FXX recently completed their “Every Simpsons Ever” marathon. Since it is probably my favorite television show of all time, my cable box has spent a decent amount of time tuned to FXX over the past two weeks. It was nice to catch up with some of my favorite episodes as well as getting the chance to see some that I missed the first time around.
I figured that since I had already watched most of the older episodes multiple times, I wouldn’t gain any sort of insight by watching them again. And yet, when I watched the season seven episode “Summer of 4’2,” I was able to take away something new.
For those of you unfamiliar with the show – or those who have forgotten the episode since it first aired almost 20(!) years ago – the main theme of the episode is that Lisa doesn’t have any friends.
Side note: The writers have been inconsistent about Lisa’s level of popularity over the years. While she’s never been portrayed as popular, in some episodes she can be seen socializing with a group of friends. In others – like the one I’m discussing – she can’t seem to name a single friend.
She concludes that her lack of friends is due to her interest in reading and other academic activities. So when the family spends a week at a beach town, Lisa takes the opportunity to re-invent herself and befriends the town’s resident cool kids.
Thanks to Bart, the cool kids eventually learn about Lisa’s true “nerdy” self, and Lisa runs away in shame, believing that she’s destined to be forever friendless. As it turns out, the cool kids still accept her because they saw what a good person she was.
Here’s my problem with the episode: We’re supposed to think that Lisa doesn’t have any friends because she’s a nerd and participates in such activities like the A.V. Club and yearbook committee. But the real reason Lisa doesn’t have any friends is because she doesn’t know who her people are.
At the very beginning of the show, Lisa is shown with the rest of the yearbook committee as they prepare to hand out the yearbooks to the student body. One of the other committee members comments that when the students see how great the yearbooks turned out, Lisa is sure to become one of the most popular kids in school.
In reality, it doesn’t go that way. Not only do her classmates not care that she was responsible for creating the yearbooks, but they also don’t even bother signing hers. It’s especially galling when she sees how many people are vying for signatures from her brother.
Lisa – and this is not unusual for school-age kids – wants to be accepted by the popular kids in school. She wants the cool kids to like and include her. But it’s obvious that she has little in common with them.
If she really wants to have friends, all she had to do was look at what was right in front of her.
The two other girls who make up the yearbook committee would probably be her ideal friends. They seem quite impressed by her work on the yearbook, and seem just as despondent when the other kids don’t respect their work. I bet that if Lisa had asked one of them to hang out – or join her at the beach – she would have found that she had as much (and probably more) fun than if one of the cool kids had joined her.
Being popular and having friends are two different things, and striving to become popular can actually cost people their true friends. I bet we all have stories of where a friendship was ruined because one of the friends began – or at least tried to – hang out with a new, presumably cooler group of friends.
The happiest kids in school aren’t always those who are considered the “coolest.” Many times, the happiest kids are the ones who have a smaller group of friends who like them and accept them for who they are.
While my high school years were somewhat unpleasant for a multitude of (mostly self-inflicted) reasons, part of the problem was that I didn’t always know who my people were. I’m happy to say that since my college years, I have done a much better job of figuring out who my true friends are.
My daughter just started her final year of preschool. She’s already proven to be a bit of a social butterfly and is adept at meeting people and making new friends. I hope this continues as she begins the sometimes treacherous journey that is grade school.
Even if she does become one of the popular kids, I’m sure that somewhere along the line, she’ll have some problems with finding her place in social landscape. When that time comes, I may pop the Simpsons into the DVD player and have her watch this episode.
I realize I’m making three big assumptions here:
1. She’ll still be talking to me at that point, because, you know, teenagers.
2. DVD players will still be a thing in ten years. It’s more likely that we’d watch some sort of online stream.
3. She’ll have any interest in watching a television show from the 20th century (OMG, Dad. That is, like, SO old.)
Hopefully, she’ll be able to look past the show’s age and take away the same thing that I did: It’s shouldn’t be about changing yourself to fit in with the cool kids. It should be about finding people who will accept you for who you are.