When you’re asked about your childhood heroes, you want to come across as fairly cultural in your admittance on who made the cut. If you tell people your ten year old self looked up to Hilary Clinton, then you’re giving the impression of being a pretty brainy kid. Likewise, if you say Joan Jett, your cool points will go through the roof.
However, admitting that you looked up to a shaded yellow cartoon character, with hair that’s reminiscent of a pineapple, makes it a lot harder for anyone to picture you as a ‘cool kid’. But loving Lisa Simpson is something I’ll never deny. From her academic know how, to her passionate activism, and even the way she puts up with her family – hands down, Lisa Simpson is my gurl.
Now, right off the bat, I have to admit that I haven’t been as much of a Simpson’s fanatic as I was as a child. When I talk about The Simpsons, I’m talking about post-the-three-eyed-crow-opening, the old school Simpsons that had obscure literary references, sexual innuendos and morally thematic episodes. It was in these early years that I first fell in love with Lisa Lionheart, the girl who never backed down from a fight.
Lisa’s main asset has always been her intelligence, and it’s one of the reasons why so many people in the ‘nerd’ community identify with her. It is mentioned that Lisa has an IQ of 159 and, at only eight, she’s a high ranking member of Mensa Springfield. With these big brains, Lisa could have easily become one dimensional, but with big brains came an overwhelming desire to achieve. When she’s unable to attend school due to a teachers’ strike, Lisa goes out of her way to get ‘graded’, forcing Marge to give her an A just to shut her up. She also creates a perpetual motion machine in order to impress Homer, but he chastises her, saying one of my all time favourite lines – “In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!”
It’s this need to please that any high achiever can sympathise with. Even now I cringe when I think about my early school days, and how I would power through math problems just so I go put my hand up first to say I’d finished before everyone else. Not everyone can be part of Mensa, but being a grade brat, now that’s something I can relate to.
But even though Lisa values her grades so much, she never lets them come between her and her integrity. She wants to earn her rewards. During a The Wind in the Willows test, Lisa cheats and gets her highest grade – A+++. This not only gets her all sorts of praise, but it also lands the school with some extra funding. However, rather than accepting the fruits of her (fake) labour, Lisa confesses her crime in front of everyone! No way would I have had the balls to do that. Sure it got Lisa in trouble at the time, but haven’t we all had moments when we’ve done something a bit shady and then felt guilty for never coming clean? It’s so easy just to accept that you’ve gotten away with something than actually accepting your guilt and getting the weight off your chest.
In fact, this strong moral centre is just want makes Lisa my hero. When I was younger, I had a brief phase of wanting to be a vegetarian. I told my Mum but then the next day the first thing she served me was meat… and I ate it. Because, if I’m honest, I just wasn’t that committed to my own belief system.
Lisa, on the other hand, stays true to what she believes. She gives up meat despite her carnivorous family. She becomes a Buddha despite living in a predominantly Christian town (although she might want to have a closer look at Buddhism’s treatment of women). And she continues to rock out on her saxophone, even after she’s told her ‘stubby fingers’ will hold her back from greatness.
And don’t even get me started on her feminism! In season five, Lisa is shown going to head to head against the toy giants behind Malibu Stacey after she comes to the conclusion that the doll is presenting a bad role model for young girls. It’s a powerful episode that shows a lot of the faults present in our own worship of character’s like Barbie. The fact that Lisa’s attempts to create a positive female icon fail, highlights a deep, misogynistic flaw in our culture. One that Lisa is not willing to stand for.
This badass attitude to go against the norm has also resulted in some of Lisa’s more rebellious behaviour. For instance, remember when she pretended to be a college student? Or the time she became a ‘bad girl’? Or a ‘goth’?
She also has a taste for the bad boys. Sure, there are the future episodes that show her married to Milhouse (I don’t buy it), but we all know that Lisa’s real love is Nelson Muntz, AKA the school bully. In one episode, Lisa confesses her crush and tries to change Nelson into a nice boy. This doesn’t work out, but throughout the show, the pair seems to reunite again and again, hinting that maybe Nelson will one day change for the better and Lisa can heal his broken-childhood. Of course, trying to change a boy into something he’s not isn’t cool, but it’s nice that Lisa is capable of these love slip ups just like the rest of us.
And that’s the great thing about Lisa; even though she’s super smart, super talented, and is obviously going to be the first straight, white, female president, she still has the flaws of any girl her age. She’s whiny, self-righteous, a snob, and sometimes has terrible taste in men. She longs to be cool and her attempts at ‘fitting in’ and making friends can often make us cringe. But at the end of the day, no matter what mistakes she makes, she always tries to put things right and make those around her happy; which makes her a great character for any young woman to look up to.
Even when they’re twenty-one.
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