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The Simpsons: Springfield

By Wikipedia

Springfield is the fictional city where the TV series The Simpsons is set, founded by Jebediah Springfield, located near Shelbyville.

Our main article on The Simpsons is here.

Springfield seems to be a small city rather than a megalopolis. Its features include one nuclear power plant, an elementary school, a minor league baseball stadium, an airport, an ocean harbor, a downtown district, a run-down district, several specialized shopping districts, and Moe's, a bar run by Moe Syzslak. Springfield was nearly chosen as the host for the Summer Olympic Games, until Bart Simpson's antics angered representatives from the IOC.

The location of Springfield is a long-running joke in the series, based in the fact that 34 states in the United States have at least one community with that name. Matt Groening, the creator of the Simpsons, grew up in Eugene, Oregon. From Groening's childhood perspective, Springfield, Oregon was "the next town over". Groening also lived in Portland, Oregon. The show contains several references to features in Portland - Terwilliger Street (Robert Underdunk Terwilliger a.k.a. Sideshow Bob), Lovejoy Street and Park (Reverend Lovejoy is the pastor of the Simpsons' church; Asa Lovejoy was a partner in the 1843 land grant that became Portland, Oregon), and Northeast Flanders St. where the signs say "NE Flanders St." Some people have vandalized them to say "NED Flanders St." (Ned Flanders).

While Springfield, Illinois has a Shelbyville 30 miles to the southeast, and a nuclear power plant 40 miles to the northeast, there has not been any indication that it is 'the' Springfield, and could be coincidental. However, The Simpsons does make a direct reference to the Illinois city; in episode where Homer is in a graveyard at night digging a plot, discarded dirt covers up the grave of Adlai Stevenson (a prominent Illinois politician and 2-time US presidential candidate). Springfield, Massachusetts is also referenced since Mayor Quimby and his political machine have similarities to the powerful Kennedy family.

In the episode, "Sweets and Sour Marge", Tennessee is referenced as being "south of the border". Kentucky is north of Tennessee and has both a Springfield and Shelbyville.

The city

Springfield was founded in 1796 by settlers who were trying to find a passage to Maryland after mis-interpreting a passage in the Bible. In its early days, the city was the target of many Indian raids, and to this day many forts and trading posts remain (including Fort Springfield and Fort Sensible).

The founder of Springfield was pioneer Jebediah Springfield, widely celebrated in the town as a brave and proud American hero. The town motto "a noble spirit embiggens the smallest man" is attributed to Jebediah. Lisa Simpson would later discover that Jebediah Springfield was in fact Hans Sprungfeld, a murderous pirate and enemy of George Washington, but eventually decided that the myth of Springfield should be preserved and did not reveal her findings.

In the mid-20th century, the city reached perhaps the pinnacle of its success when it became the home of the Aquacar, a car which could be driven in water like a boat. At this point, the city's streets were literally paved with gold. But unfortunately, as related in the Are We There Yet? Guide to Springfield, this fortune imploded when it was discovered that the Aquacar was prone to spontaneous explosion after 10,000 miles and/or knots. The town has never really recovered from this tragedy (the gold was reportedly shipped to the Sultan of Brunei to encase one of his many elephant herds), but some heavy industry remains in the town, including factories for Ah! Fudge chocolate, Southern Cracker, fireworks, candy, and boxes, as well as a steel mill.

Springfield's nearest neighboring town is Shelbyville. There is a strong rivalry between the towns, dating back to a rivalry between their founders -- Jebediah Springfield and Shelbyville Manhattan. Manhattan wanted to found a city where men were free to marry their cousins, but Springfield refused to allow it, so Shelbyville was founded as a rival town. The story of the dispute between Jebediah Springfield and Shelbyville Manhattan contains faint references to the historical stories of the deal between Asa Lovejoy and William Overton to file a land claim, and the dispute between Lovejoy and Francis W. Pettygrove over the name of Portland, Oregon.

The Mayor of Springfield is Joe Quimby. He was briefly thrown out in favor of Sideshow Bob Terwilliger, but was later re-instated when Bob was impeached for electoral fraud (see Sideshow Bob Roberts).

When the mayor briefly skipped town due to missing lottery funds (see They Saved Lisa's Brain), the town's MENSA chapter (Lisa Simpson, Dr. Julius Hibbert, Lindsey Naegle, Comic Book Guy, and Prof. Frink) took over. They changed clocks to metric time, eliminated the green lights from stoplights, and put the city on the top 300 US cities. It was 299th, above East Saint Louis, Illinois.

For a brief period (see A Tale of Two Springfields), Springfield divided itself into two cities, Olde Springfield and New Springfield on the basis of an area code division. Wealthy Olde Springfield, which featured Mayor Quimby, anchorman Kent Brockman, and bullies such as Nelson was separated from the rest of Springfield by a wall that was erected by poor New Springfield. Mayor Quimby maintained control of Olde Springfield while Homer Simpson ran New Springfield. The cities were later re-united through a concert by The Who.

