Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.
TV URBAN LEGEND: Marge Simpson’s hair hides two rabbit ears.
Something that we’ve dealt with repeatedly in this column is the fact that very often, major decisions about movies and television shows aren’t made until pretty much the final moment. In the world of animation, sometimes it seems like it is even longer than that, since you’re not dealing with real life actors, so changes can be made much further along in the process (as you don’t have to worry about casting). Over the years, we’ve learned how Homer Simpson and Krusty the Clown were originally going to be one and the same, that Eric Cartman was originally going to have a father and a sister and that Waylon Smithers was going to be married with kids. In the case of Cartman and Smithers, the changes were made as a result of scenes getting cut out of early episodes that would have established those facts and when it came time to rethink them, the show’s creators thought otherwise. In the case of Homer and Krusty the Clown, that was more a case of Simpsons creator Matt Groening throwing out a ton of ideas early on, not all of them were feasible.
It’s that latter type of idea that we’re talking about today, in response to reader Joe B.’s request that we address something that has been puzzling him for a long time – does Marge Simpsons’ long blue hair hide a pair of rabbit ears?
Let’s find out!
The short answer is no.
We’ve seen Marge with her hair down a number of times on The Simpsons over the years and she clearly does not have big rabbit ears.
We could theoretically stop right there, but come on, that’s not fun. The perhaps more interesting question is, “DID she once have rabbit ears?” And the answer to that one is surprisingly yes.
In John Ortved’s The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History, he quotes Daria Paris, assistant to the late, great Sam Simon, who developed The Simpsons along with Matt Groening, who noted:
There were times in the room when Matt would come up with the stupidest ideas. And he had this one: we were going to do an episode where Marge finally lets her hair down, and Matt’s idea was that once she let it down the audience finds out she has rabbit ears, which was ridiculous. And Sam said no.
This is, of course, a reference to Matt Groening’s initial claim to fame. Before The Simpsons exploded Groening into superstardom, he was a critically acclaimed independent cartoonist whose main claim to fame was the comic strip, Life in Hell. The strip was about a group of anthropomorphic rabbits (Binky, Bongo and Sheba) and a gay couple, Akbar and Jeff. It dealt into all sorts of observations and jokes about modern life in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Groening put out a few popular independent books collecting the strips and the strips were soon syndicated into a number of newspapers.
In 1985, film and television producer James L. Brooks was introduced to the strip and he loved it. He was working on The Tracey Ullman Show and he was interested in having Groening turn his Life in Hell characters into short animated features that could run during The Tracey Ullman Show. Groening was interested (who wouldn’t be?) but as he arrived at Brooks’ office, he realized that this could screw with his ownership of the characters, or at least his (at the time) complete control over the characters. So instead, he quickly sketched out human substitutes for the Life in Hell characters and the rabbits became The Simpsons (with the names of the family members mostly taken from his own family members). He pitched Brooks on the idea and Brooks obviously went for it, and The Simpsons began appearing on The Tracey Ullman Show and then eventually they got their own television program, which was a massive success.
However, obviously Groening wanted to have some sort of connection to his old characters, so he came up with the idea of having Marge hide a pair of rabbit ears under her big blue hair. When asked about it on the DVD commentary to “Selma’s Choice,” Groening explained:
[M]y plan, back in the very beginning, that she was actually a Life in Hell rabbit from my comic strip… but then it just seemed like a… I just said “oh, forget it, there’s no ears under there.”
Amazingly enough, though, the idea was kept in place in the early days of the show, as Groening’s original plan was that it would not be revealed until the very end of the series. So it really didn’t MATTER that she had rabbit ears under the hair, since it wasn’t going to be addressed until the end of the series (which, as it turns out, looks like it will occur after the heat death of the universe).
So in the 1991 arcade game based on the Simpsons, Marge’s rabbit ears were present. The nifty website, The Spriters Resource, collects screen shots of the characters within video games. And in the Simpsons arcade game, there were two moments where Marge gets injured – once with a vacuum cleaner and once by getting electrocuted and sure enough, her rabbit ears are present.
Pretty awesome. But obviously, in the years since 1991, they’ve confirmed that she does not have rabbit ears.
The legend is…
STATUS: False, but most importantly, it was ONCE True
Thanks to Matt Groening and the Spriters Resources for the information!
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