Part 2 – Behaviour and Personality
As Homer Jay Simpson sits on the hood of his car, watching the stars swipe across the night sky, deserted by his mother once more –pensive, despondent, and discarded – you begin to wonder if there’s more to this beer-swelling, boneheaded buffoon than first suspected. Perhaps if I was given the job of counselling Homer Simpson, I would understand a bit more.
Should for some reason I be handed this role, I think I would learn some exceptionally remarkable things fairly quickly. Aside from a faint aroma of beer, donuts, and body odour, I get the feeling he would make an abrupt impression on me. I suspect he would likely have had something mad and preposterous befall him as he made his way to my office (maybe he unknowingly caused a 20-car pile-up; or got into a fight with the President), but I doubt he would be fazed by it in the slightest. It is also likely he is not visiting of his own volition; perhaps it is only to fulfil a wish of Marge’s. Either way, it would soon become apparent that the river of Homer Simpson runs deeper than this mushy exterior and uncouth interior initially indicate.
Susceptibility to psychological breakdowns:
When you look at Homer and all he has been through, there seems to be a pattern of psychological fragility. When an element of his life is under threat or duress, his psychological wellbeing often deteriorates under aforementioned pressure. He is highly susceptible to mental and/or nervous breakdowns, which is interesting considering how carefree he is on almost all aspects of life. On a number of occasions he has been diagnosed as clinically insane (admittedly, on one instance it is due to his pink shirt), and has often shown behaviour that any other average person would be sent straight to anger management training for. I think it is important to look at a couple of the possible diagnoses one could make judging from the available information.
Still from FOX’s The Simpsons, ‘Kill the Alligator and Run‘, Season 11, Episode 19
Intermittent Explosive Disorder
Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED) is a behavioural disorder characterized by “explosive outbursts of anger, often to the point of rage, that are disproportionate to the situation at hand”. People who suffer from this disorder also exhibit aggressive behaviour that is disproportionate to specific stressors, and often engage in destructive behaviour that can result in injury or damage to property.
Homer has had his fair share of fist fights and reckless, destructive behaviour. Interestingly, there appears to be a pattern of physical abuse towards Bart. While most people, including myself often play it off as comedic and harmless –sort of like the senseless violence of Itchy & Scratchy spliced within episodes of The Simpsons — when looking at it further and really analysing it, it is not entirely surprising to see that most of his abusive behaviour is targeted at Bart, especially when you take into consideration Bartholomew’s behaviour. But it is intriguing to look at just why this kind of strained relationship exists.
This pattern of poor relationships between father and son extends further throughout the Simpson family tree. Neglect and abuse from Abraham to Homer, is clearly seeping into the relationship of Homer and Bart. Although it has become quite common knowledge, it is important to note, plenty of research, including recent research from Tulane University, has suggested this kind of abuse can be intergenerationally cyclical in nature, and it would not be far fetched to suggest as such for the case of the Simpsons. But moving on.
There are so many things you could say about Homer Simpson, and it would be tempting to make the judgement that Homer exhibits psychopathic tendencies. Judging by his insatiable lust for risk and danger, he certainly seems to thrive on the adrenaline of high intensity situations. But the difference here is that most people with psychopathic tendencies lack emotional empathy and often only possess cognitive empathy. My argument from observing Homer Simpson would be that he lacks cognitive empathy (i.e. understanding how someone is feeling about a certain situation). But he does possess emotional empathy, albeit inconsistently; that is, he is able to see how his actions have affected someone else, and often this emotionally resonates with him in some way (e.g. his bad behaviour hurting Marge). This is often how he comes to understand his actions on a relationship basis; only by feeling bad (or good) about what he has done.
This brings me to marriage.
On a purely sexual level, the marriage thrives. Even in the most difficult of times, where Homer and Marge’s sexual connection falters, the process of reparation is risky, absurd and exhilarating. Homer’s almost exhibitionist nature — which Marge may indeed also possess but seldom displays — pulls their love life from the wreckage in spectacular fashion. This is certainly in keeping with how Homer handles every other aspect of his life. Dealing with an everyday problem the way anyone else would only serve to drive Homer further into the rut; the fantastic and ridiculous, however, seem to keep him from going insane.
Still from FOX’s The Simpsons, ‘El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer aka The Mysterious Voyage of Homer‘, Season 8, Episode 9.
That is not to say the marriage itself does not come without struggle and threat. The often strained and tested marriage of Homer and Marge Simpson is a good suggestion of Homer’s core issues. He is hugely dependent on his wife, almost like a child on their mother. He can’t maintain the house, himself, or the kids without her there to guide him all the way. He sees Marge as his soul mate, but it is possible (although, possibly reaching) his love for her extends beyond one of romance, and further into the realm of an Oedipus Complex-type relationship–filling the gap left by his mother. This absence of a mother during childhood certainly could contribute to his need for a maternal presence in his adult life.
Still from FOX’s The Simpsons, ‘Secrets of a Successful Marriage‘, Season 5, Episode 22
Often, children who are emotionally or physically abandoned by one or both parents suffer from behavioural and psychological conditions throughout their adult years, such as Abandoned Child Syndrome (ACS). This disorder can involve alcohol or drug abuse, eating disorders, social alienation or difficulty, and clinginess in future relationships. Homer’s obesity, alcoholism, violence and various other problems, I believe, stem from deep-seeded issues beginning with his troubled childhood, which reflects the indicators for ACS, and his dependence on Marge is quite likely a direct consequence of his upbringing.
It’s plain to see, Homer is a product of his upbringing. Starved of attention from his absent mother; ignored and ridiculed by his emotionally detached and purely incapable father. Many-a-flashback gives us an insight into the trauma of his childhood, whether it is his mothers abandonment of him at an early age, or the distant resentment he receives from his father, this broken home situation is the core of his problems, and his childhood is rife with possible avenues to tread through.
Still from FOX’s The Simpsons, ‘Grampa vs Sexual Inadequacy‘, Season 6, Episode 10.
To hone in on the specifics, looking at the stages of psychosexual development (Freudian term, of course), it is possible Homer finds himself trapped and unsuccessful in one or two of these stages, most specifically the anal stage, which relates to children in the age bracket of 1-3 years. Freudian psychology states that successful fulfilment of this stage results in the progression to the next stage of psychosexual development, however, failure to progress can result in psychological fixation. More specifically, one who fails to progress can become “anal retentive” (excessively organised/neat), or “anal expulsive” (reckless, careless, defiant, disorganised). If I was going to use a couple of words to describe Homer Simpson’s childhood it would likely be “troubled” and “interrupted”. If I was going to describe Homer right now, I would likely label him “reckless, careless, and defiant”. But, hey. That’s just me. Freud would probably say that, too.
Still from FOX’s The Simpsons, ‘Mother Simpson‘, Season 7, Episode 8.
I feel like I, and all viewers have inadvertently been given the job of Homer Jay Simpson’s counsellor. Over the past 18 or so years I have been the channel through which Homer unleashes his wild rage; the shoulder upon which he sobs obnoxiously, and the gasping witness to his jaunts into the unreasonable. I have sat and watched as he unwittingly leads a life others far more deserving, intelligent, and capable would only dream to capture if only for their fear of taking the chance. Maybe we are all this channel, and we are all that shoulder. I mean, the viewers have certainly moulded him into what he is today. Is it too ridiculous to say we have changed him, for better or worse? Maybe we have been all along. Maybe we just didn’t know it.
So, you like people with little intelligence? How about computers with lots of it? Check out Billy’s article on artificial intelligence.
Make sure to also read part one of this Homer Simpson profile where Julian talks about physiological aspects.
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