Last night’s episode of The Simpsons was described in our review as “[crossing] the line between everyday late-run Simpsons mediocrity and actively irritating and dispiriting late-run Simpsons mediocrity.” In that spirit, perhaps, it’s only fitting that The Simpsons, the inspiration for several of our most enduring memes, is now referencing memes about itself as a stand-in for a proper joke.
As shown in the above clip, the episode saw Homer respond to a text from Lisa by pulling up that well-known GIF of himself disappearing backward into a hedgerow. There are many immediate questions raised by this choice. Has Homer become internet famous within The Simpsons’ fictional universe? Is he using the cartoon image of the original GIF or does their world contain a real video of a real Homer walking backward into a real shrub?
None of these are as pressing, though, as having to reckon with the fact that a Simpsons meme has now been included in The Simpsons itself, leaving us adrift in a world where traditional understandings of comedy and ontological meaning have come unmoored.
As testament to this, consider the inevitable variations of the original meme sent in reply to the official Simpsons account’s tweet.
Do these memes now feed back into the original, in-universe meme, meaning they could show up in the show as part of a reply sent to a Twitter account created to promote The Simpsons TV show? Will Homer soon turn to the screen, looking straight at the viewer, to discuss his character’s impact on modern pop culture? Do the Simpsons watch The Simpsons?
Amidst all this confusion, only one thing seems clear: it’s only a matter of time now until we’re given an episode that sees Skinner making Steamed Hams memes in his spare time. God help us all.
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