Geek culture has a few hallmarks that are so pervasive, you almost can’t function in geek society without them. Monty Python, Star Trek, Star Wars, Firefly, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, role-playing games, medievalism, and anime/manga are all very deeply rooted in the world of computing enthusiasts.
While the Simpsons aren’t often identified with geek culture, there certainly seems to be a lot of buzz about the new Simpsons movie. That prompted me to explore and poke around, and it seems there’s Simpsons influences embedded deep in the roots of geek culture that have been flying under the radar all this time.
First off, who missed the “Life in Hell” strip? Surely, you Simpsons fans knew that this was Matt Groening’s first comic strip success, and that it was popping up for years in underground ‘punk’ mags and comic book stores throughout the 80’s and 90’s before Matt Groening’s TV debut with the Simpsons shorts in the Tracy Ulman show?
Wikipedia is absolutely riddled with Simpsons references. Perhaps the most telling is the list of neologisms – words, phrases, and expressions coined on the Simpsons which entered popular usage. Every time somebody on Slashdot makes a joke in the form of “I for one welcome our new X overlords.”, they’re referring to the Simpsons, as is noted by the Jargon File.
Speaking of the Jargon File, several other Simpsons influences are noted. For instance, there’s Bart’s head in the ASCII art entry. For some reason, Bart Simpson’s head comes up a lot in character graphics, probably because he’s so easy to draw – after you use the slashes to draw /\/\/\/\/\ you have his hair, and from there you’re compelled to finish it! Of course, ASCII art of the whole Simpsons family is easy to find as well.
ASCII art not geeky enough to tie geek culture and the Simpsons inescapably together? How about ANSI character art? You stumble upon the occasional Simpson’s reference in BBS splash screens and intros every now and then, like this one from ACID productions, circa 1991:
There are others, as well, but we can’t show them to you – most of them are X-rated. I don’t know what the big thrill was with seeing Marge Simpson nude, but you sure saw a lot of it in the 1980’s!
Well, that sinks it! If the Simpsons go all the way back to bulletin board systems, they are officially geek icons. The only thing left open to discussion is, are they as prominent in geek culture as, say, Star Trek and Monty Python? Maybe they’re harder to spot… or maybe we’ve been seeing them so long that we’re used to them and they don’t register.
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