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How Matt Groening Taught Us to Love Skateboarding

By Paula Osorio
P. Osorio is a skate culture lover and a full-time writer for SHIT®️ Magazine.

 

A little bit more than three decades ago, when we were all younger than we are now (obviously), a character appeared on our TV screens that started to embody an attitude that some of us embraced later: we’re talking about Bart Simpson’s “eat my pants!” and Matt Groening’s pencil and brain was behind it all.

 

The Series’ History

So, in 1977 Groening was doing a weekly comic strip called “Life in Hell” that had multiple variations depending on the subject it was treating –like Childhood Is Hell, School Is Hell, The Road To Hell, Work Is Hell, Love is Hell, and others like Akbar and Jeff's Guide to Life– that was published in more than 200 newspapers in the United States and Canada. His humor was delightful, he portrayed life in Los Angeles using rabbit-like characters –named Binky, Bongo, and Sheba– and two ambiguous figures described by their creator as "either brothers or lovers — or both. Whatever offends you most” in some interviews. These little tiny personifications were shown having to work, study, deal with relationships, pay debts, and so on, and they were drawn with an uncomplicated line style.

Matt Groening Simpsons

This was a very successful format so, he went on with this project for around a decade until 1985, when he gained James L. Brooks’s –a claimed TV and movie director, producer, and writer's– attention, who invited him to make an animated version of his comics. Matt thought that this would be a mistake for his series so instead, he decided to design new characters to form a dysfunctional family based on his own. He wrote and released a series of 48 one-minute episodes spread over three seasons that were put on display for The Tracey Ullman Show called “The Simpson Family”, and that was just the tip of the iceberg of what we know today as the 32 seasons animated series “The Simpsons”.

 

 

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The Simpsons’ Paradigm

Because Matt Groening used his own family –including their names– to model these characters, he printed his very own personality in Bart: A 10-years-old rebel child that loved to roll around with his skateboard, getting in trouble at school, being friends with the punk kids, annoying his dad and having nothing to do with his sisters. Those are the personal characteristics from which the boy generates multiple plots in the family’s story and, at the same time, forges an attitude for a whole generation of youngsters that picked him as a role model. And, just to get you an idea, Bart Simpson debuted in 1989, which means that this guy is 5 years older than the X Games.

The first reference to skateboarding that depicts the pleasure of riding on a deck appears in the 21st episode of the inaugural series of animated shorts aired in 1988. In this chapter, Bart tries (unsuccessfully) to beat his sisters on multiple races but right before everything, he jumps on the skateboard screaming “Cowabunga!” and, when he starts to roll, he asserts with thrill and eyes closed: “Oh! The breeze, the solitude, the wind whistling through your hair” and man, do we feel alluded! Don’t we? What a huge satisfaction to feel the pavement caressing the wheels of our boards as we slide down the hill, to feel the freedom tousling our hair and, to increase our speed to gain even more satisfaction. That phrase over there encaptures, indeed, all of that power that skateboarding provides us all.

 

Matt Groening Simpsons

 

Another important reference to the skateboarding culture is the scene where Bart meets Tony Hawk’s apartment on the 11th episode of Season 14 when he tries to emancipate from home. In this particular moment, the two characters meet each other in a party while Blink-182 plays “All the small things” in the back and a bunch of skaters rolls around the place, jumping on ramps, sliding some rails, and even a guy makes a sick nose one-wheel manual right in front of our eyes. During the chapter, we can see how the lifestyle of professional skateboarders is described as an awesome and cool riot that we want to be part of. And this story even has a moral when Hawk warns Homer to be heading for a “parental face-plant” and advises him to make a “1080 emotional ollie” to fix his relationship with his son. Ha-ha! Simpsons references apply or everything in life, right?

So, just to close this subject, we want to highlight that the Groening’s franchise has covered a lot of things in culture since its origins by the hand of Matt’s own attitude towards life and his surroundings: they even launched a videogame called The Simpsons: Skateboarding and in the opening for every The Simpsons episode, we can still see Bart riding through Springfield mounted on his board. We wanted to use this article to thank the author for the visibility that he has given to skateboarding on a massive scale through his creations.

 

Thanks, Matt and Cowabunga!


Read also: Fancy Lad: An Ode to Creativity

Read also: The Psychology of Skateboarding


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