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The Most Confusing Parts Of The Simpsons

If a TV show is around for as long as "The Simpsons" has been, there are bound to be a few mistakes along the way. Not only has the program had plenty of continuity issues, but its 33 seasons have created many plot holes that are downright confusing. From Ralph having the voice of Nelson to Chief Wiggum's hair changing color throughout Season 6's "The Springfield Connection," big mistakes are easy to spot. Yet when we drill down into Simpsons lore, there's even more nonsensical chaos than meets the eye.

There are tons of questions in Springfield's history that have been left unanswered. Will Lisa actually get to go to college? How does Marge's hair stand up like that? Did Disco Stu ever get those dead goldfish out of his shoes? What's even worse is that we're now confusing ourselves — creating memes of obscure characters that might not even exist. It's still undecided whether we even care about the many loopholes "The Simpsons" has made over the years, but we've got our Buzz Cola and are ready to dive into some. Here are a handful of the most confusing aspects in the show's 33-year history.

Troy McClure's B-list acting

We might remember Troy McClure from such acting credits as... well, there's not much. As Springfield's favorite B-lister, his reputation as a hack and phony proceeds him. Across all 33 seasons of "The Simpsons," he often appears as the face of educational tapes and informercials with little knowledge of whatever cause he's signed up for. The acting is bad and the topics are terrible, yet Troy somehow stays employed. It's not until Season 7's "A Fish Called Selma" that we see Troy's lifestyle doesn't match up to his acting chops.

When Selma moves into her marital home, she's met with a swanky apartment, a swimming pool, and a bedroom with a floor-to-ceiling fish tank. Not exactly in budget for a guy who makes money explaining DNA to fourth graders. He does eventually get a starring role in a musical version of "Planet of the Apes," but soon after he's straight back to fronting the Impulse Buying Network. Troy's hold over Springfield doesn't make much sense, and his luxury lifestyle is not reflected by his dramatic credits. Supposedly appearing in multiple movies, we never see his ambition fully materialize. Still, at least his dreams almost paid off in real life.

Homer and his never-ending jobs

Even for people who have never watched "The Simpsons," Homer's job as a safety inspector in Sector 7-G of Springfield's Nuclear Power Plant is legendary. When he's not sitting at his station eating classic pink doughnuts, he's rolling on barrels of waste with Carl and Lenny, or getting his hand stuck in the onsite vending machines. For someone who doesn't do much work, it's surprising that Homer gets so much time off to chase a newfound dream. According to Vox, Homer has had 133 jobs in the 33 years he's been on our screens. Pretty strange when you consider he's always been 36 years old.

Not only is the number of jobs he's had mind-boggling, but his family's endless patience and lack of financial security are also concerning. Homer's set up shop in the local bowling alley, managed an up-and-coming country music singer, worked on carnival stalls, and gotten a gig as a local sports mascot. He's even reimagined himself as an inventor and flown abroad to work as a missionary. Whatever happens inside Homer's head is difficult to keep up with, but it sure makes for some satisfying drama.

The Simpsons aren't middle-class

With a house, 2 pets, and 2.5 children, the Simpsons family should be the dictionary definition of middle-class. While Homer is out at work, Marge plays the role of stay-at-home wife — and no matter what happens, money always seems to be tight. What "The Simpsons" has mostly failed to acknowledge is how the world around them is changing. In real time, many families have had to battle recessions, disasters, and an unforgiving economy. If Homer, Marge, and the kids were actually human, chances are they'd be slipping much further down the social scale.

So how have the Simpsons managed to stay afloat? According to Planet Money, the economic statistics from 1989 onwards don't quite match up. Homer's annual take-home salary works out to a current value of $50,000. There's no doubting that it's a solid wage for any low-level worker in 2022. But is it enough to support a family, home, and pets? Unlikely. Our 2022 real-life Homer would be faring much worse than he is on "The Simpsons," with Bart and Lisa's prospects not far behind.

The chaos of Itchy & Scratchy

If "Tom & Jerry" was allowed to run riot and mess with kids' imaginations, the show might look something like "Itchy & Scratchy." As Bart and Lisa's cartoon of choice, their segment on the Krusty the Clown show is a hallmark of "The Simpsons" episodes. Eye-gougingly gory, "Itchy & Scratchy" even has a movie, though Bart is punished by being banned from seeing it in Season 4's episode of the same name. The hyper-violence of the show is a joke that works on multiple levels, satirizing problematic real-life cartoons and further underscoring the irresponsibility of Springfield's adults. Still, there are lots of times that the laughs don't land, and it raises questions about the plausibility of such brutal entertainment getting approved for children. 

