It came out of nowhere: The Simpson family and friends walking the catwalk at Paris Fashion Week for Spanish house Balenciaga.
The entire scenario is a bit of a head scratcher and gives pause for thought. The first is that holey moley, the Simpsons is still relevant!? Much like old rockers still cranking out songs while never getting anywhere near the top 40 on Billboard let alone Spotify, the Simpsons remains, and is also available for hire! This isn’t the shows first ‘collaboration’ or cross-over and it’s unlikely to be the last. It does, however, speak volumes to the stature the Simpsons continues to command after more than thirty years.
The second thought, is that this special, 10-minute long episode is, appropriate? Yes, it’s a one-off and it’s a commercial, but it’s new content beyond the usual episode. It has a runtime more in line with contemporary online attention spans too. It’s also something I advocated the show do and ditch the half-hour episodes that cannot hope to keep pace with the times.
Lastly, it’s a curiously fashion-forward collaboration for the Simpsons; a family and town famous for wearing the same clothes almost all day, every day. It isn’t the family’s first dabble with high fashion however. In the Season 7 episode ‘Scenes from the Class Struggle in Springfield’, Marge famously bought a Chanel suit at a consignment store (that was less famously discovered by Lisa):
The theme of the episode is very much about class struggle as Marge discovers her new suit imbues her with social climbing powers the likes of which she’d never known before. Nonetheless, the episode is keen to emphasise that high fashion and the trappings it embodies do not come cheap. When Marge blows the family’s savings on a new Chanel gown to impress members of a wealthy country club she becomes aware of the sacrifice she is about to make her family undertake and the hard choice that entails. So it’s therefore amusing to see a family with humble, working class roots ham it up on a Paris catwalk wearing clothing that costs an arm and leg.
It’s easy to dismiss the piece as a gimmick because it was an integral part of Balenciaga’s show. It’s just hard to see what relevance it has to either the show or the fashion house outside of the context of the catwalk. Twitter is ablaze with hype and praise, but beyond that…? The Simpsons does not dictate fashion trends, and Balenciaga does not influence the show’s writing style or humour. The whole thing is memorable, but even fashionistas have already moved on (Paris Fashion Week continues as of writing).
What is the lesson here? Is it that The Simpsons is still relevant? Is it that the show sees new avenues to remaining relevant through stunts like this? Or is it a sign of the changing times; when media is less about relating to its viewers and more about selling them a desirable yet unobtainable lifestyle?
It’s hard to say.