Sunday TV’s longest-running sitcom, The Simpsons, logged another stop in its 2012 Desiccation Tour with an episode dedicated to the “cool-ification” of Springfield by Portland natives, voiced by Portlandia’s Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein. Though the show dodged the use of the term “hipster” thank god (they rely on the simple word “cool” and Fred’s character refers to his demographic as “us-types”), it’s pretty clear that The Simpsons were looking to take on that new fad (of the last 8 years) known as hipsterism. The Portland family was introduced as nomads running an artisanal donut food truck (which sounds like how a parody of a Simpsons episode about hipsters would start), and looking for low-priced housing to renovate. As Springfield quickly succumbs to hipsterism, the episode hits on nearly all of the well-worn (or maybe it’s “vintage” now?) hipster generalizations. Instead of rehashing the plot, I’ll just skip to the jokes, a la The Simpsons writing room: “we don’t own a TV”, composting, repeated use of the word “artisanal”, bike riding, Tumblr, mustaches, Humblebrag, Wes Anderson, scarves out of season, The Decemberists, wallet chains, and “Duff Blue Ribbon.”
The episode was ostensibly about Homer’s wish to stay relevant by embracing a “cool” lifestyle, which provides a sad commentary on the show itself. Tackling a subject that 2 Broke Girls is in its second season of being late to the party on is well beyond fashionably late. It’s reflective of Homer’s attempts to be hipster: awkward and unflattering (and yes, I write this not two weeks after releasing Brokelandia’s “Are You a Hipster”, though I’d like to think that I added a different perspective to the conversation, rather than reheating some cold, organic quinoa and serving it up). Lest we get into the self-devouring vortex of “The Simpsons is over” and “Saying, ‘The Simpsons is over,’ is over”, the episode failed on a fundamental level with its mostly stark dichotomies and lack of insight. We learn hipsters are judgmental of others and bring change, and change is bad. We’re not told about the socio-economic reasons for why any of this is bad; in fact Springfield seems to enjoy a small economic boom of new businesses and an influx of conspicuous consumption. But oh, Moe’s is ruined by people with mustaches who appreciate dives, so bring back the status quo! And what causes the return to normalcy in Springfield? The New York Times does a story on how hip it is, which the us-types take as a sign of Springfield being over. If this isn’t screaming for a @TheSimpsonsIsOnIt twitter account, I don’t know what is.
We’re basically at the point where Scooby Doo would have Don Knots and the Harlem Globetrotters just to distract from the same tired material. All this is to say I watched this episode so you don’t have to. Watching new episodes of The Simpsons is almost ironic as an act, but the reality is that it’s like seeing a loved one in their twilight years. It makes rambling generalizations, wants to rail against iPhones and Segways (which never became a real “thing”, I would posit), and just makes you sort of sad. Instead, let’s celebrate the life of The Simpsons we loved, back when it set trends. And hey, if you and your skinny jean friends want to watch with other likeminded curators of the past, you can always check out Classic Simpsons Trivia at Berry Park. That’s something “us-types” do, right?