In the early days of "The Simpsons," there was a fight against it. Season 2's "Itchy & Scratchy & Marge" shows the Simpsons matriarch battle to get the show banned from TV altogether, but her efforts are quickly forgotten. What's more, Season 6 sees the opening of their very own theme park, complete with a log flume cut in half by saws alongside killer robots. Not only is "Itchy & Scratchy's" time on TV confusing, but its dangerous theme park also would never have passed any health and safety standards needed to exist. Then again, Springfield has an unrealistically flexible relationship to safety writ large, with Marge often serving as the only voice of reason ("Marge vs. the Monorail" is a prime example). 

Rod and Todd might not go to school

While Bart is the bad boy of fourth grade and Lisa the goody-two-shoes of Miss Hoover's second year, Springfield Elementary is missing two obvious students. Next-door neighbors Rod and Todd Flanders are never seen attending the school, or any of the one-off private schools we see used in early seasons. Unusually, Ned Flanders is regularly involved in Springfield Elementary, having attended school PTA meetings and even basing his junior campers program in one of their classrooms. Although they are regular fixtures in episodes of "The Simpsons," Rod and Todd's educational background is never actually explained.

There are fan theories about where the Flanders boys go to school, with one Reddit thread citing a later episode where Edna pulls them out of a Christian school to eventually send them to Springfield Elementary. With Ned keeping such a tight handle on what the boys do, it's also reasonable to assume that the kids could be homeschooled with a strictly religious timetable. Regardless of how they learn, Rod and Todd's time at school is one of the biggest mysteries of Evergreen Terrace.

Mr. Burns is too old to have an affair

Fans might never know exactly how old Mr. Burns is, with earlier seasons putting him somewhere between 80 and 105. Even though he runs his nuclear power plant with an iron fist, it's surprising that Mr. Burns has enough energy to do... well, anything. In 2014, the episode "Opposites-A-Frack" shows Springfield's favorite villain embroiled in a political affair, with Jane Fonda cast as the voice of his lover. While they don't share the same moral beliefs, Mr. Burns' passion for Maxine Lombard quickly takes hold. How that's biologically possible for a man who defies time remains unknown.

As a person who was once knocked to the floor by a $1,000 bill, Mr. Burns has an unusually large appetite for physical activity when it comes to women. He's somehow able to woo women — including Marge's mother — with spry, toe-tapping dance moves, becoming a far cry from the frail skeleton viewers see in regular episodes. With more money than he knows what to do with, Mr. Burns' passion for life could be chalked up to any experimental treatment that he could afford. Even so, the highs and lows of his romantic life are never fully explained.

Ruth Powers had a daughter

Unlike Homer's disdain for his famed neighbor Ned Flanders, the unassuming Ruth Powers makes for a welcome addition to Evergreen Terrace. First introduced in Season 4's "New Kid on the Block," Ruth goes on to develop a "Thelma & Lousie" type of friendship with Marge, before later turning her attention to bodybuilding. While Ruth's appearances in Springfield are fleeting, her backstory is still a huge question mark. Nowhere is this more apparent than the disappearance of her daughter Laura.

As Bart's first crush, Laura makes an impression on the Simpsons kids when she moves in next door. Weirdly, it's the only time that viewers see her. While Laura started out as a promising babysitting alternative to Grampa Abe, she vanishes as quickly as she's introduced. Later episodes allude to her not living with Ruth anymore, though it's never explained further. Ruth's obvious dislike for her ex-husband does not go unnoticed, with his lack of paying for child support a reason why she stole his car as revenge. Still, it doesn't completely explain why Laura would never be seen around Springfield again.

Nelson did have friends

A sensitive soul at heart, Nelson Muntz is the school bully who's all mouth and no trousers. Keeping up with the big leagues of Jimbo, Kearney, and Doyle, Nelson is a face to be feared, beating up the likes of Martin, Milhouse, and Bart. Throughout many episodes of "The Simpsons," he's revealed to be a bit of a loner. No kids turn up to his birthday parties and he struggles to make friends. He even has a hard time keeping Lisa around when she develops a crush. With so much emphasis on his time spent alone, it's surprising to realize this wasn't always the case.

