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Question #2--The Word

Why doesn't Maggie speak. She's said her first words...but what about the second...third...? --Julie Katz

Now, the answer to this can be written in two ways. One way would be the obvious way, that most likely everyone thinks. That answer would be that The Simpsons writers had some good ideas for another flashback show, and simply needed a present day plot to trigger the story. And really, what better than Maggieís first word? (It was about time!) And so she said her first word, and its purpose was exhausted. She had said her word, the viewer saw Lisaís birth, and there was no reason to ever think about it again. Thatís the reason most people should come up with if they just look on the surface. But if you have taken a look at last monthís question, you should understand that I NEVER just stop at the surface! And so here is my answer...

The first thing we have to look at is the situation in which she said her "first word." That would be in her crib, alone, with the lights out. (No, it didnít count when Homer thought she said "burlap.") So, as far as we know the Simpson family never heard her speak at all. So what does this tell us? This tells us that there is a good chance she has been speaking since day one. We all must admit that by the time that episode rolled around she very well should have been speaking. And if she said her "first word" in complete solitude, who is to say that she hasnít been doing that the whole time? Speaking it and simply keeping it to herself. Now anybody with half a brain would be asking about now, "Why on earth would she go and do something like that?" Well, letís take a glance at the town of Springfield (by far the best metaphor for the real world that television has to offer). More specifically we have to look at the communication in the town of Springfield. In a lot of cases, television can reflect the area that produces it. So letís take a look at Springfieldís television. First of all we have the Krusty show, which is really little more than sight gags and slapstick. And both of Krustyís major sidekicks (Sideshows Bob and Mel) who are both eloquent speakers have been stifled, and forced to play a slide whistle whilst enduring Krustyís humiliating tortures. Theyíre extreme prowess in the area of speech stifled in order to score a few cheap gags. Within the Krusty show we also see the Itchy and Scratchy Show. This cartoon show, though it sometimes involves speech, relies heavily on actions to get its point across and provide entertainment. But now letís take a look at another station. Channel Ocho. Home of the "Bee Guy." Though his show involves speech, and a lot of times very much of it, Homer and the other Simpsons watch and are amused by the slapstick. Once again, the actions. They obviously donít understand the Spanish, but they canít resist a chuckle at a giant mouse trap on his behind. Though he speaks, itís his actions that provide the entertainment. But letís shy away from television for a moment. Weíll take a look at some of the denizens of the town. Mayor Quimby tries to reach a peaceful solution with two alien conquerors ("Treehouse of Horror II") through means of friendly speech, but is stifled by a club to the head. In "Marge vs. The Monorail" Marge has swayed the town to use Mr. Burnsí fine to repave Main Street, but Lyle Lanley sways them even faster with a little piano playing and quick thinking. Homer ignores all of the verbal warnings about his physical condition ("Homerís Triple Bypass") and does not even begin to seek help until he actually must endure the action of a heart attack. In "The Front" a Harvard graduateís high intellect and dedication is overcome from a blow to the head with Roger Myers Juniorís name plate. In "Bartís Friend Falls in Love" Homer builds a great vocabulary through the aid of the wrong subliminal learning tape, yet not a single person can make hide nor hair of what heís saying. But then, when his vocabulary deteriorates rapidly and he is forced to speak in unintelligent, monosyllabic bursts, he can finally make his wife understand that he is simply asking for a spoon, all through his miming of digging food. "Two Bad Neighbors" shows Bart getting into trouble despite George Bushís warnings, not stopping until Bush takes him over his knee and physically spanks him. In "Lisa the Iconoclast" she realizes that nobody in town will listen to her tell them that Jebediah Springfield is really Hans Sprungfeld, and so she understands that the one way she can get her point across is with the concrete evidence of his silver tongue. And, of course, in "Homerís Enemy" Frank Grimes just canít seem to get anybody to listen to him when he tries to prove how incompetent Homer Simpson really is, and so he has to resort to a biting physical imitation of the man.

So now that we see this, what does it say? It says that in Springfield, and indeed the rest of the world, actions really do speak louder than words. And perhaps Maggie is one of the smartest people in Springfield, as she seems to be the only one to fully take advantage of that. She never speaks (to anyone else) and communicates her wants and needs physically. I am sure some people have thought Maggie to be a dumb baby, saying only one word in all that time, but is she dumb? Or just too smart to fit into Springfield?

Answer (c) 8-4-97 Phil J. Reed

Probe your brain and send me something to answer. Make that something INTELLIGABLE to answer. (You'd be surprised how many people need to be told that...)

Phil Reed
United States

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