The Simpsons
The Simpsons family
First appearance"Good Night" (1987; 37 years ago (1987))
Created byMatt Groening
Family members

The Simpson family are the main fictional characters featured in the animated television series The Simpsons. The Simpsons are a nuclear family consisting of married couple Homer and Marge and their three children, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie. They live at 742 Evergreen Terrace in the fictional town of Springfield, United States, and they were created by cartoonist Matt Groening, who conceived the characters after his own family members, substituting "Bart" for his own name. The family debuted on Fox on April 19, 1987, in The Tracey Ullman Show short "Good Night" and were later spun off into their own series, which debuted on Fox in the U.S. on December 17, 1989, and started airing in Winter 1989.

Alongside the five main family members, there are a number of other major and minor characters in their family. The most commonly recurring characters are Homer's father Abraham "Grampa" Simpson; Marge's sisters Patty and Selma Bouvier; and the family's two pets, Santa's Little Helper and Snowball V. Other family members include Homer's mother Mona Simpson, Homer's half-brother Herbert Powell, Marge's mother Jacqueline Bouvier, and other minor relatives.

Concept and origins


Groening conceived of the idea for the Simpsons in the lobby of James L. Brooks's office. Brooks had asked Groening to pitch an idea for a series of animated shorts, which Groening initially intended to present as his Life in Hell series. However, when Groening realized that animating Life in Hell would require the rescinding of publication rights for his life's work, he chose another approach and formulated his version of a dysfunctional family.[1] He named the characters after his own family members – his father Homer, his mother Margaret, and his younger sisters Lisa and Maggie. He substituted "Bart", an anagram of "brat", for his own name,[2] and modeled the character after his older brother, Mark.[3][4]

The five family members were given simple designs so that their facial emotions could easily be changed with almost no effort[5] and so that they would be recognizable in silhouette.[6] Groening submitted only basic sketches to the animators and assumed that the figures would be cleaned-up in production. However, the animators merely re-traced his drawings, which led to the crude appearance of the characters in the initial short episodes.[2] The Simpson family made their debut on April 19, 1987, in The Tracey Ullman Show short "Good Night".[7] In 1989, the shorts were adapted into The Simpsons, a half-hour series airing on the Fox Broadcasting Company. The Simpson family remained the main characters on this new show.[8]


Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, and Yeardley Smith all began voicing their characters on The Tracey Ullman Show. Nancy Cartwright was the only one of the group who had been trained to be a voice actor[9] while Castellaneta had done some voice over work in Chicago. Castellaneta and Kavner had been part of the regular cast of The Tracey Ullman Show and voices were needed for the shorts, so the producers decided to ask them to voice Homer and Marge rather than hire more actors.[10][11] The producers decided to hold casting for the roles of Bart and Lisa. Yeardley Smith had initially been asked to audition for the role of Bart, but casting director Bonita Pietila believed her voice was too high. Smith later recalled, "I always sounded too much like a girl. I read two lines as Bart and they said, 'Thanks for coming!'"[12] Smith was given the role of Lisa instead.[13] On March 13, 1987, Nancy Cartwright went in to audition for the role of Lisa. After arriving at the audition, she found that Lisa was simply described as the "middle child" and at the time did not have much personality. Cartwright became more interested in the role of Bart who she found more fascinating because he was described as "devious, underachieving, school-hating, irreverent, [and] clever."[14] Matt Groening let her try out for the part instead, and upon hearing her read, gave her the job on the spot.[15]

