Sunday, May 26, 2013

Maggie Simpson: Baby Genius, or Trigger-Happy Alien?

Recently I was watching an episode of The Simpsons (despite being far from its heyday, it is still one of the better shows on tv) titled, "Pulpit Friction", from season 24 (!!!). One scene stood out to me. There was nothing particularly funny or shocking about the scene, but for some reason it sparked a train of thought that sped and careened its way around my brain until forcing its way to my fingertips and onto the keyboard where I now type. The scene went as follows: 

Marge tries burping Maggie, but to no avail. Marge apologizes, telling Maggie that she just doesn't have it in her. So, Maggie proceeds to pat her own back and burp herself, then pat Marge on the back and burp her.

This humorous yet seemingly insignificant scene led me on a path of discovery about the youngest Simpsons member that will forever change the way I view her, and the show as a whole. 

I had always loved Maggie. Her facial expressions convey more emotional range than most Hollywood actors. She was never my favorite character (it's impossible to choose just one) but I always appreciated her shenanigans, especially with her nemesis, Baby Gerald.


After a little research, it didn't take me long to realize that Margaret Evelyn "Maggie" Simpson, the pacifier sucking, uni-brow hating, Happy Little Elves-loving, clothes-tripping, Norwegian speaking, star-headed baby on the longest running show in television history, is the most intelligent, mature, and deadly member of the Simpsons family.

The most honest, too.

After a little more research, I discovered that a few other people had already made this realization. Turns out, The Simpsons is kinda popular.

It also turns out there was an episode about Maggie possibly being smarter than Lisa, who is often considered a genius herself.

Maggie even plays the sax almost as well as Lisa. Over the years, there are countless allusions to Maggie's supreme intellect. In one episode, she takes the family car for a joyride. Yeah, she eventually crashes into a prison, releasing all the inmates, but she still drove a car!

In one classic episode, A Streetcar Named Marge, she led a rebellion among the infants at the daycare center. The staff took all the babies' pacifiers, so Maggie does some Mission Impossible shit and gets them all back.

She's like a miniature ninja. While trying to escape one of Homer's clumsy attempts at bonding with her, she crawls across the clothesline hand-over-hand to escape. In another episode, she crawled all over town looking for her mother, finding her way to all of Marge's favorite hang-outs.

And like a ninja, she doesn't just use her agility and athleticism for escaping, she has an affinity for violence, too: after watching an episode of Itchy and Scratchy, she hit Homer on the head with a mallet, shot a suction-cup dart at his photograph, and later attempted to stab him with a pencil. She famously shot Mr. Burns (and tried to shoot him again in a later episode) and shot the fingers off a group of mobsters with the air-rifle she keeps in her crib. Another time, Lisa asked Maggie to be her fencing partner: when Lisa unintentionally belittled Maggie, Maggie easily overwhelmed her older sister and slashed "M" into Lisa's shirt, like a tiny yellow Zorro.

She's a little bit twisted...

For the most part, though, she uses her skills for good. She gets upset by Homer's sloppy attempts to connect with her, but she has saved his life many times. When she shot the mobsters, she did so to save Homer and Marge. She once swam out to sea to save Homer from drowning, and she also rescued him from being kidnapped by a tow truck driver (after riding Santa's Little Helper like a horse). In The Simpsons Movie, when the mob was attacking the Simpsons, Krusty told his monkey, Mr. Teeny, to attack Maggie. (Why her of all people? Does Krusty know something everybody else doesn't?) In response, Maggie breaks her baby bottle and thrusts the jagged edges at the monkey, ready for a battle. Also in the movie, she dropped a rock on Russ Cargill's head before he could shoot Homer. 

Despite her violent tendencies, she seems to love her family, and her family loves her back. 
After she takes out Cargill, Homer says, "What a great little accident you turned out to be!" As most Simpsons fans know, Maggie was unplanned. In one of the greatest television episodes ever (And Maggie Makes Three) we see the circumstances leading to Maggie's birth. After Homer quit his job at the Power Plant to work his dream job at Barney's Bowlarama, Marge unexpectedly becomes pregnant with Maggie soon after. In a state of depression, Homer reapplies for his old job in order to support his family. Then Maggie is born, and when he holds her for the first time, he instantly loves her and breaks out of his depression. In the closing shot, we see that Homer keeps all of Maggie's baby photos in his office to cheer him up at his workplace, covering Mr. Burn's harsh command with a more motivational slogan:

Maggie once again has saved Homer's life; she is the glue that holds the family together. Except she was never really supposed to be a part of the family, as Homer states. But accidents happen. Maybe Marge forgot her pill. Maybe Homer drunkenly planted his seed without protection. Or maybe an alien impregnated Marge when she wasn't looking?

