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: An episode of The Simpsons helped two young boys each save someone’s life.
It is easy, sometimes, to lose sight of just how much influence popular television shows and films have on the general public. Whether it is teens killing themselves trying to emulate a scene in the film “The Program” or the public causing a toilet paper shortage because of an errant comment by Johnny Carson on “The Tonight Show,” people can sometimes be surprisingly influenced by popular culture. Heck, for years, “Ameche” was actually a slang term for the telephone, just because Don Ameche played Alexander Graham Bell in a popular movie!
Luckily, though, the pervasive influence of popular culture can sometimes be a good thing. In fact, sometimes it can even save lives, which was the case with one particular episode of the hit long-running animated TV series, “The Simpsons.”
Read on to see what happened!
The seventeenth episode of “The Simpsons”‘ third season was titled “Homer At the Bat.” It came out in February 992. The plot involves Mr. Burns hiring a number of famous Major League Baseball players of the era to be ringers for the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant’s Softball team. It was the first time that “The Simpsons” tried to get a lot of famous people to guest-star in a single episode (it inspired the show to do the classic episode where a bunch of celebrities, including one talk show host who’d only show up if the show did not make fun of him, do a tribute show to help Krusty the Clown). “Homer At the Bat” is one of the most important episodes in the history of “The Simpsons.” Al Jean, longtime writer and producer of the show, named it as one of the show’s five most essential episodes.
However, the show also had a whole other legacy unrelated to the history of the show itself. You see, the opening of the episode has Homer choking on a donut. While his co-workers try to figure out what to do when someone is choking, Homer’s friend Lenny looks for a first aid chart and looks past the big sign showing how to do the Heimlich maneuver (a first aid maneuver developed by Dr. Henry Heimlich in 1974 to help dislodge upper airway obstructions in choking victims) to see a Softball sign-up sheet.
While the show was joking, they did end up showing the correct Heimlich maneuver, and placed it into the context where a viewer would get that that is what you’re supposed to do if someone is choking.
So a few months later, that’s exactly what happened with two young boys in Auburn, Washington.
From the Associated Press:
A woman credits an episode of The Simpsons with helping to save her 8-year-old son’s life. Karen Bencze said her 10-year-old son used the Heimlich maneuver on his choking brother. He learned the lifesaving maneuver by watching the show. Chris and Alex Bencze were home alone when Alex began choking on an orange. Chris stood behind his brother and squeezed his chest until the fruit popped out.
Now, “The Simpsons” is obviously very popular, and as a result, reruns of the show have aired constantly since the show debuted. As a result, the influence of the episode carried on even decades later.
In 2007, while at the cafeteria at their school in England, Alex Hardy began to choke on a sandwich. The grown-ups around did not know what to do. Luckily, his friend Aiden was a Simpsons fan. As The Guardian recalled in 2009:
Alex was 10 when he was rescued by best friend Aiden Bateman after he choked on a sandwich.
He was struggling for breath and had turned purple as dinner ladies patted him on the back in a vain bid to dislodge the offending sandwich.
But his friend then performed the Heimlich Manoeuvre he had seen the technique performed on The Simpson’s third season episode “Homer at the Bat”.
Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock later filmed the boys about their story for the 20th anniversary of “The Simpsons”…
Impressive stuff, Simpsons! And these are just the reported versions of this story! I bet that there are other examples out there that we don’t know about because they didn’t make the news.
Whether that’s true or not, the legend is still…
Be sure to check out my archive of TV Legends Revealed for more urban legends about the world of television. Click here for more legends specifically about the Simpsons! There’s been a lot of them over the years!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is email@example.com.