The Simpsons is consistently one of the best shows on television. However, The Simpsons also does not make a whole lot of sense. How can years pass and no one age? How can it continue to make topical pop culture references if everything should be taking place in 1991? There is a possible way in which the series could be explained allowing for these inconsistencies. What if Homer Simpson had been in a coma since season two? This article attempts to make the case that the “coma theory” is a conceivable explanation for the entire show.
10. The Initial Injury
In The Simpsons episode “Bart The Daredevil,” Homer attempts to jump Springfield Gorge on a skateboard. Homer’s Leap is done completely by accident. Homer is successful in convincing Bart not to try to leap the Gorge on a skateboard. Bart spent most of the episode doing escalating stunts in order to prove that he was a real Daredevil. Homer stepped on the skateboard and the skateboard rolled downward to make the leap. For a moment, it looked like Homer might actually jump over Springfield Gorge on the skateboard. At the last second, Homer dropped to the bottom of the gorge. The attempt to get Homer to the hospital resulted in Homer hitting his head multiple times. These head injuries only added to the initial injuries of the fall.
In the “real world,” the fall in Springfield Gorge would have caused severe brain trauma and skull fractures. The trauma to the brain could have easily put Homer into a coma. Comas which last decades are rare. However, a coma lasting decades is not impossible. Edwarda O’Bara was in a coma for forty two years before passing. Long term coma patients can also “wake up” for brief periods before falling back into comas. Firefighter Donald Herbert spoke to his family for nearly fourteen hours after a decade in a coma. Herbert fell back into the coma from which he never recovered again. The hypothesis that Homer Simpson could be in a coma for a quarter century and have brief periods of lucidity is completely conceivable in “the real world.”
9. The Al Jean Theory
Al Jean has been with The Simpsons since the beginning of the show. Jean was made a “show runner” in the third season of The Simpsons. A show runner is responsible for all aspects of the show’s production and direction. Jean is also frequently credited as a writer on the The Simpsons. When Al Jean gives a theory on how The Simpsons should end, the theory should not be treated as simply some crazy fan on the internet.
While doing press for FXX’s Every Simpsons Marathon, Jean gave a hint as to how he would like to see The Simpsons end. Specifically, Jean stated that the show should end with the Simpsons’ family getting ready for a Christmas pageant. The Christmas pageant would be the same pageant featured in the first episode of The Simpsons titled “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire.” This ending would make The Simpsons loop all the way back to the beginning of the series. If the Christmas pageant can be revisited at the end of the series, revisiting the jump over Springfield Gorge is not really a huge “leap of faith.”
8. What State Is Springfield In?
The Simpsons creator Matt Groening seemed to reveal the location of Springfield as being in Oregon. However, a careful reading of the interview reveals that Groening states “Springfield was named after Springfield, Oregon.” Groening also cites the town in Father Knows Best as an influence for Springfield. Groening also borrowed the names of his own family members for the names of The Simpsons. The important distinction is that citing Springfield, Oregon as an influence does not definitively state that the show takes place in Springfield, Oregon.
The age old question of “What State is Springfield In?” may actually be a truly metaphysical one. The term state can cover a wide variety of meanings. “What state is Springfield in?” could easily refer to a state of mind or consciousness as a political territory. If Homer is in a coma, then the question could refer to a state of consciousness. Springfield’s state is a constant topic of discussion for fans of The Simpsons. However, virtually no one argues that Springfield’s state is in fact a state of mind. Most all of the travels which we have seen in The Simpsons could be how Homer Simpson subconsciously views the world after his accident.
“What state is The Simpsons’ Springfield in?”
“The State of Homer’s Subconscious.”
7. The Futurama Connection
If you have ever watched the first episode of Futurama titled “Space Pilot 3000,” you will see Philip J. Fry bump his head and enter into a state of cryogenic freezing for a thousand years. This entire process is simplified by Fry falling into the cryogenic chamber and frozen with a thousand year setting. Fry simply wakes up in the future. This is an interpretation of the events in the mind of Philip J. Fry. Fry’s body could have been frozen in 1999. However, Fry’s heart would have had to stop beating. Fry’s family would have decided to attempt to preserve Fry’s life by the cryogenic freezing. In short, Philip J. Fry and Homer Simpson would both have their minds struggling for consciousness in differing states of “sleep.” In the subconscious brain of a twenty something, he struggles to maintain a connection to life by imagining that he is living in a futuristic world in which all of his childhood dreams are a reality. In Homer’s brain, he is still connected to his family and living in a world where everyone stays the same age even as the years pass.