In Season 1's "Bart the General," the kids of Springfield Elementary hatch a plan to get even with Nelson's bullying. Only this time, he isn't alone. Nelson originally had two sidekicks, known as the Weasels. Only seen in this episode before appearing as background characters, the Weasels are twins who are quietly shipped out of state for no known reason. It could be said that the show was still trying to find its feet, realizing Nelson was a stronger character on his own. Blink and you'll miss them — especially thanks to the ever-changing editing in their 5 minutes of fame.

Seymour Skinner could definitely move out

Both entertaining and sad at the same time, Springfield Elementary principal Seymour Skinner is a complicated man. He's often shown to have no real social life of his own, despite brief relationships with passing women, including Edna Krapabbel. He's had past lives in Homer's barbershop quartet and as an everyday Joe, yet always returns to the real love of his life: the school. He can't shake his overbearing mom Agnes, with whom he still lives despite the fact that he's 46 years old. Viewers might be left wondering why he isn't more independent.

Although he comes across as a wet blanket in the halls of Springfield Elementary, Skinner's background should make him anything but. Serving in Vietnam and used to strict discipline, there's no obvious reason he can't stand up to Agnes' bullying. Even when it was revealed that Seymour isn't the real Skinner, he has enough authority — and a good enough salary — to make the world his oyster. Fans understand that Agnes is a total narcissist, but her ease in pushing Skinner over the edge still makes little sense. Stern principal or mommy's boy? You decide.

Abe's military history doesn't make sense

If Grampa Abe is known for anything, it's his love of pointless yarns. Often popping up at 742 Evergreen Terrace with tales that no one asked for, Abe's imagination can easily get carried away. Nowhere is that more apparent than his fondness for sharing his version of the war. According to multiple episodes of "The Simpsons," Abe fought in the army during World War II before claiming to have served in the Navy later on. Unsurprisingly, there's not much clarity to his stories, with many of them becoming pretty unbelievable.

In Season 15's "The Regina Monologues," Abe suddenly remembers a woman named Edwina he left on the shores of Britain during the war. Unknown to any of the Simpsons, Abe fathered an illegitimate child called Abbey, who bears a striking resemblance to Homer. The fact it had taken 15 seasons for this family secret to be found out is suspicious in itself, followed by his half-hearted return to Ireland in "In The Name of the Grandfather." It's always been obvious that we are clutching at straws with Abe's stories, but the minds behind "The Simpsons" arguably lean on his flights of fancy a little too much.

The side characters of Springfield that don't have backstories

One of the best things about the town of Springfield is its abundance of interesting characters. While many of them are fleshed out and frequently return in future episodes, others are quietly phased out with no real notice. It's this second type of character that can be the most confusing. To give the Simpsons family something interesting to do, characters are often brought in for one episode and never seen again. This would be fine if we didn't eventually see them in an impromptu musical number or town hall meeting.

This character recycling happens more often than we might think. In Season 1's "Life on the Fast Lane," Marge becomes enamored with local bowling teacher Jacques, almost having an affair with him. After that, he's rarely seen unless he's being used as a crowd filler. The same can be said for the sexy belly dancer Homer is enamored with in "Homer's Night Out," who later turns up on a charity single and the monorail musical number. Why go to all that trouble for no background? There's no real answer, making episodes a frustrating watch for die-hard fans.

The Simpsons kids have had birthdays

Since 1989, the Simpsons have been exactly the same age — or at least, that's how we remember it. Back in the earlier seasons of the show, both Bart and Lisa were shown to have birthdays that made them their recurring ages of 10 and 8. "Radio Bart" confirms Bart would have been 9 for the first few seasons of "The Simpsons," as viewers watch him bored senseless at his party before causing trouble with Homer's gift of a radio microphone. Similarly, the now-banned Season 3 episode "Stark Raving Dad" revolves around Bart finding the perfect gift for Lisa's 8th birthday. With each coming of age happening in real-time, viewers would expect the family to continue growing up.

After these earlier episodes, the Simpsons family remains one age for the rest of the present day. Future birthdays and coming-of-age dramas are imagined in future predictions, such as their Christmas in Season 23's "Holidays of Futures Passed," or Lisa's wedding in the Season 6 episode of the same name. Homer would actually be 66 if creators continued to age him. And why can't we see Maggie grow up? The choice to both age them and keep them the same is beyond confusing.