Wednesday, 28 April 2010

The Lisa Challenge

I'm not sure how to describe this, because I don't know how common the experience is, but quite often I find myself "flashing back" to The Simpsons' rendition of Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven.  Inextricably tied to this, somehow (she's largely absent from the sequence), is the image of Lisa Simpson.

Lisa actually has an episode where she recreates (and relives) another Poe piece - this time the story "The Tell-Tale Heart". That episode too has a similar kind of poignancy to it. Something about the combination of Simpsons and Poe that sends me into adoration overload and is probably ultimately a far more decisive source of Americophilia for me than all that democratic stuff I keep going on about.

I've already worshipped here briefly at the altar of Poe. I'm going to try and honour Lisa now.

Occasionally I've heard (well, read) it discussed who was the real hero of the show - Homer or Bart. The answer of course is Lisa. Homer's the super-everyman and Bart is the quintessential free spirit, but Lisa is the conscience and voice of wisdom and greatest source of lust for life - in other words, the heart and soul.

Many people say this makes her boring. They should be shot. Their death notwithstanding, I feel it my duty to point out that Lisa constitutes more than the stories' straight woman. She is as colourful as all the rest, what with her knee-jerk liberalism with complementary vegetarian Buddhism and partiality to Malibu Stacy dolls and ponies and that teen idol Corey and, above all, the fact that in many of the show's best episodes, especially back in the earlier seasons when it was actually good, Lisa is very clearly in quite intense and seriously considered pain, a position only ever truly shared with Marge - everybody else's pain is little more than a plot point when it pops up.

Lisa is the person people ought to be. Not actually even remotely perfect, but serious in her attempt to live life, compassionate, and, above all, childishly excited about grown-up things.

A word about "grown-up things" then. It's a rather sad commentary on how we process words and ideas that what's immediately evoked is X-rated material. Grown-ups have done more over the years than create works that had to have access to them restricted by age. Everything that isn't total fluff is adult. Everything. Art, morality, spirituality, science, friendship, love, dignity, community. All these things, especially when you participate more actively in them, are what makes adulthood infinitely better than childhood. But adults, when they find time off their busy schedules to dabble in any of these things, do so quietly, equivocally, almost indifferently. They accept on some level that these things are good but then go about them almost as if to satisfy somebody else. Lisa dives in head first, without even checking if the pool's been filled.

Poe is similarly occupied by the artistically macabre or otherwise melodramatic, with an enthusiasm and sometimes it seems the intelligence of an 8-year-old. I think it was Yeats that said that Poe's writing was vulgar. The little I've read of Yeats actually isn't bad, but brimming with enthusiasm it ain't. Let the sophisticates be adult about their adultness. I want to attack the exciting things in life with the ravenous appetite of an 8-year-old girl.

Instead of walking through life like some unholy hybrid of businessman and politician.

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