The common connection between Fry and Simpson is the robot Bender. In “Space Pilot 3000,” Bender gives Fry an option of the “suicide machine” which will instantly take Fry to his next stage of life: death, or consciousness. Fry chooses to “live” and Bender becomes his constant companion in case the decision comes up again. This theory would make Bender something of a supernatural agent who ferries souls to their eventual next state. Bender meets them while they are still in a state of spiritual or conscious limbo. In the Simpsons/Futurama crossover episode titled “Simpsorama,” Bender actually winds up in the Simpsons’ basement. Homer is shown tending to Bender. This is important because Bender is now a constant companion to Homer Simpson as well. If Bender’s purpose in the universe is to care for people in limbo states between life and death, then Bender’s involvement in the lives of Homer Simpson and Philip Fry makes perfect sense.
6. Homer Did Wake Up Once
The Simpsons enjoys inverting the traditional rules of series television. In this vein, The Simpsons may have given away a significant advance in their plot during a seemingly meaningless “clip show.” The 77th episode of The Simpsons is titled “So Its Come to This: A Simpsons Clip Show.” The plot of the show involves Bart putting Homer into a coma with an April Fool’s prank gone wrong. Specifically, Bart shakes a beer can in a paint shaker. When Homer opens the can, the resulting explosion hospitalizes him. The episode is mostly recycled footage while the family waits for Homer to wake-up. The episode does feature a longer scene of Homer going to the hospital after the leap attempt at Springfield Gorge. The longer scene features completely new animation made specifically for the clip show. The longer animation shifts the focus off events back to “Bart the Daredevil.”
The episode also shows Bart tearfully confessing that it was his fault that Homer is in the hospital. Homer comes out of the coma and starts to choke Bart. Homer is told that he has been in a coma and lost part of his brain function. The “beer can incident” could have been imagined by Homer. The tearful confession and Homer waking up could have been real. As with the example of the firefighter, Homer would have slipped back into the coma after the brief period of lucidity. The point of the show is that the once force ultimately powerful enough to wake Homer up would be the love of his son. These events may also indicate that Bart is making a concerted effort to improve himself out of remorse for his father’s situation.
5. The Occasional Glimpse Into the “Future”
There are times in which The Simpsons shows the years passing naturally and the children growing up. In most cases, these episodes seem to reflect Homer’s fears of being a mostly absent father. In “Lisa’s Wedding,” Lisa nearly marries a man who resents everything about the Simpsons. Lisa does eventually call off the wedding because her fiancé cannot accept her family. The episode underscores Homer’s subconscious fear that Lisa will eventually disconnect from the family altogether. “Lisa’s Wedding” also shows a hope that Lisa will not disconnect from her family even if the opportunity arises.
The episode “Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie” highlights Homer’s fear that a lack of discipline is hampering Bart’s development as a human being. The episode shows Bart being disciplined by not being able to watch a highly anticipated movie. Homer follows through on the discipline. The result is that Bart winds up becoming Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 2032. The eventual fate of Bart is a continual source of worry for Homer. This concern might also be what is keeping Homer alive.
The episode “Days of Future Future” seems to highlight all of Homer’s fears about his family. In this episode, Homer is a near immortal surviving through a variety of clones as well as living on in virtual reality. Homer is even eventually given a robot body to insure his immortality. There is no amount of death or destruction which will separate Homer from his family. However, none of their lives seem to be improved by Homer’s constant presence. Homer and Marge split up. Lisa winds up married to a Zombie Millhouse. Bart is divorced, separated from his family, and in a low paying job. This episode may represent Homer’s thought process at a crossroads wondering about his importance to his own family. The fantasy would be indicative of a long period of separation from his family.
In his coma state, Homer does not actually know what happened to his family. These episodes seem to represent Homer’s intense fear of what might be happening.
4. The Simpsons Establishes Definite Time Frames
The great riddle of The Simpsons is that the episodes take place in a contemporary time while no one actually ages. These time frames are further complicated by the fact that The Simpsons clearly establishes dates for Homer and Marge’s courtship as well as all three of the births of the children. The episode “I Married Marge” establishes that Bart’s conception took place while The Empire Strikes Back was in its original theatrical run. This time frame puts Bart’s conception between May 21st, 1980 and August 14th, 1980. Bart Simpson was born between February and April in the year 1981.
