All good things must come to an end. Except, apparently, The Simpsons. The show refuses to even consider the notion of ‘ending’, finding new and innovative way to diminish the remaining affection us diehards hold for it, pumping out dogshit episodes at a more consistent rate than a dog pumps out shit.
If you take five seconds to come up with a truly terrible story idea, it’s almost certainly been the premise of a recent Simpsons episode. How about a The Simpsons meets Family Guy cash-in ep where there’s a bunch of tone-deaf misogynist jokes? Check. Hmmm, what if Bart ran away with a 15-year-old pregnant girl who he intends to marry? Check. Right, here’s one, and hear me out here, because it’s crap: Homer gets diagnosed with narcolepsy, it ruins his marriage, he divorces Marge and starts sleeping with someone half his age, then her dad starts dating Marge, then gets married to Marge, then takes Homer’s place in the family, and Homer becomes estranged from the Simpsons, then Marge wakes up and turns out it was all a dream, then the camera pans out and the whole episode is revealed to be a tattoo on the back of Hannah Horvath from Girls? Inexplicably, check.
None of these episodes should have happened. We can argue over which series can be considered Golden Era Simpsons cannon for as long as there as bandwidth on the internet, and still the show won’t end. Most agree series 1 through 9 were the glory years before the fall, some make a convincing case that the rot set in earlier, while others contest that there was still merit and flashes of brilliance through the late nineties and into the early noughties. There has been a feeling that, for all the flaws of seasons 11 to 18, the show had garnered enough goodwill that our memories of The Simpsons’ could remain rose-tinted forever. It had still been great for pretty much as long as it had been not-great.
What should be inarguable after finishing this article, however, is the point in which the show should have been cancelled. We’ve committed a large portion of our budget and resource to pinpointing the moment, to a tenth of a second, to a frame, The Simpsons should have ended.
Should ‘The Simpsons’ have ended when Principal Skinner was discovered to be an imposter by the name of Armin Tamzarian, a storyline that retconned the carefully crafted Springfield universe? No.
Should they have given up and gone home when Maude Flanders was knocked off the top of baseball bleacher by a t-shirt cannon and died, needlessly? Not even close.
It should have ended right here.
This is a still from 2007’s The Simpsons Movie. Bart Simpson, who - it can’t be reiterated enough - is a 10-year-old boy, has accepted a dare to skateboard around Springfield sans clothing. Now, depicting a 10-year-old boy in the nude is pretty dubious behaviour, even if that boy is a cartoon, even if we accept that the male butt is an essentially desexualised and inherently funny part of the anatomy, even if his modesty is covered Carry On style. But it’s just about acceptable. It’s just about on the right side of the line in the sand that marks ‘The Moment The Simpsons Should Have Ended.’
If it had ended here, then fair enough, you could just about salvage all those beloved memories of the times you spent watching those plucky yellow loons, all the afternoons you spent after school, lying in front of the TV on your stomach, resting your head on your hands, forgetting about school, about parents, about being a dumbass kid, enraptured by your favourite show in the world, a show you’d watched enough repeats of to know every line, and yet still a show you couldn’t bare to miss.
But it didn’t end there.
It kept going. Here’s the next frame.
This is Bart Simpson’s dick. They animated Bart Simpson’s dick. Bart Simpson is a 10-year-old boy, and they animated his dick. In a movie. You had to pay to go and see this movie. You had to pay to see a movie in which you were presented with a 10-year-old’s dick.
This joke might be funny if it were, say, not a 10-year-old’s dick, but an adult’s dick - and if it wasn’t a cartoon for children, but a film for adults. Then it’s a clever little play on audience expectation. You don’t expect a joke to have a punchline where you see an adult’s dick, because full-frontal nudity is still quite a ‘taboo’ shall we say, even if dicks are innately funny looking. Whereas you don’t expect to see Bart Simpson’s dick, because he is a 10-year-old boy.
“Oh, come on! It’s animated! It’s not the same as seeing an actual 10-year-old boy’s dick!” Do you know how many perves and deviants pleasure themselves to animated erotica? There are at least some, let me tell you. Imagine how many of these unsavoury people have jacked off to Bart Simpson’s little yellow dick.
In this moment, The Simpsons went from being perhaps the most significant, seminal and most universally beloved television shows of the 20th and 21st centuries, to abject hentai smut.
Arrest Matt Groening.