Life, it’s been said, imitates art. That may be true, but when you’re crammed into a coach seat in a full plane, it can also resemble a cartoon.
Take the cross-country flight I was on last week. While "The Simpsons Movie" played on the big screen, the family in the row behind me offered up their own interpretation of the action. The baby yowled like Maggie without her pacifier, her brother banged on my seatback like Bart with a new set of drums, and Dad remained as blissfully unaware as Homer after a long night at Moe’s.
Even worse, perhaps, Mom was across the aisle, watching adoringly as her tiny Tito Puente continued his seatback solo. A la Marge, she probably considered him her “special little guy,” but I swear, I was about ready to turn around and give him the old, “Why, you little …!”
Instead, I found myself slouching further into my seat, muttering under my breath and pondering the strange link between flying and the first family of Springfield.
Simpsons take flight, airline goes belly up
“Strange” certainly characterizes the goings-on back in May 1995. In the course of that tumultuous month, Marge joined the Springfield police force, Bart led a guerilla war against nearby Shelbyville, and a certain onesie-wearing infant popped a cap into Mr. Burns. And, oh yeah, the whole Simpson clan turned up on the exterior of a 737 operated by Western Pacific Airlines.
The plane, a bright yellow from tip to tail, was emblazoned with the show’s logo and the five members of the family — Maggie and Lisa just in front of the wings, Bart and Homer aft and a very large Marge on the tail. If you think her hair looks big on your living room TV, picture a blue beehive topping out 30-plus feet above the ground.
And yet, as any good Simpsons-obsessive knows, this is a family that probably shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a plane. Just six months earlier, the episode “Fear of Flying” showed Homer impersonating a pilot, flipping random cockpit switches and smashing an airplane’s nose into the runway.
At the same time, it was revealed that Marge is deathly afraid to fly, a fear she eventually overcomes by confronting a variety of flying-related childhood traumas. Eventually, she’s able to get on a plane with Homer at her side providing moral support as only he can. Naturally, that plane ends up in a swamp.
Fortunately, Western Pacific’s Simpsons plane had no such problems, although the company itself came to an untimely end when it went belly up a few years later. Coincidence? Curse? You be the judge.
The Simpsons themselves, however, simply won’t be grounded. Last summer, they turned up on the radar again, this time in Burbank, Calif., as part of a jetBlue promotion pegged to the premiere of "The Simpsons Movie". Along with airline officials, the guests of honor themselves — or at least actors in foam-and-fabric Simpson outfits — were on hand to celebrate jetBlue being named the Official Airline of Springfield.
Meanwhile, the company’s Web site also went a bit yellow with various Springfielders offering insights into their favorite cities. Smithers, for example, was smitten by San Francisco — seems he’d left his heart there on more than one occasion — while Ned Flanders was in a dither for Salt Lake, which he considered a “a dilly of a city!” And who wouldn’t want to go to Houston based on Homer’s befuddled summation: “So much fun is going to brain my damage!”
But the best part of the program may have been Mr. Burns’ temporary takeover of jetBlue Chairman David Neeleman’s blog. I mean, really, when it comes to communicating with customers and articulating corporate philosophy, who better than a heartless and greedy ghoul with more money than God and Satan’s sense of empathy? The man’s postings say it all:
“Do these greedy customers really need room to wiggle their toes?”
“I’d make customers beg for their chocolate chip cookies and Terra Blue Chips. It’s much easier to crush a man that’s already broken. And decidedly more fun.”
“I recommend poking your passengers with a sharpened twig or ridding the beverage carts of ice. It will be quite a hootenanny watching those sad saps drink their soda pop at room temperature.”
It’s all very clever and decidedly tongue in cheek, yet it’s also clear that this particular corporate overlord could segue from nuclear energy to the airline industry in a heartbeat (assuming he had one, that is). In fact, if he ever did make the switch — if life did, indeed, imitate art — I know a certain family I’d like him to meet. With the brat behind me still banging away, I’d give anything to hear Mr. Burns say those three words that mean so much:
“Release the hounds.”