The Simpsons are probably the most famous family in America, fictional or otherwise. I’ve been watching Homer’s escapades since I was around eight years old, and while I may not have always understood what was happening, my dad would always watch it. I could recognize that opening tune anywhere.
I watch a lot of the old episodes from "The Simpsons" in my spare time, since they are a phenomenal reminder as to why people consider it some of the best comedy that’s ever graced television. Old-time watchers like me can agree that the show had some sincere and heartfelt moments amidst all the humor and beer drinking. And if there’s one episode in particular that delivered to me one of the best and most important messages in life, it’s the episode titled, "Bart gets an F."
Bart Simpson, as we all know, is a troublemaker and then some. With more of a track record than "Dennis the Menace" at this point, Bart’s demeanor was known from the very moment "The Simpsons" took off as a bad influence to children. Appropriately, Bart is a class clown and does very poorly in school - he could care less about his grades. The episode revolves around Bart trying to shape up and pass his final test for the year, otherwise he’ll be forced to repeat the fourth grade. But during a parent teacher conference, he comes to the conclusion that he’s “dumb as a post."
Every time I think about this episode, even if it’s just that one moment of acceptance, I reflect upon what it was like for me in high school and what it’s currently like for me in college. And as strange as it is to be comparing myself to a fourth grade child, I can sympathize with Bart on so many levels. In the episode, Bart constantly gets distracted whenever he tries to study. There’s even a moment where he repeats the classic, “after this I’ll study” routine, only to end up not getting any work done. It’s amazing how an episode of "The Simpsons" that came out nearly two decades ago can completely relate to students of all ages. When I was Bart’s age, I was drawing comic books in class instead of studying, and now, I find myself being just as distracted.
Bart does more than fulfill stereotypes, he relates to students everywhere - especially me. I was never a great student, but just like Bart, I tried my best, sometimes till my fingers gave out. Bart keeps his cool and tries not to worry about his failures, as if he’s trying to live in the moment. But when it catches up to him, he breaks down and shows more emotion than ever. This is the mentality I had all throughout high school, because I was more concerned with being cool and popular rather than passing my next exam. I came to the realization that I just wasn’t as smart as the other kids, and I was teased for being the dumbest person in the advanced classes.
The Simpson family may get a bad rep for being a bad example in the 90's, but Bart’s parents showed their son so much support throughout the episode. Marge wonders to herself why Bart fails when she sees her son studying his butt off, and she of all people knows Bart isn’t exactly an angel. My parents always understood my struggles in school, and, much like Homer and Marge Simpson, they supported me in every step. My dad may have gotten upset at my failures, but deep down he believed in me, just like Homer believed in his boy - no matter how difficult it was for him to show it.
But the most important aspect of the show lies in the last eight minutes. In a move of desperation, common to most of us, Bart prays. He prays to God that something happens to make school cancelled so he can study for one extra day to finally pass. And when it happens, he hits the books all day so he can trump the exam, completely ignoring the snow day taunting him outside. Bart’s family watch him from afar as he smacks himself out of his daydreams so he can concentrate. Even when I start getting serious about studying, I can’t help but day dream like Bart does, because something around me, no matter how insignificant, ends up corrupting my thoughts and throws me off.
We’ve all been there. We’ve all had trouble studying for the exam we’ve tossed and turned in bed about. We’ve all been worried about being held back or being kicked out of school because of the deciding factor of our next test, no matter how intelligent we think we may be. It’s even harder for us to study sometimes because of that stress that’s weighing on our shoulders; that thought in the back of our mind telling us, “How can we get through this?” And Bart isn’t doing this for anyone else; he’s doing it for him. He’s doing it to prove to himself that he isn’t as stupid as he believes he is.
And what happens next may surprise you, but Bart fails his test.
While it is heartbreaking, this is the most crucial moment of the entire episode, because it teaches you a vital lesson: failure is a part of life.
Through all his studying and book cracking, Bart still ends up with a 59 on his exam, causing him to break down in tears and exclaiming, “I really tried this time! I really tried! This is as good as I can do and I still failed!”
Those words right there were so powerful to me, because this was me, not in elementary school, but just last semester in college.
I hit the books and studied as hard as I could on one of my final exams, and I ended up failing it anyway. And this was the moment I said to myself, “Now I know how Bart Simpson felt.” After all that work, it amounted to nothing. And while I was miserable about it, I thought back to "Bart gets an F" and realized that failure happens to all of us.
Then, Bart notices he answered an extra credit question correct and receives one point, making his failing grade a passing one. That’s when I remembered to never give up hope. Bart proved himself to his teacher - even if he did end up flunking. This proves that you may be smarter than you think you are.
Homer decides to hang Bart’s D- up on the fridge and his family stands around admiring it with beaming smiles. But I didn’t see the Simpson Family - I saw me, my brother, my mother and my father eyeing the results of my hard work.
In a way, I am Bart Simpson. Before I thought I’d never get anywhere in life. Everywhere I looked, my peers seemed smarter and more accomplished. But Bart’s motive for passing the fourth grade wasn’t to stay with his friends, it was to improve himself, and that’s why anyone should try their hardest at anything in life. Those last few minutes of the episode made me more confident and accepting of the fact that I’m always smarter than I think I am, and that I move at my own pace, just like our favorite juvenile: Bart Simpson.
Failure changes you for the better and not for the worse. The Simpsons proved that years ago. Nothing in life is ever going to be handed to you, and even if you do try and end up failing, you always pick yourself up and learn from the experience. Tell yourself you can finish that cosplay, or that you can pass that test, or that you can ace that interview. And if it ends up in flames, you study the ashes. Bart did it, and so can we.
And it always helps to have people that can surround you and admire your talents and achievements, whether they be close friends, or the world’s most dysfunctional family.