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Historical References in The Simpsons


Season
Episode
Episode Name
Social Studies Topic(s)
Reference description
1
7G04
There’s No Disgrace like Home
Psychology
- Theories of therapy
- Family therapy
Sociology
- Family dynamics
Psychology: (15:30) The various forms of therapy the family was put through (drawing therapy(16:20), aggression therapy(17:20), shock therapy(18:15). This would be valuable in introducing a therapy theme to the students. They can observe the family therapy session, noting the positives and negatives of each type (13:16-21:10).
Sociology: Students can monitor the family dynamics of the family and discuss the failings and positives. (throughout the show) .
1
7G05
Bart the General
US History
- Military Training
- WWI Armistice
- Treaty of Versailles
Military Training: (15:25-17:38) Bart leads his classmates through a training program similar to that of draftees in the US military. This can be used to introduce the draft and training for any US war.
Treaty: (19:45-20:45) Bart and Nelson sign an armistice to go back to normal life after the fight is over. The language is similar to the armistice signed after WWI. Some of the addendums to it can be related to the Versailles Treaty. It could be used to compare and contrast the real thing to a knockoff.
2
7F01
Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish
Politics/Gov’t
- elections
- campaigns
- Spin
- nuclear safety
Campaigns: (8:45-9:37) Burns decides to run for governor. His team is assembled to make him appear better and his opponent appear worse.
Spin: (9:40-12:21) Burns’ spin team make the 3 eyed fish seem like a good thing. It convinces people to side with Burns.
Campaigns: (entire episode) Students should observe what happens during a campaign. This can lead into a larger lesson into how campaigns work.
Nuclear Safety: Another reference could be made to nuclear radiation and what is true or false about nuclear pollution. Could also start a discussion about the ethics of nuclear power.
2
7F04
Treehouse of Horror
English (non-history)
Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” is featured. This could be more of an English class reference.
2
7F12
The Way We Was
US History
- 1970’s culture
- Women’s Lib/feminism
1970’s Culture: The show references back to Homer and Marge’s high school years in 1974.
Feminism: (4:35)Marge burns her bra in reference to the Women’s movement.
The show is set to a variety of timed songs by artists, The Carpenters, Steve Miller Band, Average White Band, Barry White, Elton John, and Van McCoy.
This episode could be used as a brief introduction into the 1970’s, the Women’s Movement, etc. Students can note the references then the class can talk about them after the episode is over.
2
7F19
Lisa’s Substitute
Politics/Gov’t
- elections
- campaigns
- voting
US History
- Truman’s defeat of Dewey
Psychology
- disorders
Wild West/Cowboys: (3:50-4:30) The substitute Mr. Bergstrom sings a song about the wild west. This could be an introduction into the west.
Elections: (15:45) When Martin wins the school election, he poses with a premature printed copy of the Fourth Gradian that states, “Simpson defeats Prince” this clearly parodies the “Dewey Defeats Truman” newspaper. Use this to introduce the students to the Truman victory.
Psychology – Disorders: (14:05-14:15) Lisa’s teacher comes back and states her disease was just psychosomatic.
3
8F11
Radio Bart
US History
- 1980’s culture
1980’s Culture (12:10-13:00)When Bart fools Springfield into thinking a boy is lost down a well, local/national celebrities create a song called “We’re Sending Our Love Down the Well”, this is in relation to the “We are the World” song created in real life.
4
9F08
Lisa’s First Word
US History
- Cold War
- Olympic Boycott
- 1980’s culture
1980’s Culture (entire episode) Ms. Pacman struck a blow for women’s rights. References the last episode of MASH, Boy George, and Webster,
Olympic Boycott: (12:00-13:30)It references the Russian boycott of the Olympics.
This could be used to have students try and identify as many references to the 80’s as possible.
4
9F14
Duffless
US History
- Prohibition
Prohibition (4:51) A prohibition-era sign at the Duff Brewery reads, “Prohibition got you down? Drink Doctor Duff’s ‘Health Tonic”. This reference shows what many actual breweries during prohibition did to keep making beer. This reference may be better served by only using it for a very brief while, or doing a screen capture.
4
9F15
Last Exit to Springfield
Economics
- Unions
- Strikes
- Class struggle
Unions: (entire episode) The show centers on the union labor dispute with Mr. Burns. It also shows how strikes work and end. This could be used when learning about labor relations in the US. Use it to compare and contrast reality to television.
Strikes (15:50-17:45) The workers strike and Burns hires strike breakers as they had in the 1930’s.
4
9F18
Whacking Day
Local History
- Local holidays
- Traditions
Springfieldians participate in Whacking Day, where they look for and beat snakes. This is an example of a unique local/regional practice. Use this to compare to local/regional practices in your own area when talking about local history.
It is also revealed that the holiday used to have people attacking the Irish instead of Snakes. This could be used to show how traditions sometimes change without people knowing due to changing norms of society.
5
1F01
Rosebud
US History
- Charles Lindbergh
- Hitler
- Nautilus’s North Pole visit
A short part of this clip shows the journey of Mr. Burns stuffed bear “Bobo”. It starts in 1927 with Charles Lindbergh’s flight, then goes to 1945 in Hitler’s Berlin bunker, lastly to 1957 Nautilus’s North Pole visit. Show this in the beginning of the year to show how history is related. While this example may be farfetched it at least introduces some of the topics discussed throughout the year.
5
1F11
Bart Gets Famous
Sociology
- Catchphrases
- Fame
