Moderate Usage

Lisa on Ice9

“I know.  How about we play the basketball.  I’m no Harvey Globetrotter, but-” – Marge Simpson
“Ahh. . .” – Bart Simpson

Yesterday afternoon, venerably contradictory web magazine Slate published an article called “Has Liz Lemon Become “Dumbass Homer”?”.  (As you can probably guess, it’s about whether or not 30 Rock is going downhill the way The Simpsons did.)  Set aside the question mark in the headline for a second and look at that term, “Dumbass Homer”.  I’ve probably called Homer a dumbass before, but it’s not a capitalized term I’ve ever seen people use.  The term commonly in use, here, at No Homers, and on other sites where Simpsons discussions happen (going all the way back to 1998), is “Jerkass Homer”.  Here’s the section in question:

Some put the show’s point of no return at the ninth season episode “The Principal and the Pauper,” where it’s revealed that Springfield Elementary principal Seymour Skinner is, and always has been, an impostor, real name Armin Tamzarian, who pulled a Don Draper-like switcheroo with a presumed-dead comrade from the Vietnam War—the idea being that in the process the show turned up its nose at eight seasons of established continuity. But one of the most persistent early criticisms had to do with the character some fans called “Homer the idiot,” or simply “dumbass Homer.”

He’s got two terms in quotes that I’ve never seen anyone use with any frequency.  Now, if this was just some random person off the street, or an article about gardening, or even a professional writer whose beat rarely included television or pop culture, this would be no big deal.  But this is on a self described “Culture Blog” and the author of the piece, Sam Adams, has written for:

the Los Angeles Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Time Out New York, the Onion A.V. Club, and the Philadelphia City Paper.

But if you google “homer the idiot” you get basically nothing.  “Dumbass Homer” also gives bupkis, except for this Slate article at #1.  “Jerkass Homer”, on the other hand, has three times as many results and has the Wikipedia page for Homer Simpson as its first result.  In that Wikipedia article, under a section called “Character Development” you will find:

Chris Suellentrop of Slate wrote, "under Scully’s tenure, The Simpsons became, well, a cartoon. […] Episodes that once would have ended with Homer and Marge bicycling into the sunset […] now end with Homer blowing a tranquilizer dart into Marge’s neck."[52] Fans have dubbed this incarnation of the character "Jerkass Homer".[53][54][55]

They’re referencing your magazine!  And it’s on the first Wikipedia page you should’ve checked. 

Obviously this isn’t a world stopping mistake, and it doesn’t materially affect the main idea of the article.  But it does indicate a disturbing incuriosity.  No one, not the author, not the editor, not whoever wrote the headline, checked Wikipedia or Google before sounding authoritative about “one of the most persistent early criticisms” of The Simpsons.  (Or, if they did, they did a piss poor job of it.)  If you’re going to make generalizations like that, it’s best to know what you’re talking about. 

Doing a little research, literally just a couple of minutes, will make a better case and keep nitpicky jerks on the internet from making fun of you.  I’d also suggest hiring a few more editors, because the ones you have seem to be overworked.

Thanks for the link and the title to reader Patrick R.

12 Responses to “Moderate Usage”

  1. 1 Ektostherma
    11 February 2012 at 11:52 am

    I understand why The Simpsons writers felt the need to introduce the Comic Book Guy character now. Are you really that pedantic about the terminology used to describe the decline of Homer’s characterization that you’ve got to take lame potshots at writers for not having their fingers on the pulse of obsessive compulsive internet snarks?

    Tearing down of Zombie Simpsons is a noble cause, but the self-importance of The Simpsons fandom is staggering if this is the kind of petty lameness it has to bring to the table.

    • 2 Charlie Sweatpants
      11 February 2012 at 4:47 pm

      All I’m saying is that in an article upon which thousands of dollars were spent on writing, editing and publishing, a quick search of Google and Wikipedia isn’t too much to ask. If you want to cite a famous television show as the main example, at least know enough about it to be familiar with the basic terminology.

      • 3 Charlie Sweatpants
        11 February 2012 at 4:51 pm

        Sorry, that seemed harsher in reading than I intended in writing. But that wasn’t a random blog post by some regular fan. It was a professional piece that pretends to expertise in things it clearly doesn’t know much about. Criticism is warranted.

        • 4 low-g hugs
          11 February 2012 at 4:54 pm

          Stick to nitpicking the episodes.

          • 5 D.N.
            11 February 2012 at 6:19 pm

            I’m with Charlie on this one. And putting aside the issue that the writer didn’t do a simple fact-check, there’s also the fact that names like “Homer the idiot” and “dumbass Homer” actually convey different impressions than “Jerkass Homer” does. It wasn’t that Homer became dumb, it was that he became a jerk, which is not the same thing.

          • 6 The guy who stops by just to call people "fags"
            11 February 2012 at 11:55 pm

            Yeah, fag

  2. 7 dong
    11 February 2012 at 11:03 pm

    When you get upset over any Slate article ever, you lose and they win.

  3. 8 Moe
    12 February 2012 at 2:17 am

    He really needs a girlfriend

  4. 12 February 2012 at 12:08 pm

    While I think it’s reasonable to say that most writers who discuss The Simpsons are, naturally, not going to have the attention to detail that the more devout do, it’s enough of a cultural landmark that it brings with it some requirements, so to speak.

    If you’re going to dissect the show (any cultural/artistic icon), in whatever context, you should be sure the terms you’re dissecting are accurate, or else it renders the entire comparison weakened, and thus your thesis is compromised.

    n.b. God, I hate “The Principal and the Pauper” despite the fact that it’s fun to tell people not to do something “under penalty… of torture.”

    • 12 February 2012 at 12:52 pm

      I think the annoying part is the fact that the two terms that the article chooses to use are in quotes. If it’d just offhandedly pointed out that fans see the Homer of later seasons as idiotic or as a dumbass, then its citation would be vague enough to be acceptable.

  5. 11 Chris
    12 February 2012 at 3:32 pm

    I would also point out that the term “jerkass Homer” didn’t just pop up out of thin air. It originated in an actual Simpsons episode, season 9’s “The Joy of Sect,” when Homer says (I believe more than once), “outta my way, jerkass.” The show itself perfectly encapsulated what Homer had/would become, and thus made for a perfect description of Homer. And also, as a huge Simpsons fan I’ve frequented many websites and read many different things regarding the Simpsons, and I have never seen the term “dumbass Homer” or anything like it. It’s always “jerkass Homer,” because that’s what people hated. He got dumber from the second they put him on TV (hell, they saw fit to point this out in the 138th Episode Spectacular), and that didn’t bother people so much. But once he started acting callously and maliciously, that’s when people got upset. Hence, “jerkass Homer” is the derisive term most people use.

  6. 12 bort reynolds
    13 February 2012 at 4:58 am

    As someone who agrees with you about the decline of the quality of the show this is incredibly pedantic and makes the whole argument lose crediblility.

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