A quick look at Don Hertzfeldt’s Simpsons Couch Gag

As you might have guessed, I really like Don Hertzfeldt’s couch gag. I enjoy how deeply unsettling it is, dragging a 20-second couch gag into a long 2 minute demonstration of grotesque and absurd animations. Hertzfeldt turns Homer, Lisa, and Bart into caricatures of themselves who are only capable of saying bastardized catch phrases like “D’oh!”, “Don’t have a cow, man,” and “I am Lisa Simpson”. Maggie, who has very little personality at all in the show, simply becomes a vehicle for advertising Simpsons merchandise, and the entire kitchen-cube scene here seems to indicate that the quality and integrity of the Simpsons TV show will only decrease over time, eventually reaching such a low point as to become the absurd repetition of catch phrases. (On a side note, I dislike how Marge says “Praise the dark lord of the twin moons” — the line sounds cheesy and detracts from what Hertzfeldt has already presented.)

The future Homer then realizes that he “has memories,” and the couch gag launches into what is, in my opinion, the best part. We see Homer look back into post-modern snippets of “future” Simpsons episodes, each of which contain quintessential Simpsons themes. We see a robotic Homer and Marge standing on metallic stilts standing quietly on a jagged mountain range. Although robotic, the couple is still in touch with their core humanness, and Marge touches Homer and says, “Still love you, Homer,” a theme which is mirrored in many present-day episodes of the show. In the next scene, the Simpsons family is reduced to yellow, single-celled organisms, fluttering in a sea of liquid as if in a cohesive bacterial colony, declaring that they “are happy family.” Finally, in the far future, Homer and Marge are both warped into alien-like entities incapable of traditional speech, but even then they retain their fundamental selves. As the warped Marge Simpson speaks, a message appears on the screen: “I will never forget you.” — and as the two figures disappear, first Marge and then Homer, into an endless black void, Hertzfeldt beckons us to consider how meaningful such the promise can be.

Finished pondering, Homer looks at his family once again. The promise was broken. With the family reduced to robotic, characterless parrots only capable of talking in catch phrases, they have already forgotten Homer and themselves. Realizing this, Homer concludes the scene with a mournful “D’oh.”