The Simpson family

The Simpsons are a family who live at 742 Evergreen Terrace in the town of Springfield in the United States. The state in which this town is located is never specified, however they do have snow and sometimes wear sweaters in the fall.[16] It's a running joke in the show to be as vague and ambiguous as possible whenever hinting at which U.S. state the town of Springfield might be located in. Homer, the father, works as a safety inspector at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, a position at odds with his careless, buffoonish personality. He is married to Marge Simpson, a stereotypical American housewife and mother. They have three children: Bart, a ten-year-old troublemaker; Lisa, an eight-year-old child prodigy; and Maggie, a toddler who rarely speaks, but communicates by sucking on a pacifier. The family owns a dog, Santa's Little Helper, and a cat, Snowball II. Both pets have had starring roles in several seasons. Despite the passing of yearly milestones such as holidays or birthdays, the Simpsons do not physically age and still appear as they did at the end of the 1980s. Although the family is dysfunctional, many episodes examine their relationships and bonds with each other and they are often shown to care about one another.[17]

Homer Simpson

Main article: Homer Simpson

Homer Jay Simpson (voiced by Dan Castellaneta) is the protagonist of the show and the father of the Simpson family. He embodies several American working class stereotypes: he is crude, overweight, incompetent, clumsy, thoughtless and a borderline alcoholic.[18] He has occasionally displayed flashes of great intellect and fitness whenever the situation calls for it, and an integrity reflecting his own values, including a fierce devotion to and protectiveness of his family. His voice started out as an impression of Walter Matthau but eventually evolved into a more robust voice during the second and third season of the half-hour show, allowing Homer to cover a fuller range of emotions.[11] Homer has since become one of the most influential fictional characters and has been described by the UK newspaper The Sunday Times as the greatest comedic creation of modern time.[19] He has inspired an entire line of merchandise, and his catchphrase, the annoyed grunt "D'oh!", has been included in the Oxford English Dictionary.[20] During the production of the episode Insane Clown Poppy the writers toyed with the idea of giving Homer a long lost illegitimate biological daughter, but when the shows showrunner and writer Mike Scully, as well as Matt Groening rejected the idea, the writers changed the story so the clown Krusty would be the one who finds he has a lost daughter.

Marge Simpson

Main article: Marge Simpson

Marjorie Jacqueline "Marge" Simpson (née Bouvier, voiced by Julie Kavner) is the well-meaning and extremely patient wife of Homer and mother of Bart, Lisa and Maggie. She often acts as the voice of reason, but displays exaggerated behavior traits of stereotypical mothers and takes the blatant dysfunctionality of her family for granted,[21] unlike the other family members, who are aware that they are eccentric. Her most notable physical feature is her blue hair, styled into an improbably high beehive. Julie Kavner received a Primetime Emmy Award in 1992 for voicing Marge in the episode "I Married Marge".[22] For her performance in The Simpsons Movie, Kavner received a nomination for "Best Voice Acting in an Animated Feature" at the 2007 Annie Awards, but lost to Ian Holm in Ratatouille.[23][24] Kavner's emotional performance in the movie got positive reviews and one critic said she "gave what must be the most heartfelt performance ever".[25] Part of Kavner's contract says that she will never have to promote The Simpsons on video because she does not want to "destroy the illusion for children".[26] In 2008, CityNews published an article entitled "Top 10 Greatest TV Moms of All Time", and placed Marge in eighth spot.[27]

Bart Simpson

Main article: Bart Simpson

Bartholomew Jojo "Bart" Simpson (voiced by Nancy Cartwright) is the eldest child and only son in the family, at age 10. Bart's most prominent character traits are his mischievousness, rebelliousness, disrespect for authority, and sharp wit. During the first two seasons of The Simpsons, Bart was the show's main character. The name "Bart" is an anagram of the word "brat".[28] Groening conceived Bart as an extreme version of the typical misbehaving child character, merging all of the extreme traits of characters such as Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn into one person.[28] Groening's older brother Mark provided most of the inspiration for Bart.[29][30] Bart's catchphrase "Eat My Shorts" was an ad-lib by Cartwright in one of the original table readings, harking back to an incident when she was at college.[31] In 1998, Time magazine selected Bart as 46th of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century, and the only fictional character to make the list.[32] He had previously appeared on the cover of the December 31, 1990 edition.[33] Bart is rebellious and frequently escapes without punishment, which led some parents' groups and conservative spokespeople to believe he provided a poor role model for children. This prompted George H. W. Bush to rally, "We're going to keep trying to strengthen the American family. To make them more like the Waltons and less like the Simpsons."[34] Bart, and other Simpsons characters, have appeared in numerous television commercials for Nestlé's Butterfinger candy bars from 1990 to 2001, with the slogan "Nobody better lay a finger on my Butterfinger!"[35]

