Two days ago, Simpsons showrunner Al Jean gave an interview in which he teased numerous plotlines from the upcoming season. Not seeing it as a particularly urgent story, I wrote it out, and scheduled it to run the following morning. It posted yesterday, and everything seemed normal, until I started getting messages & emails, and seeing news stories popping up from major publications down to local affiliates, all highlighting the same tidbit: Homer and Marge will be getting legally separated in a season 27 episode.
Short of the character death in the last season premiere, no Simpsons story (save for ones about actors or crew members) made bigger waves in the past year than this one.
My response: What’s the big deal?
I’m as big a fan of the show as anyone (bigger in most cases) and I understand Homer and Marge are one of the most famous and revered fictional couples since Romeo & Juliet (just ask TIME), but I couldn’t – and still can’t – see what all the fuss is about.
Anyone who has seen the lion’s share of Simpsons episodes will tell you than the family matriarch and patriarch fighting is one of the most common occurrences and storylines in the show’s history. In fact, I’d wager it’s easily the most common. The differences of opinion are what make Homer & Marge’s relationship interesting. It’s the conflict that’s needed to keep us from getting comfortable.
Most of these squabbles are petty in nature, but occasionally there are some serious arguments, which usually result in Homer or Marge leaving the house – or in Homer’s case, getting thrown out.
Of course talk is cheap, and nowadays readers won’t accept any evidence or information that’s not presented in list form, so allow me to state my case thusly:
S1E10 – Homer’s Night Out
While at a party, Homer is photographed dancing with a stripper named Princess Kashmir, and gets kicked out for the first time in the show. It took 10 whole episodes, but believe me, we already knew Homer & Marge’s relationship wasn’t entirely solid.
S2E20 – The War of the Simpsons
A drunk Homer humiliates Marge at a dinner party, and the two end up going away to a marriage counseling retreat to save their relationship.
S5E22 – Secrets of a Successful Marriage
After Homer reveals intimate details about Marge in an attempt to teach a course on marriage, he (and his entire class) are booted from the house. In a total dick move, Reverend Lovejoy suggests divorce.
S8E6 – A Milhouse Divided
Fast-forwarding a few seasons, Homer realizes Marge deserves a better husband, and actually DOES divorce Marge. Of course this was all a ploy to re-marry her (since renewing vows is hokey) and start fresh.
S8E9 – El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer
When Homer trips balls after eating Guatemalan insanity peppers and embarrasses Marge once again, she famously responded to Homer’s plea that they are soulmates with: “Don’t soulmate me!”
S9E5 – The Cartridge Family
Marge removes the kids and herself from the house when Homer’s gun ownership becomes a threat to everyone’s well-being.
S13E7 – Brawl in the Family
Homer’s “Vegas Wife,” Amber, shows up and once again gets Homer booted from his casa. No worries though; Amber kicked the bucket in season 18 after she OD-ed while waiting in line for a roller coaster.
S13E10 – Half-Decent Proposal
A snoring issue causes Marge to get away from home for a weekend, where a horned-up Artie Ziff makes a move on her. Homer witnesses it, and leaves town.
S14E17 – Three Gays of the Condo
Following a dispute, Homer moves out of the house and into a condo with a some gays.
S14E20 – Break My Wife, Please
A fed-up Marge begins subconsciously attempting to kill Homer, and the two eventually end up in marriage counseling. Homer blows it, and then saves it.
S15E15 – Co-Dependents Day
In a seriously fucked-up move, Homer pins a drunk driving accident on Marge, and the two are forced to work through the fallout.
S16E13 – Mobile Homer
Like “Three Gays of the Condo,” this one has a pretty self-explanatory plot. A pissed Homer buys an RV, and a pissed Marge makes him live in it.
S17E1 – The Bonfire of the Manatees
Mad Marge leaves Homer to look for manatees, or something.
I’m going to stop here, because with nine seasons to go, this list could get out of hand quickly. If you haven’t seen all the episodes, trust me, there are more huge fights. (There are also a whole lot of littler ones that didn’t earn a mention.) In fact, there was a whopper in this past season’s Christmas episode, “I Won’t Be Home for Christmas,” in which Marge kicked Homer out for drinking all night at Moe’s on Christmas Eve.
By now, you too should be asking: What’s the big deal?
The short answer is not everyone watches The Simpsons religiously, so associating Homer and Marge with a term like “legally separated” can sound scary. But as I stated, they’ve already been divorced, so it’s really not breaking news. In fact, in the upcoming episode entitled “Every Man’s Dream,” the trouble starts when Homer is diagnosed with a sleeping disorder, which was already done in the aforementioned season 13 installment. This one just has Lena Dunham in it.
(Also, nowadays with constant sensationalism in media, anything can be hyped up to seem like a big deal – like the results of a reality show competition or a Kardashian ass.)
Something that could be interesting, is if the separation lasted for more than one episode. In the first 25 seasons of The Simpsons, this would have been unheard of. But last year the writers shockingly included some passing references to episodes earlier in the season, so a longer story arc wouldn’t be completely out of the question.
In the end, it doesn’t matter. Sure, the subject isn’t anything revolutionary, but when a show is on for over a quarter of a decade, it can’t have almost 600 completely unique ideas, and that’s just fine…as long as it’s still entertaining.
What’s important is that casual viewers aren’t terrified, heartbroken, or fooled. Us die-hards were completely calm upon hearing the news, because we recognize the fact Fry from Futurama famously stated in the show’s very first season: “It was just a matter of knowing the secret of all TV shows: At the end of the episode, everything’s always right back to normal.”