Let's establish a few things before we get to that, though. The Simpsons started as an animated short, then turned into a full sitcom, which in turn spawned comics, video games, merchandise, and a movie. In Simpsons lore, there's canonical story lines and non-canonical. Basically, there's story lines that "actually" happen, which affect future shows (Ned Flanders wife dying is canonical) and there are story lines that just exist in and of themselves, like the video games or any Treehouse of Horror episodes. When Maggie kills Groundskeeper Willie in Treehouse of Horror V, then pops out her pacifier and states, "This is indeed a disturbing universe" in James Earl Jones's voice, that doesn't actually happen in The Simpsons canonical reality. Maggie's quote even brilliantly alludes to that fact.

In another non-canonical episode, Treehouse of Horror IX, in a short titled, "Starship Poopers", Marge reveals that Maggie's real father is the alien Kang. She claims the aliens, Kang and Kodos, abducted and impregnated her using mind-control techniques, which turn out to be nothing more than Kang sitting next to her on the couch, quoting awful pick-up lines, pulling a "look-over-there" move to distract her, then shooting her with a ray. Maggie was born 9 months later. We also learn that the "sucks" from Maggie's pacifier (her catchphrase) is her way of contacting the aliens. The rest of the episode involves the Simpson family and the aliens fighting over Maggie on The Jerry Springer Show. When the family finally goes home, Maggie says, "Very well, I'll drive!" in Kang's voice and laughs his maniacal laugh.

Still cuter than most baby pics on Facebook.

Most people never considered this episode as more than a funny Halloween bit with no effect on the established reality of the show. I did for a long time. But The Simpsons' writers and creators are known for their inside jokes and running gags. They put all types of hidden jokes and easter eggs throughout almost every episode.

In the next season's Treehouse of Horror, the introduction features Maggie saying "Silence!" in Kang's voice. Usually there is no continuity in the Halloween episodes, so why the continuation of the previous story line here? It may not be much, but it establishes a connection across at least two non-canonical episodes.

And besides, the aliens appear in canonical episodes, too. It's safe to say the writers and creators play loosely with the canon. Or maybe alternate Simpsons realities just overlap at times. Who knows? It's a friggin cartoon, it's not that serious.

Maggie says "Relax".

So maybe, just maybe, this hilarious 8 minute sketch gives us insight into the most hidden of all easter eggs: Maggie Simpson is an alien, sent here to watch over the Simpsons family to gain knowledge of the human race and to ensure higher ratings for the intergalactic reality show, Foolish Earthlings.

You. Right now.

Maybe the events in the Treehouse episode didn't actually take place, but who's to say Kang didn't impregnate Marge some other time? We know it only takes him a second (slightly less time than most human males) and we know Marge and Homer didn't plan the pregnancy. So if the aliens appear in the canonical episodes--the so called "real" episodes--they could have easily impregnated Marge at any time.

Think about it. Maggie shows a much stronger devotion to Marge than Homer. Yes, Marge gives her more attention and is always at home with her, while Homer spends more time with Moe and often forgets her name, but maybe Maggie understands that Marge is the only one with whom she shares DNA.

Then there's Maggie's almost unhealthy obsession with the cartoon The Happy Little Elves. It could just be a normal childhood obsession with a cartoon, but she's very young to have such affection for fictional characters. At that age, all she can recognize, visually, are shapes and colors. If you don't have much definition in your vision, it's quite possible to mistake the Happy Little Elves with Kang and Kodos.


If you squint really hard...

Clearly the elves remind Maggie of her father. In one episode, the elves speak to Maggie directly:

To which Maggie replies:

And they return:

Is this just a typical toddler program showering love and affection on its young viewers, or is it a message from her alien relatives? It's quite possibly the latter, considering that every thing happening on Earth is just a part of the alien's reality show.

In the video game, The Simpsons Hit & Run, Kang and Kodos appear as the main villains (again, this is "non-canonical", but we've already established the loose boundaries of the canon). They produce a reality TV show, Foolish Earthlings, which is basically just a live feed from Earth. The show is failing, so to boost ratings, the aliens drug the people of Springfield with a mind-control serum; the brainwashed people then do ridiculous stunts for the insect-like surveillance cameras all over town.

It is clear that Kang and Kodos are watching at all times and they are willing to do illicit things to humans for better ratings. They are not necessarily evil, though. The job description for Kang and Kodos (yes, such a thing exists) reads: "Plotting galactic conquests and trying to understand human culture." The common misconception is that they want to take over the planet, but that's not true: they want to take over the galaxy. They just want to understand life on our planet.

In their first appearance in Treehouse of Horror, they take the Simpson family on board their ship. Lisa (the recognized "genius" of the family) accuses Kang and Kodos of wanting to eat them. At this point, all they have done is show the family love and feed them fine cuisine. The aliens angrily deny the accusation and return the Simpsons to Earth.

They want to understand human culture. What better way to learn about a foreign culture than to disguise one of your own as one of the subjects you want to understand (Avatar, anyone?). As we already know, Maggie is like a super-sponge, instantly soaking up everything around her. In her short year on Earth she has already learned: the theory of E=MC², spelling it out with her building blocks; language and communication skills, spelling out her own name on an Etch-A-Sketch and speaking her first (three) words, one in English, one in Flanders's's, and one in Norwegian; proper hygiene, already changing her own diapers; the importance of safety regulations, using a fire extinguisher to put out burning curtains; the value of sports and recreation, becoming a fantastic skateboarder and bowler, even bowling a perfect game; and finally, kinetics and body movement, mastering the art of dance.