Lisa Simpson

Main article: Lisa Simpson

Lisa Marie Simpson (voiced by Yeardley Smith) is the eldest daughter and middle child of the family, at 8 years old. Lisa's political convictions are generally socially liberal.[36] She is a vegetarian, and a supporter of the Free Tibet movement,[37] and while still supportive of the Christian church in which she was raised,[38] Lisa became a practicing Buddhist following her decision to follow the Noble Eightfold Path.[39] She is musically proficient on the saxophone; besides the occasional riff during the opening credit sequence Carole King's Jazzman and Gerry Rafferty's Baker Street have been prominently placed during episodes. In the Tracey Ullman Show shorts, Lisa was more of a "female Bart" and was equally mischievous. As the series progressed, Lisa began to develop into a more intelligent and emotional character. When she was a baby, Bart started out not liking her, although he became nicer to her after Marge pointed out that Lisa loves him. Her first word was "Bart", with Bart happily teaching her more names. Many episodes focusing on Lisa have an emotional nature, the first one being "Moaning Lisa". The idea for the episode was pitched by James L. Brooks, who had wanted to do an emotional episode where Lisa is sad because the show had done a lot of "jokey episodes".[40] In 2001 Lisa received a special "board of directors Ongoing Commitment Award" at the Environmental Media Awards.[41] "Lisa the Vegetarian", an episode from the seventh season, won both an Environmental Media Award for "Best Television Episodic Comedy"[42] and a Genesis Award for "Best Television Comedy Series, Ongoing Commitment".[43] In Japan, the broadcasters of the series found they were able to turn the apparent viewer dislike of the series around by focusing marketing attention on Lisa. Lisa's well-intended but ill-fated struggles to be a voice of reason and a force of good in her family and city struck a chord with the Japanese.[44]

Maggie Simpson

Main article: Maggie Simpson

Margaret Evelyn Lenny "Maggie" Simpson is the youngest of the five main family members and is almost always seen as a baby. She has blonde spiked hair like Lisa. Her first word was "daddy", shown at one point after Homer tucks her in. She is almost 2 years old and still uses a pacifier despite teething, although this was mentioned in a Treehouse of Horror episode ("Starship Poopers") and is not considered canon. She was quite prominent in the Tracey Ullman Show shorts, often being featured alongside Bart and Lisa but has since become the least seen and heard of the five main Simpsons. It has been revealed that Maggie has outstanding artistic and academic abilities, much like her sister Lisa. The episodes taking place in the future often show her as some kind of businesswoman.[45]

Maggie rarely speaks, but has been voiced by several different actors including Jodie Foster, Elizabeth Taylor,[45] James Earl Jones,[46] Harry Shearer (who used his Kang voice) in "Starship Poopers",[47] Yeardley Smith,[48] and Nancy Cartwright.[49]

Abe Simpson

Main article: Grampa Simpson

Abraham Jebediah "Abe" Simpson II (better known simply as Grampa, voiced by Dan Castellaneta) is the patriarch of the Simpson family and the father of Homer. He is a World War II veteran who was later sent to the Springfield Retirement Castle by Homer. He is known for his borderline senility, his long rambling (and probably apocryphal) stories and his love of Matlock. He shares his name with one of Matt Groening's relatives, in this case his grandfather. However, Groening says he refused to name him, leaving it to other writers to choose a name. By coincidence, the writers chose the name Abraham.[50]

Mona Simpson

Main article: Mona Simpson (The Simpsons)

