When a show stays on the air for 26 seasons, it’s only natural that some of the characters will change a little bit over time. That has certainly been the case for Homer Simpson. In 2015, his character scantly resembles the power-plant-worker-trying-to-get-by that we saw back in 1989, and in many ways, that isn’t always a good thing. Here’s a look at some of those changes.
He’s More Of A Jerk
In Simpsons online communities, you may hear the phrase “Jerka** Homer.” It refers to two scenes from Season 9’s “The Joy Of Sect,” where Homer selfishly yells “out of the way jerka**” at everyone in his line of sight. In that particular episode, it’s just one gag (and it’s actually kinda funny), but it was a telling sign for where his character was heading. In earlier seasons, Homer could be insensitive at times, but his heart was generally in the right place. But in episodes like “Kill The Alligator And Run,” (where he manages somehow be the most loutish drunk at spring break, of all places) he just acts like an obnoxious dolt the entire time.
A big part of why Homer was able to get away with so much, and why we would believe Marge would stay with him despite having every reason in the world not to, is because it always seemed like his intentions were good. As the show aged, that’s not always as clear.
Zany Homer Is Now The Norm
One of the most hated scenes in Simpsons history came in Season 12’s “Homer Vs. Dignity,” (that title alone!) when Homer makes extra money by working as Mr. Burns’ “prank monkey.” At first, his pranks were actually pretty funny (the scene where he eats a Spiderman comic and gives Comic Book Guy a heart attack), but then there’s the infamous panda prank. Homer poses as a the new panda at the Springfield Zoo, but things go horribly awry when he has an unpleasant interaction with an actual Panda. Known among fans as the “Panda Rape Scene,” it was surprisingly tasteless for a show like The Simpsons, but it was also an example of the misguided attempts to make Homer as wacky and zany as possible. Another episode sees him eat fire without knowing what it was while pretty much every vacation episode since Season 11 has been a toxic mix of Jerka** Homer and Zany Homer.
There Are Way Fewer Consequences for His Actions Now
When Homer loses his job in Season 1’s “Homer’s Odyssey,” his search for work becomes so hopeless that he eventually attempts suicide. That’s uncharacteristically dark, but it conveys the despair Homer is feeling in that moment. Homer is a grossly incompetent worker who basically lucked into his job at the power plant, and when he screws up one too many times, it’s naturally quite hard for him to find a new job.
But in later years, Homer could get fired and it wouldn’t matter. In Season 15’s “Diatribe Of A Mad Housewife,” he gets fired in the first scene of the episode after he recklessly drives through the plant while unable to see out his window. His search for a new job barely takes him an hour, as he gets hired as a used car salesman. Then, he buys an old ambulance on the lot, and that becomes his job.
When The Simpsons started, Homer’s actions had real consequences that would play out over the course of the episode. Now, everyone just let’s him get away with everything, never holding his feet to the fire. That’s our Homer!
He’s Good At Everything Now
As we established with the last point, Homer sucks at his job. He has no business working in a nuclear power plant, and his performance reflects that. But in later years, we often saw Homer just be good at something without much effort. In “Homer Scissorhands,” he cuts Selma’s hair out of necessity and ends up being a master at it. This leads to him opening up his own hair salon, which becomes wildly popular, all without any training whatsoever.
Again, it wasn’t always like this. Even when Homer began rapidly changing jobs, his usual incompetence remained. In “Guess Who’s Coming To Criticize Dinner,” he becomes a successful critic only because Lisa is ghostwriting his articles. Likewise, in “Deep Space Homer,” we understand that Homer has no business being in space, and the other two astronauts on board guide him along.
Homer has always lived a charmed life, but lately, it’s been a little too charmed. It’s one thing for a guy to get some lucky breaks in life, but in the show’s recent seasons, everything has become one big extended fantasy.