The episode “Lisa’s First Word” establishes Lisa being a baby during the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles. The opening ceremony for those Olympic Games was on July 28th, 1984 and the closing ceremonies were on August 12th, 1984. In present day, both Bart and Lisa Simpson would be in their thirties. The events surrounding Maggie Simpson’s birth are shown in the episode “And Maggie Makes Three.” The time frame establishes Maggie’s birth around 1990. This is interesting because Maggie’s birth would mean that The Simpsons shown in the The Tracey Ullman Show shorts were depicting a family slightly in the future.
The time frames established also means that the early Simpsons shows were always showing the same year. “Bart the Daredevil” was released in December of 1990. However, the events of that episode would have technically taken place in 1991. This means that from the show’s perspective, everyone is always the age that they were in 1991. Bart is 10 years old perpetually. The years move but the visualization has to remain in 1991. That means that the years are moving but the ages stay the same. This seeming paradox could be explained if the point of view was from the subconscious of someone who was in a coma and could not see people age but could feel years passing. There are very few other ways in which the series makes sense.
3. Treehouse of Horror
Have you ever wondered why the “Treehouse of Horror” would be a yearly event to the Simpson family? The answer could possibly lie in the fact that the first “Treehouse of Horror” actually predates “Bart the Daredevil.” In the first “Treehouse of Horror,” Homer is actually outside the Treehouse listening in on his children listening in on their stories. This event would have occurred about a month and a half before the fateful events of “Bart The Daredevil.” The memory of Homer listening in on the initial Treehouse stories could have established a yearly Halloween tradition of going to the hospital and telling Homer scary stories. The episodes that we see are Homer’s imaginings of the stories in his mind.
Halloween or scary stories are not the only times in which the family reads directly to Homer. The family also has been known to read to Homer from the Bible as well as American legends, and classical works of literature. Homer is starting to realize that his present family may not be the family which he knows. In the “Treehouse of Horror XXV” segment “The Others,” the Simpsons from the Tracey Ullman Show encounter the present day Simpsons. This convergence may represent how the family has evolved in his mind during the time of Homer’s coma.
2. The Couch Gags
The subtle shift between The Simpsons taking place in the “real world” and the Simpsons being a representation of Homer’s subconscious mind while in a coma may be the couch gags. Homer’s greatest desire is to stay in touch with his family. Every episode starts with Homer sitting alongside his family on the couch. Homer sitting with his family watching television on the couch may be his favorite memory. In the episodes preceding “Bart The Daredevil,” the couch gags are all possible. Granted, the couch gag on “Bart Gets an ‘F'” is improbable with the family falling through the floor on the couch. However, the scenario of falling through the floor is not completely impossible.
In episode 40 titled “Homer Defined,” there is a space alien shown sitting on the couch. Later couch gags would show a monster eating the family as well as the Simpsons finding The Flintstones sitting on the couch. As the years pass, the couch gags demonstrates that Homer’s ability to connect with reality is deteriorating. Homer does not see that he is in a hospital bed. Homer imagines that he is at home on his couch. Homer also constantly hears television playing in the background. Homer’s family being around means that Krusty the Clown as well as The Itchy & Scratchy Show are staples of television shown in Homer’s hospital room. As the lines between reality and televised inspired madness blurred, Homer’s desire to stay connected to his family grew more intense. This struggle led to increasingly fantastic couch gags.
1. How The Series May End
When it comes to a series finale, there is often very little middle ground in fan’s minds. There are admitted misfires such as the Seinfeld finale. There are also masterpieces such as the Newhart finale. In the Newhart finale, the entire show was revealed to be a dream by Bob Newhart’s character in the earlier The Bob Newhart Show.
Ideally, the last episode would feature Homer being given one last chance to decide between moving on to an afterlife and waking up to a world he has not known for decades. The ”trial” for the fate of Homer would feature Bender arguing for him to move on and a ten year old Bart begging for him to wake up. In the end, Homer would wake up to see his family. He would see his children grown up. He would see Marge had waited for him all those years. He would see his grandkids. If they wanted to loop it all the way back, then Homer would wake up as a Christmas miracle. This may not be the best way to end the series. The ending would also not be the “Worst. Episode. Ever. “