18    Mar 20100 comments

THE SIMPSONS & yes, they have a MyHeritage Tree

Simpson's Color Me Yellow

Eliza and Mabel

First, I should point out the Simpsons very own Family Tree:

In the 21st season of The Simpsons, Lisa finds out a bit more about her ancestry in the episode The Color Yellow. A family tree class project is inspired by a tree stump that comes crashing into Principal Skinner's Kia sedan, an event Bart exclaims as a 'mykia' moment. Lisa embodies the project as moment to embrace her noble heritage. But, all signs begin to lead another direction as her early foraging reveals only the troubled and derelict nature of her family. Homer, Lisa's father , attempts to dissuade her her vain attempts to find something wholesome in the Simpson tree, exclaiming the family to be nothing but a "long line of horse thieves, deadbeats, horsebeats, dead thieves, and even a few….alllllcccoholics," as he guzzles his beer with fat peacock like panache.

Disenchanted but not defeated, Lisa's stubborn optimism motivates her quest for a loveable heroine. Her path leads her to plunder the Simpson attic, replete with memorabilia from the show’s history, to find a decrypt diary of Eliza Simpson, her great-great-great grandmother, tucked into an old chest. She finds out that Eliza was a young girl when she penned her stories in 1860. The diary entries mused of a Simpson family and town very similar to Lisa's own, though gussied up in the architecture and the vestments of the time. Eliza embodies much of the same emancipated female energy as Lisa and she decides to help free a slave named Virgil who was kept by Colonel Burns. (Col. Burns' ball is the scene that preempts Eliza and Virgil’s first meeting, and is one of the best scenes of the episode. Here Col. Burns complains of his distaste for the ¾ time signature of the waltz , saying 'where is the four', the conductor complies→ havoc ensues) Eliza and Virgil flee the party and are chased into the woods by angry townsmen.

The story is abruptly halted when Lisa turns the diary page to find out what happens to the band on the run and Eliza's diary falls to tatters. But Lisa is inspired by her fearless doppelganger, Eliza, and high-tails it to the Springfield library and finds the next vignette of the story tucked neatly in a cookbook published by Eliza's mother, Mabel. The story goes on to tell how Eliza, with the support of her family, keeps Virgil in the turnip shelter. All is well until Col. Burns bursts through the cottage door, spoofing a good cop bad scheme, and discovers they are hiding the escaped Virgil. Lisa Simpson is crushed to find out her ancestors lacked the spine to standup to Col. Burns. It isn't until Homer bullies Grandpa Abe Simpson that we hear the remainder of the story. The story continues with Mabel, Eliza's mother, and a dead ringer for Marge, confronting Col. Burns, shotgun in hand, in defense of the runaway slave. Mabel then flees with Virgil, headed to "where black people are accepted…Canada," becoming a fugitive in her fleet. Luckily, she gets a bit of help from Abraham Lincoln and his stovepipe hat. They make it. Content being self-exiled, Mabel divorces her husband Hiram, and marries Virgil. But she keeps her last name, Simpson, because she happens to have table linens monogrammed with 'S'.

So in the end, Lisa finds her heroine in Mabel, completing both her project and her moral prerogative, AND finds out she and the rest of Simpsons gang are 1/64 black, to which the family replies:

Bart: So, that’s why I’m so cool!
Lisa: That’s why my jazz is so smooth!
Homer: That’s why I earn less than my white co-workers!

And Grandpa's explanation for his deceit, well, as Lisa points out, "his generation is racist."

So, Color Me Yellow is another great episode in fairly straightforward narrative styling, but a great salute to Black History Month. It, like many a Simpson episodes, is sprinkled liberally with subtext and non-linear humor delivered with a practiced and subtle hand. Plus, it brings a larger canvass of odd ball detail without adding any radical shifts in character composition.

And oh yeah, the Simpsons are hip to the family tree building, so check out their lineage on their MyHeritage Tree !

And here’s a link to the episode on Hulu:

Search for your ancestors:

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