Mona Penelope Simpson (née Olsen, voiced by Glenn Close) is Homer's long-lost mother, Marge's mother-in-law, and Abe's estranged first wife. Her first major appearance was in "Mother Simpson" where she reveals that she was forced to abandon her family after being caught up in the hippie movement and participated in various acts of activism. The writers used this episode as an opportunity to solve several little puzzles, such as where Lisa's intelligence came from.[51] Prior to the seventh season, Mona Simpson had only made two brief flashback appearances, the first being season two's "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?" and the second being season six's "Grampa vs. Sexual Inadequacy" and in both episodes she was voiced by Maggie Roswell.[52] Mona dies in the episode "Mona Leaves-a", as Homer struggles to come to terms with her death. The character is named after writer Richard Appel's wife, whose name is Mona Simpson.[51] Mona was designed in a way so that she has little bit of Homer in her face, such as the shape of her upper lip and her nose.[53] There were several design changes because the directors were trying to make her an attractive older and younger woman, but still be Simpson-esque.[53] Glenn Close recorded original material for another episode, season fifteen's "My Mother the Carjacker". Mona also has a speaking appearance in season ten's "D'oh-in in the Wind", this time voiced by Tress MacNeille.[54]

Extended Simpson family

The Bouvier family

Patty and Selma Bouvier

Main article: Patty and Selma

Patricia Maleficent "Patty" and Selma Bouvier (both voiced by Julie Kavner[78]) are Marge's older twin sisters. They are apparently in their mid-to-late 40s, since Selma has gone through menopause and they were shown as teenagers in flashbacks while Marge was still a small child. They work at the Springfield Department of Motor Vehicles, and possess a strong dislike for their brother-in-law, Homer. Selma is the elder by two minutes, possesses a strong desire for family, and has been married and divorced six times, and also sought to have a child on numerous occasions despite her age. Her sister, Patty, is one of the show's few openly gay (or bisexual, as she once commented "there go the last remaining threads of my heterosexuality") recurring characters[79] although for the most part she has avoided relationships. Kavner voices them as characters "who suck the life out of everything".[80] Kavner makes Patty's voice more masculine and a lower register, while Selma's voice is a little sweeter.[81] The origins of their names are unknown – Matt Groening has a sister named Patty, but unlike the other Simpson relatives, this has not been explicitly revealed.[82]

Jacqueline Bouvier

Jacqueline Ingrid Bouvier (née Gurney, voiced by Julie Kavner[78]) is the mother of Marge, Patty and Selma, the maternal grandmother of Bart, Lisa, and Maggie, the mother-in-law of Homer, the daughter-in-law of Pepe and Bambi Bouvier, the sister-in-law of Herman, Charlene, Jojo, Chester, and Arthur Bouvier, and the widow of Clancy Bouvier. She was first referenced in a flashback in the episode "Moaning Lisa" and made her first appearance in the episode "Bart vs. Thanksgiving".[83] She had a spinster sister named Gladys, who is deceased; Jacqueline and her family attended her funeral in "Selma's Choice". Mr. Burns and Homer's father Abe Simpson once battled for her affections; she became engaged to Burns, but eventually decided not to marry either man,[84] although she and Abe still ran away together at the end of the episode.

Although it seems that she disapproves of Marge's marriage to Homer, stating that he is never to address her as "Mom",[85] she does tolerate Homer much more than her elder daughters, Patty and Selma. In "Moe Letter Blues", she admits that Patty and Selma are really to blame for ruining her birthday party, not Homer; also Jacqueline never has been shown to cause trouble in Homer and Marge's marriage, unlike her daughters. Jacqueline has celebrated her 80th birthday twice, in "Moe Letter Blues" and again in "Puffless".

Like all Bouvier women, she is voiced by Kavner, and has large, unique hair, resembling Marge's, only a light gray color due to her old age. In her younger days she smoked heavily but has quit, although she still speaks more raspily than Patty and Selma. The series creator Matt Groening named the character after the former American First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, whose maiden name was Bouvier. Out of all the characters on the show, Jacqueline has the tallest hair.