In Bart-Mangled Banner, Bart accidentally moons the U.S. flag, and the Simpsons appear on a talk show to explain the matter. However, the show's host makes it appear that Springfield hates America. When the rest of the U.S. reciprocates this loathing, Mayor Quimby changes the name of Springfield to "Liberty-Ville". An enormous patriotic craze ensues, wherein all items are priced at $17.76.

There are over 2,000 McDonald's restaurants in Springfield's state, but none in Springfield itself. Krusty Burger is basically a cheap imitation of McDonald's. This was noticed by Eddie, Lou and Chief Wiggum as a spoof of Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction (see 22 Short Films About Springfield). The Are We There Yet? Guide to Springfield cautions tourists to avoid Krusty Burger, stating that "the local public seems to have built up a resistance to the inherent bacteria and spirochetes". Also, tests on the burgers' meat have proven inconclusive as to what exactly the substance is.

If there were to be a nuclear war, Springfield would be wiped off the map. During the Cold War, Strategic Air Command classified Springfield as a "NWB" (nuclear whipping boy). In the first moments of a nuclear war, Springfield would be bombed by all friendly nations for their missiles' calibration. This was seen in an illegal video that Comic Book Guy owned.

Springfield has several ethnic districts, including a Russian district, a Jewish district, and a gay district as well as a Chinatown and Tibet-town.

Towns near to Springfield (within driving distance or close enough to be included in local news) include North Haverbrook, Shelbyville, Ogdenville, Brockway and Cranford.

The city paper is the Springfield Shopper, and the most popular TV station is KBBL-TV (Channel 6), with Kent Brockman, Scott Christian and Arnie Pie on the news and Krusty the Clown and Sideshow Mel doing shows. Alternatively, Canal Ocho is a Spanish-language channel featuring the Bumblebee Man.

Public Transportation is provided by the route 22 bus on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; and the 22A bus on Tuesday and Thursday. Springfield was once served by a now defunct monorail system.

According to the Are We There Yet? Guide to Springfield, visitors from elsewhere are advised to constantly wear radiation suits and carry Geiger counters, since the city is perhaps the most radioactive in the U.S. This is because the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant was built during an incredibly lax period for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in which the plant's nuclear core was surrounded not by several layers of protective concrete and graphite but by ordinary plaster with a horseshoe hanging from a nail. Also, management apparently gives employees benefits for storing nuclear waste in buildings; in some episodes, barrels of waste have been seen in the Simpsons' basement. Also perhaps due to this, the book reports that international law forbids shipping produce from Springfield; those who do venture into a local supermarket or farmer's market may find that it gives off a barely audible hum.

Culture

The geographic location of Springfield is never stated, but Springfield is generally considered to depict, in a lampooning manner, "bread-and-butter" Middle America, culturally somewhere between a suburb and a small town. Springfieldians are not, for the most part, cosmopolitan, and most are of lower-middle to middle income (excluding the nefarious, extravagant Montgomery Burns, Lindsey Naegle, and the "Well, I never!" women).

In one episode, the "small-town nastiness" of Springfield is made evident by a benighted tradition of "snake-whacking" whereby, annually, Springfieldians bludgeon snakes to death. Lisa Simpson, a proto-liberal disgusted by this activity, encourages the people of Springfield to quit the tradition with the aid of soul singer Barry White.

Springfieldians have a very bad reputation. As described by Dr. Hibbert, it is a town where the smartest have no power and the stupidest run everything. TIME magazine once did a cover story on Springfield entitled "America's Worst City." Citizens of Springfield are all very stupid, overweight, and also quick to anger. There is a riot almost every single day. Springfield also has a strange smell that is uncomfortable to new residents. It is usually about six weeks before they adjust. (Cities near pulp mills, such as Lewiston, Idaho, have a similar problem.) Springfield is also the first United States city to abandon the Metric system.

Obesity has been several times a joke on the show. It is even stated, in one episode, that Springfield is "The Fattest city in the US."

Springfield's state

The exact geographic location of Springfield is much disputed, but many episodes make it clear that Springfield exists in some non-existent state, and not one of the actual 50 that exist in the real world. In the episode "Blame it on Lisa," the character Lisa Simpson says about Springfield's state "Well, it is a bit of a mystery, but if you follow the clues you can figure it out."

The only fact that can be assumed to be true (based on constant reinforcement over the years) is that Springfield lies somewhere on the west coast. This is bolstered by A) Springfield sits on the ocean, and B) it has various features that only the west coast has (e.g.: redwood tree(s), mesas, a TV station that starts with a K). Beyond that, the evidence is easily gathered but often conflicting.

