that I’m an adult. Some of those jokes I missed as a kid really hit the mark now.
That being said, there are definitely episodes that your kids can’t even. Can’t even what? Understand? Handle? Come up Milhouse? Check out our list and suggest your own at the end!
In no logical order:
Treehouse of Horror VII (S8/E1, 1996)
The relevant part: lovable aliens Kang and Kodos impersonate Bill Clinton and Bob Dole in order to win the 1996 Presidential election. Right about now, your kids flatline as you laugh at the Clinton and Dole jokes. Homer tries to save Clinton and Dole, but accidentally kills them. Homer then reveals that Kang and Kodos are attempting to take over the country through the election, and someone yells that they’ll just vote for the third party candidate…
Ouch. So true. Try and explain the hopelessness of our two-party system to a kid.
Natural Born Kissers (S9/E25, 1998)
The only real part of the synopsis you need to know is that Homer and Marge are getting out of a slump in their marriage (which seems to happen often) and decide that having sex in mostly public places will spice up their love life. Then, of course, they get caught.
The “Natural Born Kissers” episode also references “Casablanca” and “It’s a Wonderful Life”, and I’ll be damned if I even understand all of the jokes about them now.
A Milhouse Divided (S8/E6, 1996)
So, divorce isn’t that uncommon in America these days (though not as high as we thought), but it’s still weird to watch a kid try to parse what’s happening in this episode. In it, Milhouse’s parents, Kirk and Luann Van Houten, bicker at Marge’s dinner party. As the night progresses, the fights become worse, and Luann demands that the two get a divorce. Yeesh.
Homer starts to fear for his marriage to Marge and through a hi-larious set of events, strengthens his marital bond with Marge.
Milhouse’s parents aren’t so lucky. Kirk attempts to win Luann back, but is kicked out of the house by Luann’s new boyfriend. Cringe.
The Last Temptation of Homer (S5/E9, 1993)
Here’s another episode with themes that just fly right over a kid’s head. A woman, Mindy Simmons, is hired at the Nuclear Power Plant, and Homer is attracted to her. He talks to her and finds that he’s got a lot in common with her. Worried about his own temptation and marriage, he decides to avoid Mindy.
Mindy and Homer are then chosen to attend the Nuclear Power Convention in Capital City together. They’re crowned the “King and Queen of Energy” and win a free dinner at the “sexiest Chinese restaurant in Capital City.” Blah blah blah, so-on-and-so-forth, eventually Homer and Mindy find themselves in a hotel room together and kiss.
Everything works out in the end and Homer choo-choo-chooses Marge over Mindy, but whew. Kids, man. I don’t even know what a young kid might make of a parent’s business trip after this episode (and in combination with “A Milhouse Divided”).
Treehouse of Horror X (S11/E4, 1999)
A lot of Simpsons episodes are packed with dated references, but this “Treehouse of Horrors” really goes for the throat. All three of the stories in the episode are dated, and if you’ve got to explain every little reference to your kids, it’s gonna take you awhile.
First off is “I Know What You Diddily-Iddly-Did”, which is a play on 1997’s “I Know What You Did Last Summer“. It might make sense soon though, because there’s a reboot in the works. And if the hollow premise doesn’t slow your kid down, you might be tasked to explain the references when Homer tells Marge to hide in an old abandoned amusement park, Lisa to hide in the pet cemetery, Bart to hide in the spooky roller disco, and that he will go skinny-dipping in the lake where sexy teenagers were killed exactly one hundred years ago. All of these are references to old movies and tropes. At face value they’re still funny, but the reference made them funnier.
The second story is called “Desperately Xeeking Xena” – a play on “Desperately Seeking Susan“. The story involved “Xena: Warrior Princess” star Lucy Lawless. The episode also references Yasmine Bleeth (OMG! Baywatch! Nash Bridges!), Tom Baker (OMG! Doctor Who!), Lorne Greene (OMG! Battlestar Galactica!), and William Shatner’s album. C’mon. Like, really.
The third story in this episode is called “Life’s a Glitch, Then You Die”, about the Y2K bug. Why don’t you pause The Simpsons and explain to your kids why we were all terrified about what would happen when computer clocks made it past December 31, 1999? Also, the segment has a scene with (and I’m totally not linking to all of these people): Ross Perot, Dan Quayle, Tonya Harding, Albert Sharpton, Courtney Love, Spike Lee, Tom Arnold, Pauly Shore, Rosie O’Donnell and Dr. Laura. So, that happened.
There are plenty of other episodes drowning in awkward jokes and dated humor. But if there’s one thing that FXX’s “Every Simpsons Ever” marathon proved, it’s that The Simpsons is still popular, and there’s a new generation that’s laughing about it, even if they don’t get the jokes. Yet.