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How time works in the Simpsons

Gilboy, Jemma; Davis, Amy M.; Zborowski, James


Jemma Gilboy


© The Author(s) 2015. This article uses two groups of case-study episodes to explore the complexities and perplexities that arise from the long-running use of a 'floating timeline' within The Simpsons. First, the conflicting representations of the youths of Homer and Marge in two 'flashback' episodes ('The Way We Was' and 'That 90's [sic] Show') are examined. The logical quandaries presented by departing from a floating timeline and introducing fixed (but multiple and contradictory) historical reference points in individual episodes are outlined, and it is suggested that it may be better to accept the fictional paradoxes created rather than to try to resolve them. Second, the episodes featuring 'Sideshow Bob' are surveyed, and Bob is offered as being granted the unusual capacity (within The Simpsons' fictional universe) to experience the passage of time and accumulate and retain an eventful history. This is contrasted with the temporal experiences of the Simpsons themselves, for whom there is eventfulness without progression. The article concludes by suggesting that The Simpsons' status as an animated programme allows it to exhibit in a particularly pure and sustained form some of the relationship to time, history and the everyday of situation comedy and television more broadly.


Gilboy, J., Davis, A. M., & Zborowski, J. (2015). How time works in the Simpsons. Animation : an interdisciplinary journal, 10(3), 175-188.

Acceptance Date Sep 18, 2015
Online Publication Date Oct 19, 2015
Publication Date 2015-11
Deposit Date Oct 26, 2015
Publicly Available Date Oct 27, 2022
Journal Animation : an interdisciplinary jounal
Print ISSN 1746-8477
Electronic ISSN 1746-8485
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 10
Issue 3
Pages 175-188
Keywords The Simpsons; Time; Series television; Canon/canonical; Prime-time animation; Fan communities; Floating timeline; Retroactive continuity; Sideshow Bob; Situation comedy; The everyday
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Author's accepted manuscript of article published in: Animation : an interdisciplinary jounal, 2015, v.10, issue 3


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