A web page discussing Springfield's location states that due to the many contradictory clues, it is impossible for Springfield to exist in any set location. However, in one episode the town becomes so polluted its buildings are moved five miles down the road, via 'plan B'. This could allow for the city to be in more than one state with different episodes taking place before and after the move. This could also explain the discrepancies with there being a port sometimes and not others.

There is a strong case for the non-existent state being west of the Mississippi River, assuming that the Federal Communications Commission of the Simpsons' universe mirrors the real world FCC. Springfield's local radio station uses the call letters KBBL. In the episode "Colonel Homer" the town also has a country music radio station KUDD. "K" as the first call letter usually indicates a radio station west of the Mississippi River, whereas "W" as the first call letter usually indicates a radio station east of the Mississippi River. Most of the exceptions to this rule (such as station KDKA in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) were assigned call letters before this convention was established.

Springfield is near a junction of five states (in real life, no such junction exists), yet it borders the ocean; it has a canyon, a desert, and mountains. It boasts the tallest mountain in the United States. (In the episode "King of the Hill," Bart claims the Murderhorn is more than 4 miles higher than Springfield's elevation. The actual highest mountain in the United States, Mount McKinley in Alaska, rises less than 4 miles above sea level.) Sometimes it snows in Springfield, and the town once experienced a hurricane. Its ocean coast has an oil platform close offshore. Springfield's western side (which is three times the size of Texas) is a vast oil field. Springfield is also 2,000 miles away from Arlen, Texas, which Hank Hill said in a brief cameo. A road sign seen in another episode showed Springfield is 678 miles away from Mexico City, although this would place Springfield within Mexico.

The flag of Springfield's state showed (prior to a redesign contest) a Confederate Battle Flag floating on (or sinking into) a body of water in front of a sunrise, paralleling the controversies surrounding the state flags of Mississippi and Georgia (The flag needed to be redesigned because they live in a "northern state.") The state bird is the potbellied sparrow; the state pasta is bowtie. The state slogan is "Not Just Another State," and the longtime governor is Mary Bailey. The capital of Springfield's state is named "Capital City," and boasts its own Major League Baseball team.

Several episodes indicate that Springfield has an ocean coastline, although this conflicts with other clues. One episode showed jellyfish washing up on Springfield Beach. In another episode Bart, Homer, and the Junior Campers float out to sea during a rafting trip. They are rescued by floating towards an unmanned oil rig which nevertheless features a failing Krusty Burger restaurant. Offshore oil rigs in the United States are found off the coasts of the Gulf of Mexico and California. The episode "New Kids on the Blecch" established that oceangoing warships visit and dock at Springfield's harbor.

While the name of the state has never been mentioned, Homer Simpson's driver's license shows that the state's abbreviation is "NT". According to producer/director David Silverman, Springfield is in the made-up state of "North Takoma" (a play on North Dakota, perhaps as well as the north end of the city of Tacoma, Washington). The two-letter abbreviation NT is legally used to refer to Canada's Northwest Territories, or Australia's Northern Territory, but it is clear Springfield is in the U.S.. U.S. flags are everywhere in Springfield; note the flag in the opening credits.

After the Simpsons are expelled from Florida, Marge and Homer mark that state on a map, which shows only two states remaining that still welcome the Simpsons: Arizona and North Dakota.

Episodes frequently make fun of the fact that Springfield's state has never been revealed, by adding further conflicting descriptions, obscuring onscreen map representations, and interrupting conversational references. The revelation that Springfield was once entirely in the telephone area code 636 and that chaos erupted when half the town was switched to the new area code 939 does not clarify the situation; area code 636 is in Missouri, while 939 is in Puerto Rico. In one episode, someone refers to "south of the border" and Homer responds "You mean Tennessee?" (Tennessee is directly south of Kentucky.) In another episode, Superintendent Chalmers refers to Springfield Elementary School as "the most dilapidated in all of Missouri," and shocks everyone (viewers and characters alike) by this disclosure, before continuing with "and that's why it was shut down and moved here, brick by brick."

In the "Behind the Laughter" episode, a narrator describes the Simpsons as a "northern Kentucky family." In reruns however, this was changed to southern Missouri, purposely adding to the confusion. There are in fact Springfields and Shelbyvilles in both Kentucky and Missouri. However, this episode featured the Simpson family as actors "playing" roles of themselves, and the events depicted on the episode are not recognized as being part of the series' set continuity.

The couch gag sequence of The Simpsons episode entitled "The Ziff Who Came to Dinner" (FABF08, first aired March 14, 2004) again left the location of Springfield something of a mystery. The sequence featured a "zooming out" from the Simpson household to a satellite view, then a solar system view, and so on in a parody of the 1977 documentary short Powers of Ten. The sequence contained plenty of cloud cover, but put Springfield somewhere in the Midwest, probably near the Mississippi River. It should be noted, however, that couch gags cannot be considered canon. Also, in the Treehouse of Horror segment "Starship Poopers" in the episode "Treehouse of Horror IX", where it is revealed that the alien Kang is Maggie's father, a similar zoom-out sequence is also used. This one, however, places Springfield in Florida. It should be noted that the Treehouse of Horror episodes have no continuity with the rest of the series and are not considered canon.

