Twenty years ago, Matt Groening and the infant television station of FOX began broadcasting The Simpsons. Originally an animated short on The Tracy Ullman Show, the show quite simply exploded into the mainstream of the American public consciousness just a few short years later. Now there are college classes, books, documentaries, memorabilia and more devoted to Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, Maggie, and the hundreds of other minor characters created by the creative minds behind the TV behemoth. It’s hard to look at The Simpsons objectively, since its been on the air for so long and continues to do so, but there is no denying the remarkable impact that it continues to have. Just recently, the show passed Gunsmoke for the longest running American primetime TV series. The very fact that “D’oh!” is in the Oxford English Dictionary is a testament to creativity and ingenuity in writing, production, and thought.
Let’s take an abrupt turn in creative discussion. I promise this will all make sense in a paragraph or two. From the 20th century’s greatest TV series (take THAT, M*A*S*H), we focus on Shakespeare. What? Why? Hold on, hold on. Let me explain. According to 90s boy band LFO, “Billy Shakespeare wrote a whole bunch of sonnets”. Which is true, yet somewhat irrelevant. I’m focusing more on his plays, his tragedies. Think about what our world would be like without works like Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, and King Lear. Any kind of semi-dramatic work would be nonexistent. Without Shakespeare, our characterizations, our conflicts, our settings, our structure and our language would be sorely lacking. It’s a world that is impossible to imagine, or at the very least, terrifying to do so.
It is for that reason alone why it boggles my mind that so many of my peers despise Shakespeare. They say it’s boring, it’s hard to understand, it’s old (old?!?! Is that the best you can think of??), and it can’t be related to today’s tech-driven world. Give me a break. I’ve been in three Shakespeare productions as an actor and will freely admit that they are some of the most fun, interesting, and enlightening experiences I’ve had within the arts. An artist can do great things with Shakespeare’s text, whether it be creating their own world, exploring the meanings of emotion and wants, or adding the beloved gimmick of zombies or robots.
What the hell does this have to do with The Simpsons?? Hold on, I promised it would all work out. Rick Miller will be combining the beloved animated series with one of Shakespeare’s most admired tragedies, Macbeth, in a one-man spectacular entitled MacHomer. I will be seeing this show on Wednesday in New Brunswick. I can only say that I am equally fearful and delighted to experience a combination of seemingly unrelated works. But MacHomer will do more than juxtapose the two, but rather as I imagine, draw the incredible similarities that are present. Homer Simpson is something of a tragic figure, blinded by his stupidity and general oaf-ness, just as Macbeth is blinded by his sheer ambition. Miller will be portraying over 50 Simpsons characters with his voice, something which I anticipate will be employed to great hilarity. I truly look forward to seeing this show and how it exemplifies the relevancy of Shakespeare in a biased, Shakespeare-bashing world.