Clancy Bouvier

Clarence "Clancy" Bouvier (voiced by Harry Shearer[78]) is the deceased father of Marge, Patty and Selma and the husband of Jacqueline Bouvier. His first appearance was in the episode "The Way We Was".[86] He was kind and complimentary to teenage Homer when he arrived to pick up Marge for the prom, but after finding out that Artie Ziff was really her date remarked that Homer "took years off my life". This provoked Marge to go back and go out with Homer.

In "Fear of Flying" it was revealed that he was one of the earliest male flight attendants; Marge initially believed he was a heroic pilot and was traumatized when she discovered he was a flight attendant instead. According to Marge in "Bart the Lover" after Clancy got out of the Navy, he had trouble with his cursing that nearly cost him a job as a baby photographer, but Jacqueline was able to curtail that by having him donate money to the swear jar.

In the episode "Puffless", it is revealed that he died of lung cancer,[87] which provoked Patty and Selma to abstain from smoking cigarettes. While Clancy does not appear with the rest of the Bouvier family in "I Married Marge", implying he was deceased before Homer and Marge were married, he is shown to be still alive when Bart and Lisa were toddlers in the episode "Walking Big & Tall",[88] but he died before Maggie was born. Marge was particularly upset by her father's death, as Homer had to buy her a white noise machine to try and get her to deal with it. In "Homer's Adventures Through the Windshield Glass", it is revealed that Clancy left Marge a inheritance in which she would be paid $1,000 per month. This was because it did not trust Homer to provide for her. When he died, Clancy went to hell for a check forging scheme.

In "Treehouse of Horror III", he was eaten at King Homer and Marge's wedding by the former. He also appeared as a ghost in "Treehouse of Horror XXVI".

Like all the Bouvier family, his voice has become croaky through chain-smoking for a number of years. He also shares the same grunt as Patty and Selma, both of whom resemble younger female versions of him, while Marge more resembles her mother.

Ling Bouvier

Further information: List of recurring The Simpsons characters § Ling Bouvier

Ling Bouvier (voiced by Nancy Cartwright) is Selma Bouvier's adopted daughter. She shares Selma's laugh. In "Goo Goo Gai Pan", Selma discovers that she has reached menopause and adopts Ling in China, after lying that she is married to Homer, to fool the Chinese authorities into thinking that Ling would be part of a traditional family as opposed to being raised by a single mother. The authorities briefly reclaim Ling, but the adoption agent Ms. Woo relates to her experiences of her childhood with her single mother and allows Selma to adopt Ling.[89] Ling has since become a recurring character and has appeared in several episodes.[90] She seems to get along well with her cousin Maggie. Since Patty told Selma to give up smoking once the baby came home, Selma claimed she would switch to chewing tobacco, although it is shown she has not followed through with this.

Selma's husbands

Selma has married six times, resulting in the lengthy last name Bouvier-Terwilliger-Hutz-McClure-Stu-Simpson-D'Amico.

Extended Bouvier family



  • Country Cousins' Dog – The Country Cousins' Dog in the episode "The Bonfire of the Manatees" is the brother of Santa's Little Helper. Though the "country folks" are not themselves blood relatives to the Simpsons, they are referred to as "cousins" in the episode because of the dogs' relation.


  • In the episode "I, (Annoyed Grunt)-Bot", Snowball II is killed and is replaced in series by Snowball III and then Coltrane (a.k.a. Snowball IV), both of which also die quickly. A final replacement, Snowball V is essentially identical to Snowball II and proves to be less unlucky. Lisa renames this cat Snowball II and the events of this episode are never referred to again.[93] This cat is the focus of a subplot in the sixteenth season episode "The Seven-Beer Snitch", in which she becomes overweight after abandoning the Simpsons for brief periods to visit a different family but she then goes back to live with the Simpson family.[93]

Other pets

See also


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