Lisa Simpson: An Iconic Feminist Hero

By Sam Stroozas

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Lisa Simpson serves as an enduring feminist icon from generation to generation as she tackles issues of intersectionality, gender norms, and authority. Lisa’s character has developed through a sense of dynamic shifts in accordance to the political, and humanistic climate - yet she remains a persistent figure of our goals for all young women to adhere towards.

Lisa’s representation on The Simpsons has created an inclusive, and contextual view of empowered women and the thresholds they control. Her empowerment has served as reason for feminist evolution, as well as critical examination of intersectional ideologies. In the thirty years since The Simpsons has been on air, Lisa has continued to be “the only character on the show not controlled by his or her base impulses.” She treats her world with empathy and dedication.

Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, commented on her character development saying, “Lisa is the family’s, and the series’s, moral center and voice of reason. She’s a precocious reader, a preternaturally talented musician, an ardent feminist, a vegetarian, an environmentalist, a Buddhist, a champion of scientific reason, a grassroots activism, an eloquent orator, a fiercely independent thinker, and an all-round bastion of social justice.”

The Simpsons were able to create a character that leads in successful domineering of feminist values within a community that more times than not, regards Lisa’s achievements as intelligent but isolating. Writer, Al Jean described Lisa as “always searching for something she doesn’t see in the world.” She actively questions authority and elicits boundless equity for all.

As a frozen-in-time eight year old, Lisa has had to deal with the ‘youth illusion’ of being told excuses and falsified information to please her only momentarily. Her hope for higher reason is a mirroring of a feeling that many children experience; “it’s very easy to believe something when everyone around you is unanimously telling you it’s true. Lisa’s role in The Simpsons is a reminder that sometimes it’s the world around you that’s absurd,”

Lisa’s extensive and holistic care for her society runs deeply in her actions. David X. Cohen, writer for the show explained, “she cares and feels so deeply about things, it’s great for developing dramatic story lines If you believe Lisa truly cares about something, then you will, too.”

In season six, episode twenty three, “The Springfield Connection,” Marge Simpson, Lisa’s mother, becomes a cop. Throughout the episode Lisa battles with the people in her life by vocalizing the issues with the prison system. At one point, Lisa says, “ Mom, I know your intentions are good, but aren’t the police the protective force that maintains the status quo for the wealthy elite? Don’t you think we ought to attack the roots of social problems instead of jamming people into overcrowded prisons?”

Lisa defies social standards again in season five, episode fourteen, “Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy”.  In this episode, Lisa faces off against her town of Springfield when they release a doll, Malibu Stacy, who only speaks in sexist comments such as, “Don’t ask me, I’m just a girl” and “Let’s buy makeup so the boys will like us.”

In a tour of the doll factory in Springfield Lisa says, “Is the remarkably sexist drivel spouted by Malibu Stacy intentional, or is just a horrible mistake?” Lisa confronts the doll’s original creator and together they create a feminist doll: Lisa Lionheart. While thinking of new lines for the doll they create, “When I get married, I am keeping my own name! Wait, maybe that should be ‘if’ I choose to get married.”

The dedication to the development of her character has allowed viewers to grow along with her, and become more passionate, and progressive. When viewers can see themselves in Lisa, they are more willing to grow as she does. Her relatable nature as well as her sense of resilience has encouraged viewers to continuously admire her.

Feminism has a long way to go, but Lisa has pioneered the new branding of the social issue on television, as well as into the lives of young women as an audacious role model. NME magazine stated, “Lisa Simpson helped me, and thousands of other little girls of the millennial generation, fall in love with feminism. Lisa does not have time for your corporate feminism.”

This ‘corporate feminism’ has been prescribed as a strictly White Feminist outlook, which terrified viewers when they watched Lisa progress and defend herself and her gender throughout the series. Specifically, Republican Senator Ted Cruz developed an inanimate fear towards the character, because she is an educated and bold woman. At the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, Ted Cruz said, “The Democrats are the party of Lisa Simpson and Republicans are happily the party of Homer, Bart, Maggie and Marge.”

Besides misrepresenting  the intelligence of a youthful feminist icon to adoring crowds, Cruz proved the continuous tale that self-conscious men are rattled to the core by any sense of power executed by women, that of animation, or reality.

Writer Al Jean tweeted, “Ted Cruz says Maggie Simpsons would vote for him. I think Ted’s the one who could use a pacifier in his mouth.”

Instead of reinforcing a divide between the two dominant political parties, Cruz should be focused on applauding Lisa for her self- taught empowerment and questioning of the political systems that exist as role models for his daughters.

When we teach young girls that women in power positions are narcissistic and unattractive, then we enforce gender norms and perpetuate systems of oppression. Lisa’s character has portrayed to millions of people that you can question the norms and defend your beliefs. How people react to that is not an equation of your sense of character, but a true reaction to their fear of progressive and equitable change.