Earlier in February, I overheard something that stopped me cold: “The Simpsons just aired its 500th episode on FOX.” Though I stopped watching the show regularly a while ago, the vaunted animated series is not only a cultural mainstay, but was a staple of my childhood. A little internet searching confirmed that the show is in its twenty-third season, which allowed me to date with precision an embarrassing episode from my childhood: the time I first imitated Bart Simpson by attempting to pull off Santa’s beard. In my case, however, the ‘Santa’ in question was not my father, and the beard in question was distressingly real. (Santa, if you’re a TJP reader, I am sorry. I was in kindergarten.)
Reminiscing about my youthful indiscretions, I stumbled upon the following video:
Now as a kid, Homer was never my favorite character on the show. He was just too dopey for my taste. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I greeted the news that the word “d’oh” had been added to the dictionary coolly.
When I watched that clip of Homer “d’oh”-ing in seasons one through twenty, though, I began to wonder if I hadn’t misjudged the man a little bit. Sure, he’s a dope. But he’s our dope, the signature American dope, the kind of dope I imagine people from other countries think I’ll be before they meet me.
What’s more, it occurred to me that the creation of the word “d’oh” — whether worthy of the OED or not — clearly acknowledges certain sentiments we struggle to admit: ‘I messed up.’ ‘I was wrong.’ ‘That was frustratingly stupid
.’ Often enough, Homer’s “d’oh” points to regret, regret to sorrow, and sorrow to repentance. Though it may not be evident at first glance, “d’oh” is one of the most genuine comments on a show that, as TJP’s Joe Simmons recently noted, is sprinkled with sarcasm.
There’s an honesty in saying “d’oh!” that is at the heart of this Lenten season. Our own blunders and shortcomings may not seem as frequent (or as public) as Homer’s, but they are probably as frustrating. We would do well to follow him in acknowledging them — and moving on.