TV URBAN LEGEND: Marge Simpson’s hair hides two rabbit ears.
Something we’ve addressed repeatedly her is that major decisions about movies and television series often aren’t made until the very last moment. And with animation, changes frequently can be made further along in the process, because there are no worries about casting. 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, those changes were the result of scenes being cut from early episodes that would have established those details. However, with Homer and Krusty the Clown, that was more an instance of “The Simpsons” creator Matt Groening throwing out a ton of ideas early on, only to realize not all of them were feasible.
It’s that latter type of situation we’re talking about today, in response to a request from reader Joe B. that we address something that’s been puzzling him for a long time: Does Marge Simpsons’ long, blue hair hide a pair of rabbit ears?
The short answer is no.
We’ve seen Marge with her hair down a number of times on “The Simpsons,” and she clearly doesn’t have big rabbit ears. We could theoretically stop right there, but come on, that’s no fun. The more interesting question is, “DID she once have rabbit ears?” The answer to that one is, surprisingly, yes.
In “The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History,” author John Ortved quotes Daria Paris, assistant to the late, great Sam Simon, who developed the series with Groening:
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.
That is, of course, a reference to Groening’s initial claim to fame. Before “The Simpsons” propelled him into super-stardom, the critically acclaimed cartoonist created “Life in Hell,” a comic strip was about a group of anthropomorphic rabbits (Binky, Bongo and Sheba) and a gay couple, Akbar and Jeff.
In 1985, producer James L. Brooks was introduced to the strip, and approach Groening about adapting his “Life in Hell” characters for animated shorts to appear on “The Tracey Ullman Show.” Groening was interested, but as he arrived at Brooks’ office, he realized the deal might affect his ownership of the characters — or at least his complete control over them. So instead, he quickly sketched out human substitutes, with the rabbits becoming the Simpsons (with the names of the family members mostly taken from his own family). He pitched the idea to Brooks, who obviously went for it, and “The Simpsons” began appearing on “The Tracey Ullman Show” before catapulting into their own series.
Groening wanted to retain some sort of connection to his “Life in Hell” characters, so he came up with the idea of having Marge hide a pair of rabbit ears beneath her 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, however, the idea was kept in place in the early days of the show, as Groening’s original plan was to delay the reveal until the end of “The Simpsons” (which, as it turns out, likely won’t 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 another by getting electrocuted. And sure enough, her rabbit ears are present.
Obviously, in the years since 1991, it’s been confirmed Marge doesn’t 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!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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