She is a hub of knowledge, and she is invaluable to the aliens. In Treehouse IX, Kang decided he wanted her back, he just didn't know how to go about it, which leads to the confrontation on The Jerry Springer Show. Apparently, he shares a violent temper with his daughter, and he hasn't learned all he needs to know about interpersonal relations quite yet.

So let's just say for now you accept that she is an alien looking to gain knowledge and improve ratings for her father's reality tv show (and you should accept it because it's true). Let's now apply this theory to her actions throughout the series.

TV audiences want drama, and alien tv audiences are no different. Well, Maggie ensures drama on Foolish Earthlings. When she crashed Homer's car into the prison and freed all the prisoners, that wasn't an accident. She was creating more exciting tv. That's what she does constantly. It's no coincidence that since her arrival, each member of the Simpsons family has achieved greatness: Homer went to space and owned the Nuclear Power Plant; Marge founded the successful Shapes franchise and is a published author; Lisa directed a documentary that was screened at the Sundance Film Festival, and won the Entertainer of the Year award; Bart gained fame with the catchphrase "I didn't do it", created a T-Shirt line, sang in a boy band and directed a feature film. A family of this social standing (and intelligence) normally does not have such astounding success. They are rather entertaining for a Suburban, blue collar family...and it has all happened after Maggie arrived. Maggie's influence has guided them to these levels of greatness, ensuring high ratings for the once failing reality show.

Another way to ensure ratings is to have relatable chracters. Well, now alien audiences have a character on Foolish Earthlings who they can relate to. And she's a hero. She constantly saves Homer, despite not liking him very much. But she's also a genius. She knows that Homer is the most visibly humorous character in town; slapstick transcends culture and language barriers (even though the aliens native language sounds suspiciously like English) so it is vital to the show's success to keep him alive. She calls him "Daddy" as her first word not because she loved him, he didn't even hear it, it simply added more emotional impact to the show. Or maybe it was a question: "Daddy?" Maybe this was the point she realized she wasn't Homer's offspring. Later in her life, she avoids Homer's attempts at bonding. Is it because she doesn't want to anger her real father, who is always watching?

To keep her real father happy, Maggie ensures the safety of the entire town, once again helping his show. When Mr. Burns planned to block the sun, Maggie didn't hesitate to shoot him. Burns' plan would have endangered the townspeople, including the Simpsons, and more importantly, it would have turned the town dark. The aliens would have needed to do expensive, time-consuming upgrades to cameras more suited for around the clock night vision.

She has a vested interest in keeping the family and the town safe because of her father's show. But it's clear she has grown attached to her human family, and a part of her wants to save the Simpsons (begrudgingly in Homer's case). Save them from what, though? The aliens? Maybe. But more likely from global warming.
In Future-Drama, a teenage Maggie (in 2018) sends a postcard from Alaska, which now looks like Florida because of global climate change. There are many other references to a future ravaged by global warming throughout the series.

In this episode and others depicting the future, Maggie is dressed like a punk rocker, implying that she has become somewhat disillusioned by society's ignorance.

She makes sure to keep the pacifier close.

But in the present, she tries hard to save humanity. She gives many clues about the impending doom.

There are other hints, too. In the script for the season finale of season 24, the Simpsons go to an amusement park. The lines are extremely long, except for a ride called "Journey to Your Future". The ride is a rocket ship that takes them to Kang and Kodos' home planet. 

In the Oscar nominated short, Maggie Simpson in: The Longest Daycare, a poster over her head reads: "You have No Future".

Then there's this: in Treehouse of Terror IX, the episode in which Maggie is revealed to be an alien, executive director David Cohen's credit is listed as David "Watch Futurama" Cohen. This refers to the fact that Cohen was leaving the show the next year to focus on Futurama, created by The Simpsons creator Matt Groening. The silly names on Halloween episodes has been a running gag, and it's understandable that they would cross promote, but it could be much more than that. It could be a clue to understanding the connection between the two shoes. A clue to understanding Maggie's importance to the planet.  

In Futurama, Earth has become an apocalyptic wasteland where humans and aliens interact side by side in order to survive, sometimes engaging in cross-species relationships. There are countless references to The Simpsons throughout the series (and vice versa) so the two shows exist in the same universe.

This is the future Maggie was trying to warn us about in The Simpsons. She is on Earth to understand and gain wisdom from the human race in order to avert global disaster (all while gaining a bigger audience for her father's reality tv show, of course). Through her efforts, aliens and humans are able to eventually interact peacefully and work together after the apocalypse, as evidenced in Futurama.

Maggie Simpson, half alien/half human infant, saves planet Earth from complete devastation.

I Love You All...Class Dismissed.

P.S. I was not the creator of any of these images or gifs. Thank you to all of the Tumblr users I shamelessly stole from.

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