In the episode "Marge vs. the Monorail", monorail salesman Lyle Lanley proclaims "I've sold monorail systems to Brockway, Ogdenville, and North Haverbrook! And, boy, it put them on the map!" He then holds up a map of the U.S. where Brockway, Ogdenville and North Haverbrook are the only cities shown. Marge then later drives to nearby North Haverbrook (where everybody resents there being a monorail there, despite the sign at the city limits saying "Where the Monorail is KING!"). The map shows North Haverbrook in the Midwest, approximately Iowa. However, in another episode, Marge is seen driving to Ogdenville, which adds confusion. Ogdenville was shown in the southwest, approximately Arizona.

In one episode, Chief Wiggum reported his location by noting the exact moment when the Sun was directly over his position, suggesting that the state lies at least partly in the tropics (Hawaii is the only tropical U.S. state; it should be noted that the show has invented new states).

The episode "New Kids on the Blecch" establishes that Springfield is only a few minutes' sail from New York City by ship, while the episode "Viva Ned Flanders" (and other episodes in which characters visit Las Vegas) establishes that Springfield is within an easy day's drive of Las Vegas by car. Also, in an episode where Homer joins the US Navy reserve, a map shows his submarine's route leaving Springfield on the US Pacific coast.

In the episode "The Springfield Files," Mulder tells Scully that there has been "another unsubstantiated UFO sighting in the heartland of America," referring to Homer's close encounter with an alien; so, for that episode, Springfield was presumably somewhere in the Midwest.

Homer suggests that Springfield is within a state bordering the Great Lakes. He said:

Oh, why did I take it [the wedding ring] off? ...Oh, right! To see if I could skip it across Lake Michigan.

Another fact that adds to the confusion is the mention of a central highway called Highway 401 in several episodes. There is a central highway named Highway 401 in the Province Of Ontario, Canada which passes through the City of Toronto. This has also lead to speculation of Toronto being the inspiration to Springfield; however as mentioned above, the countless pieces of evidence of Springfield being in the United States automatically disprove this theory. In the episode "Poppa's Got A Brand New Badge," the character Fat Tony drives into downtown Springfield past a highway identification sign that very closely resembles United States Interstate signs, and bears the route number 95. The real I-95 is a major north-south route along the east coast of the United States. It should be noted however, that this was a parody of "The Sopranos", which takes place in New Jersey, through which I-95 runs.

The zip code of Springfield on Hans Moleman's drivers' license is 90701, which would place Springfield near Artesia, California.

References to other states

  • Grampa Abe Simpson would sooner be deep in the cold, cold ground before he'll recognize "Missoura" (Missouri), stated while explaining why his flag only has 49 stars.
  • In a hobo retelling of the story of Huckleberry Finn, Huck/Bart passed two signs on the Mississippi River: "Now leaving Missouri" and "Now entering Missoura"
  • Chief Wiggum once mentioned that Texas was the only state that might possibly prosecute a baby, but the jurisdiction Springfield is in will not.
  • Bart and Lisa want to travel to Alaska and Hawaii after Homer wins free plane tickets (eligible for the 48 contiguous states only).
  • Principal Skinner says that selling a boy is only legal in Springfield and Mississippi.
  • Dr. Hibbert says he should move back to Alabama after realizing the corruption in Springfield.
  • West Springfield is three times the size of Texas.
  • In one episode, Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie all take a trip to Dayton, Ohio, possibly a reference to voice actor Nancy Cartwright's hometown.
  • Marge told her address on the phone as "742 Evergreen Terrace, Springfield...." and then she said, "O Hiya Maude, Come on In!" (Ohio = O Hiya)
  • When Bart is helping Milhouse's mother answer Christmas letters, she mentions that one person lives in Mechanicsburg, a city in Ohio.
  • Chief Wiggum says "We have a saying around here: 'Let Michigan deal with it'."
  • It was mentioned that Springfield Elementary was once the worst-performing school in Missouri, until it was "moved brick by brick to here."
  • Adding to the general confusion, Homer takes an exit marked "To New Jersey, Texas, Michigan, and Oregon" while driving to the Edison Museum with Bart. Those states being, of course, nowhere near each other.

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TV TIDBITS

Aired: December 17, 1989 -

Cast: Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Harry Shearer

Network: FOX

Genre: Cartoon

Theme songSoundtrack

Spinoff of: The Tracy Ullman Show

Image courtesy of FOX


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