The Simpsons: Starting the Reference Revolution

As ‘The Simpsons’ enters its 29th season, join Mike Calabro for an exploration of the show’s groundbreaking use of pop culture references and why it was so important. The Simpsons season 29 is upon us, and as we await the continued adventures of Homer Simpson, Bart Simpson, Lisa Simpson, Maggie Simpson, and Marge Simpson, we got to thinking about how The Simpsons referenced popular culture. Simpsons movie references, Simpsons TV references, and other Simpsons references have become the stuff of legend, and as long as the Matt Groening creation continues its way into our homes, The Simpsons will continue to provide the most hilarious, clever, and obscure references, just like it always did. The humor of The Simpsons episodes comes from a lot of different sources and writers, but there’s always been a strong undercurrent of pop culture that serves as a foundation. For a cartoon comedy on Fox, The Simpsons was always a surprisingly grown-up show, and Simpsons movie references have educated multiple generations of the best obscure movies and cult classics.

The Simpsons references were so funny that soon the rest of TV and movies took notice. From Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino to the obnoxious Family Guy or South Park references, The Simpsons already did it. The Simpsons created a whole new language of shared pop culture knowledge as shorthand for funny jokes and deep characterization, and it revolutionized the world of popular entertainment. We may never leave the world of Springfield, at least, not until the show becomes unprofitable. Now, The Simpsons isn’t just a reference machine, it’s become a pop culture institution unto itself and has influenced and been referenced by countless millions of obsessed fans. The Simpsons’ real legacy is how it changed the way we talk about popular culture, and how we remix pop culture references into something completely new. Conclusion: It all started with The Simpsons.