Feminist Icon: Lisa Simpson
Lisa Simpson, the widely adored 8 year old from the hit animated comedy show The Simpsons has been sending and imprinting in us important cultural, feminist-related messages for more than 2 decades. Lisa is not only portrayed as a strong-headed female daughter and activist but also as a relatable girl with imperfections like the rest of us. She many times struggles with insecurities but nonetheless, outgrows and accepts them, strengthening her individual talents and character along the way. From dealing with an eating disorder, a smoking habit and being an overachiever, Lisa contests the notion that little girls should strive for perfection; that we should merely avoid challenges.
While being perfectly and humanly flawed, Lisa also shows us the many admirable sides of her as a young student, activist and daughter. Unlike how many TV comedies portray girls, Lisa is characterized as a proud math lover with a musical taste for the saxophone and a passion for politics and activism. She constantly challenges norms in beauty, academics, even in feminism. In one episode titled, “Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy” Lisa sees there is an issue with the sexist messages the original Malibu Stacy doll says so she teams up with the dolls’ creator to curate a new doll (Lisa Lionheart) that positively influences girls. In another episode titled “Girls Just Want to Have Sums,” Lisa rejects the notion that because she is a girl, she should be working on different, less challenging math from the boys school. She ends up disguising herself as a boy to attend the all boys math class and unsurprisingly, excels at the subject more than anyone else. At the end of the episode, Lisa declares “I'm glad I'm a girl, and I'm glad I'm good at math.”
TV shows and movies affect multiple dimensions of our lives including our relationships, emotions, career choices, mental health, etc. It is extremely important for girls to have figures like Lisa Simpson to watch especially when learning to confront stereotypes and experiment with and form new identities. In addition, it is critical we open dialogue about the many problems our media has in the representation of females and other marginalized communities including the disabled, LGBTQ, etc. What we internalize from the media ultimately shapes our perceptions of not just the world around us but of ourselves. To see equal representation would help promote the idea that the certain groups currently underrepresented by film and TV do matter– that their voices are being heard and that they are deserving of being imperfect, “unconventional,” and worthy.
A great podcast to check out more on Lisa Simpson is one from "Stuff Mom Never Told You."
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