A list of my favourite Simpsons characters wearing different outfits, part 1

When my first book was published, I bought myself a gift. This is pretty common among authors. Some writers buy jewellery, some buy an extravagant piece of furniture, some buy art. I suppose what you buy depends on the size of your advance. The whole point of the author’s self-gift is that we want something heavy and beautiful to point at, something utterly surplus to requirements, and be able to say “I bought this thing with money earned from my writing and I trust my talent so much that I am willing to let it be totally useless.”

I commissioned a gold plated portrait of Marge Simpson.

You will notice that it’s not just any Marge Simpson, but Marge Simpson in the very moment she discovers her pink Chanel suit in Scenes from the Class Struggle in Springfield. Like a lot of female Simpsons fans, I am into this episode of The Simpsons far more than is necessarily healthy. It’s a remarkable episode for lots of reasons: it’s deliciously Marge-centric, a fairly rare occurrence during this era. It’s also extremely grounded in reality, in that the zaniest thing that really happens is that Marge finds an authentic Chanel suit for $90 (roughly a quarter of what it cost to commission a gold glass portrait of her finding the same suit). It’s also the first Simpsons episode to be written and directed by two women. My friend Tash has described Scenes as “the female Get Out”, and she’s right. The airless rooms of well-dressed women; the mounting pressure to both perform and go unnoticed; the constant jabs from her country club friends, and those who don’t want Marge to take their ‘attempts to destroy her too seriously’.

It’s perfect. It’s also exactly how I felt about publishing a book for the first time. I wanted to both perform and go unnoticed. I wanted to impress airless rooms of well-dressed cunts. I wanted armour for the attempts to destroy me (namely, one-star Goodreads reviews) that I shouldn’t take too seriously. So I commissioned Alex May Hughes for this portrait, to act as a kind of future reminder to myself of how terrified I was in June 2018.

This is just one set of intense emotions I have about secondary outfits in The Simpsons. But there’s more!

Maggie in her star suit

I’ve noticed that in animation, when something can’t talk but you want to bestow noble qualities upon it, it is best to just animate it as though it were a dog. The horses in both Mulan and Tangled are animated to behave like dogs. The raccoon from Pocahontas is a dog. Pegasus is a dog. Next time you’re watching a cartoon, watch out for it. There is a dog in almost everything, even when it is not a dog.

In most Simpsons episodes, if Maggie is doing anything aside from sitting on Marge’s lap, she is either behaving like a very small adult, or like a very brave dog. Notable exceptions to this are when she is in her star suit. There’s something so baby about the star suit: the winter padding so thick that she can’t really move, the little hands poking out from the cuffed sleeves, the teeny little feet tilting upwards. I love Maggie in her star suit.

Kent Brockman off duty

When you’re young, you find it very easy to relate to the children in The Simpsons – I am a Lisa sun with a Nelson Muntz moon – but because the adults of Springfield are so universally and thunderously flawed, it means you have to reckon with your own worst traits in order to find your centre. I see a lot of myself in Kent Brockman. The thing about Kent Brockman is that even though we know him as the reliable small-town news broadcaster, in Kent’s head he is a serious journalist. In Kent’s head, when he’s chain-smoking at his typewriter, he’s Dustin Hoffman in All The President’s Men. Krusty and Kent are two sides of the Springfield show business coin, the key difference being that Krusty wants endless love, and Kent wants endless respect.

Kent at his typewriter! Kent at his typewriter makes my heart break in two, because it’s the first clue we have that not only does Kent write his own broadcasts, he tries really hard at them. All of his parting shots are so over-done, so desperately writerly, so obviously the last crumbs of a once-held hope to be the next Norman Mailer.

Please, consider the below Kent Brockman quotes and imagine him writing them on his typewriter, so delighted at his own bon mots.

In other news, Thomas Edison, the greatest inventor of all time, is apparently still inventing, despite the notable handicap of being dead.

Ladies and gentlemen, I've been to Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, and I can say without hyperbole that this is a million times worse than all of them put together.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: democracy simply doesn't work.

Kent probably wants to write a book and probably would write a book if he didn’t love being on TV so much. I’m not saying this is me, necessarily, but I understand it, I get it, I feel it. To be a great artist and a great capitalist is a hard thing to pull off, but god knows me and Kent are trying.

Next time: Mr Burns with his jacket off, church outfits, Homer in his robe