A list of my favourite Simpsons characters wearing different outfits, part 2
|Sentimental Garbage||Jun 12|| 4|
“Who is your favourite Simpsons character?” is a stupid question for idiots and children. Springfield is an orchestra and no one instrument can play the symphony alone. That said, the answer is Mr Burns.
But even that is not the whole story. Because my real favourite character isn’t just Mr Burns, but vulnerable Mr Burns. Which is to say: Mr Burns with his jacket off.
Burns with his jacket off!!!! Burns with his jacket off is Superman without his cape, Samson without his hair, Harvey Weinstein without a complex web of non-disclosure agreements. He is wiped out, he is finished, he is a senior citizen who can’t ride the bus properly, he is too old even for old people, he is desperate for his former decadence but resigned to the idea of not getting it back, he has the thinnest little wrists!
The indignities Burns suffers when he has his jacket off – getting punched in the face by Homer and having to hide behind a pot plant, getting locked in a dairy cabinet, being told by a wrestler that he smells – are so minuscule compared to the pain he freely inflicts on other people. This is a man who tried to block out the sun. And yet! When I see Mr Burns with his jacket off I don’t want any harm to come to him, I want to hide him in my pocket so he may never be troubled again. My feelings for vulnerable Mr Burns is a disturbing reminder to me how much I am willing to let old men get away with, and a clue as to why we have ended up with a world as unjust as it is. And yet! Here I am! Feeling these feelings anyway!
One of my favourite ever episodes of The Simpsons is Brush With Greatness, where Marge paints Mr Burns. I love any episode of The Simpsons where Marge finds greater purpose within the arts, even if it always ends on a downer, because inevitably we are reminded that Marge Bouvier is a gentle, creative flower and Marge Simpson is doomed to return to a life of drudgery. But anyway, Marge paints a nude Mr Burns, and in defence of the painting says the following: “I wanted to show that beneath Mr. Burns' fearsome head, with its cruel lips, spiteful tongue and evil brain, there was a frail, withered body, perhaps not long for this world. As vulnerable and beautiful as any of God's creatures.”
Marge, I know what I hate, and I don’t hate this.
The Simpsons go to church every Sunday and they get dressed for it. I love Lisa’s little hat and her puffed-up sleeves. I love Bart’s wet hair. I love that Bart’s suit is brown. A brown suit on a little boy. The stiffness and the dated design of the kids clothing conjures such a specific sense memory of what it is like to buy fancy clothes as a child, when you’re no longer in the supermarket with the shiny plastic dinosaur de-cals, but in an entirely separate shop run by old ladies and where children’s clothing is called children’s apparel. If you grew up in a churchy atmosphere, you saw a lot of these shops: I went for my Communion, for my Confirmation, for my brother’s Communion, for my brother’s Confirmation. Weird shops that smell bad are unavoidable in the childhood quest for holiness.
I love Marge’s lipstick! It is the exact shade of lipstick that belongs to a woman who has one lipstick that she keeps in her handbag for church and for emergency meetings at the school. It is not too red, which would be garish, nor too pink, which would be infantile. My guess is that it is called “Essential Burgundy” and is worn down to a nub.
What I like about the church outfits is that they are also used for any semi-formal occasion, including graduation day at a dog obedience school.
I have lived with a man long enough to know that you must never get between a man and his robe. Gavin’s Homer Simpson robe is teddy-bear brown and feels like a bath mat that has been washed with hair conditioner. It was ten years old when we first met so it is now old enough to drive. Women’s robes are never like men’s robes. There are sexy, slinky dressing gowns. There are ‘cosy’ robes made of that overly-plush polyester that feels dry and itchy against your fingertips. As a woman, you can buy a robe three sizes larger and it will still never work the way a man’s robe just works. You’re drowning in fabric yet still find yourself with body parts exposed, never fully covered enough to answer the door and sign for a parcel. The sleeves fall into your coffee.
A man becomes a man when he finds his True Robe. The robe that is welded to his person, the robe that makes him a cosy mountain of solace, the robe you can cry into when you get bad news from home. The True Robe temporarily allows for a version of masculinity we’re all comfortable with: sensitive and strong, gentle and protective. No arguments can be started when a man in his True Robe.
One of my favourite Homers is Homer when he’s in his True Robe. Robe Homer is cute Homer. Homer when he has food poisoning from a week-old sandwich, and then watches The Erotic Adventures of Hercules with Marge. Homer when he skips church and eats waffle batter. Homer when he eats 64 slices of American cheese.
(Other good Homers: Homer in his half-moon glasses, Homer in his long-sleeved shirt and tie, Homer in his mumu)