- Phenomenon
Bart’s famous line “I didn’t Do It” could be used in a sociology class to show how the country can get caught up in phenomenons like “Pants on the Ground” and while they are enormously famous for a time, they quickly fade away.
5
1F13
Deep Space Homer
US History
- NASA
- Space exploration
- Apollo 13
Homer goes into space with NASA. This could be used in a couple ways. It could be used as a comparison to Apollo 13 where the astronauts experienced a great deal of trouble. It could also be used to show how much interest has been lost in NASA’s space program.
6
2F02
Sideshow Bob Roberts
Politics/Gov’t
- Elections
- Campaigns
- Watergate
- Kennedy/Nixon Debate
- Political debates
Bob gets out of jail and runs for mayor. This episode is based loosely on the Watergate scandal and other real life political events. It could be used to introduce elections or to talk about how people try to rig them. It also featured a TV debate where Quimby appears sickly and loses popularity; this is similar to the Nixon/Kennedy debate where Nixon looked pale and sickly.
6
2F09
Homer the Great
US History
- Conspiracy Theories
- Freemasons
- Secret Societies
This episode features the Stonecutters which are an obvious reference to the Freemasons. It could be used to compare and contrast the actions of the real organization and the myths surrounding them.
6
2F22
Lemon of Troy
World History
- Trojan Horse
Homer, Bart, and other Sprinfieldians use the Trojan Horse decoy trick to get into Shelbyville and steal the lemon tree back. This could be used to talk about the Trojan War.
6
3F11
Scenes From the Class Struggle in Springfield
Sociology
- Class struggle
- Socioeconomic class structure
Marge gets invited to the country club and the family sees what life is like for the rich. They also try to fit in. This could be used to compare the different lifestyles, also to how different economic classes work with one another.
7
3F12
Bart the Fink
Economics
- Money
- Banking
- Tax Fraud
Bart gets a checkbook with the Hindenburg disaster on it called “Oh the Humanity”. It also talks about how Krusty commits tax fraud. This could help explain how tax fraud works so the students might understand it better when they see it in history.
7
3F13
Lisa the Iconoclast
US History
- Historical myths
- Historical revision
The true identity of Sprinfield’s founder is revealed to be false. When they exhume the body to see if it is true it references real events when President Taylor was exhumed. It could also be used to talk about what we really know about our founding fathers.
7
3F17
Bart on the Road
US History
- World’s Fair
-
Bart and his friends rent a car and travel to Knoxville Tennessee to see the Worlds Fair. They are disappointed when they find out it was open in 1982, but still see the Sunsphere. This could be used if talking about Worlds Fairs, or local history.
7
3F20
Much Apu about Nothing
Politics/Gov’t
- Citizenship
- illegal immigrants
- scapegoating
Springfield attempts to pass Prop 24 which would deport all illegal immigrants immediately. It discusses ways in which people can become citizens. It also shows how politicians can blame illegal aliens for totally unrelated things. Related to California Proposition 187 anti-illegal movement.
8
4F02
Treehouse of Horror VII
Politics/Gov’t
- elections
- Two Party System
The “Citizen Kang” story where Kodos and Kang impersonate Dole and Clinton; they make reference to the dominance of the 2 party system in the US, claiming that voting for the 3rd party is throwing the vote away. They also show what voters want to see and hear by claiming “bland pleasantries, jazz solos, and kissing babies”. Use this episode to have students learn about elections. It really focuses on the negatives of US politics or at least the perceived negatives. Students can use this to start a discussion.
8
4F07
Hurricane Neddy
Psychology
- Psychological breakdown
- Psychotherapy
Sociology
- Child Rearing
This would probably be best used in a psychology class. Ned’s childhood psychiatrist treats him to suppress his anger rather than use it constructively. Have students relate this strategy to real psychological treatments.
The mob at the Kwik-E-Mart could also be used to reference the 1992 LA mobs
8
4F15
Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment
US History
- Prohibition
- Bootlegging
Politics/Gov’t
- Laws
- Crime
Prohibition returns to Springfield and Rex Banner comes to enforce it. When the mob can no longer supply alcohol, Homer becomes a bootlegger. Use this episode to draw comparisons between actual prohibition in the 1920’s and prohibition in Sprinfield.
8
4F21
The Secret War of Lisa Simpson
US History
- Women’s Lib/Feminism
- Women in the military
Lisa attends military school. This could be used to start a discussion about women in the armed forces and women in combat.
9
5F02
Treehouse of Horror VIII
US History
- Salem Witch Trials
- Mob Rule
Salem Witch Trial story. Use this to start learning about the Salem Witch Trials. Students can then use it to reference back to.
9
5F05
Lisa the Skeptic
US History
- Scopes Trial
- Evolution vs. Creationism
An angel skeleton appears in Springfield and the entire town believes it is real. Lisa acts as the lone skeptic and tries to convince the town that it is fake.
13
DABF08
Tales from the Public Domain
World History
- Trojan Horse
- Joan of Arc
Trojan Horse, Joan of Arc
15

Margical History Tour
World History
- Henry VIII
- Mozart
US History
- Lewis and Clark
Henry VIII, Lewis and Clark, Mozart
17

The Wettest Stories Ever Told
US History
- Mayflower
Mayflower
17
HABF14
The Monkey Suit
US History
- Evolution vs Creationism
- Scopes Trial
Politics/Govt
- Courts
Springfield bans evolution from being taught in the schools and Lisa takes up arms. She decides to start an underground club to teach science rather than religion and gets caught. Lisa is then put on trial in a case similar to the Scopes Trial.



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