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The Best Marge Moments On The Simpsons

The Simpsons is so full of memorable, richly developed characters that it's easy to overlook one of the best. Marge Simpson might not be as funny as Homer, as cool as Bart, as cute as Maggie, or as relatable as Lisa, but she's still the heart of the family, holding it all together when it seems perpetually on the verge of falling apart.

The straight man can be a thankless role, and Marge can get stuck watching while the rest of her family does all the funny stuff. But her reactions are often just as hilarious as whatever she's reacting to. And actor Julie Kavner is The Simpsons' secret weapon. She doesn't just provide Marge's distinctive rasp, she's one of the show's best performers, and she fills Marge with tenderness, sadness, and simmering rage.

Marge always supports her family, and The Simpsons invests that relationship with beautiful warmth without ever losing sight of how much Marge sacrifices or if it's worth it. "If loving my kids is lame, then I guess I'm a big lame," she once said, summing up her whole existence. In other words, Marge is the ultimate mom. She may be embarrassing, but she still loves her kids, and she does everything she can for them, even if she ends up doing more harm than good. That's led her to all kinds of classic moments. Here are just a few.

Marge Simpson proves what a great mother she can be

The season 1 classic "Moaning Lisa" is one of Marge Simpson's finest moments. When Lisa's depressed, Marge's first solution is the questionable parenting wisdom her own mother used — just act happy. When Lisa explains she isn't happy, Marge replies, "Well, it doesn't matter how you feel inside. It's what shows up on the surface that counts. ... Take all your bad feelings and push them down. ... And then you'll fit in, and you'll be invited to parties, and boys will like you, and happiness will follow."

Lisa tries to follow Marge's advice, and it seems to work for a little while. But when Marge sees how Lisa's classmates and teachers bully her when she acts like herself, she gets fed up, snatches Lisa into the car, and drives off. Marge admits that she was wrong and has a new, more supportive message for Lisa. "Always be yourself. You wanna be sad, honey, be sad. We'll ride it out with you. And when you get finished feeling sad, we'll still be there. From now on, let me do the smiling for both of us."

She reminds Lisa she doesn't have to smile anymore, but Lisa says she really is happy. Marge can't solve all Lisa's problems as easily as she thought, but just by acknowledging that, she comes much closer than she ever could have otherwise.

She reminds Homer that he's still a success

In "Simpson and Delilah," Homer seems to have finally found a way out of his dead-end job at the power plant when he discovers a miracle baldness cure called Dimoxinil. With his new appearance and the confidence that comes with it, Homer rockets up through the ranks. He has some help from guest star Harvey Fierstein as Karl, a hypercompetent personal assistant who pulls strings behind the scenes. When Homer forgets his and Marge's anniversary, Karl even improves Homer's home life by sending over a messenger with a bouquet of roses to serenade Marge with Joe Cocker's "You Are So Beautiful."

But it can't last. Homer loses his assistant, his hair, and his job, and he's back to the loser we all know and love. Marge emphasizes the "and love" part at the end of the episode. Homer's too depressed to sleep because he's stuck in his job, he can't afford everything the kids want, and worst of all, he's worried Marge won't love him the way she did when he had hair. But Marge knows just what to say — or sing. She softly sings "You Are So Beautiful" to Homer until he smiles and then joins in. Like everything Marge does, it's sweet, loving, and unbelievably corny. But Kavner's soft, vulnerable voice sells the heck out of it, and in the end, the scene works because it's so corny, not in spite of it.

Marge asks if cool is still cool

Marge is no one's idea of cool. She's a total mom, spending so much time in the house dealing with her family's problems that she doesn't have much life of her own or much awareness of what's going on outside. But like most mothers, Marge doesn't want to be seen as a mom. She still wants to relate to her kids, even if she occasionally has trouble with it, and she's painfully self-aware about those shortcomings. Lisa seems poised to have everything Marge never did, and Marge wants to do everything she can to nurture her success — even if she sometimes stumbles a little.

In "Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington," Homer's obsession with Reader's Digest (sorry, "Reading Digest") ends with Lisa entering their essay contest on "What Makes America Great." Unfortunately, she runs up against every writer's worst nightmare — a block. Marge tries to help ... in her own way. "When I used to get stuck like this, I'd go on a bike ride. Do kids go on bike rides any more?" Lisa can't help laughing at that question, but Marge still isn't sure. "I don't know, I thought maybe bikes weren't cool any more. Do kids still use that word? 'Cool?'" It's a classic case of exaggerating something familiar to turn it into something hilarious. But as anyone who's ever been a parent or spent much time around their own parents knows, it's only barely an exaggeration.

She loves her some potatoes

No, there's nothing cool about Marge, and she often takes interest in the least interesting things imaginable. Bart gets a harsh reminder of this side of his mother in "Sweet Seymour Skinner's Baadasssss Song" when he tries to find something for show and tell at school. His first choice is some old home movies until he finds they include embarrassing footage of naked baby Bart on the toilet. Now he has to find something else before the bus leaves.

Marge produces a potato she's apparently been saving for just this opportunity, which she thinks the kids at school will like because "it's pretty big." Bart's not impressed. "Mom, you're always giving me potatoes. What is it with you?" Marge's answer is so simple and so surreal that it's spread all across the internet: "I just think they're neat." Marge may not have a sophisticated cultural palate, but at least she gets some enjoyment from the simple things.

Bart disagrees with his mom on the topic of potato neatness, so he scrambles to find an alternative and finally settles on the family dog, Santa's Little Helper. Maybe he should've stuck with the potato, as Santa's Little Helper sets a chain of events in motion that leads to Principal Skinner losing his job and Bart, of all people, helping him get it back.

Marge believes the best of Bart

How can someone as square and uptight as Marge survive raising a hellion like Bart? Well, the answer involves a heavy dose of denial. In "Lemon of Troy," when she catches Bart defacing a slab of wet cement, she tries to instill some hometown pride in him. She goes a little too far, and it escalates into an all-out war between the children of Springfield and neighboring Shelbyville.

Bart stops back at the house to arm himself, and when Marge asks what he's up to, he answers, "Mom, you won't believe this, but something you said got through to me. And now, I am going to teach some kids a lesson." It's a vague threat, but maybe not vague enough to justify Marge's interpretation — "I choose to take that literally!" — especially after Bart starts yelling, "Death to Shelbyville!" Apparently, Bart fooled Homer, too, unless he's having a little sarcastic fun at Marge's expense. "Bart's a tutor now," he says. "Toot on, son! Toot on!"

Even when she gets concrete evidence of Bart's violent extracurricular activities, she still continues on down her literal-minded path. When Marge asks Lisa where Bart's tutoring, she answers, "The only thing Bart's tutoring is guerilla violence in Shelbyville." Marge responds with a wonderfully, Marge-ishly square turn of phrase: "Homer, come quick! Bart's quit his tutoring job and joined a violence gang!" Apparently Occam's razor has been rusting at the bottom of the drawer in the Simpson house.

When Marge has no one but Maggie for company

"Bart on the Road" may be the best episode The Simpsons ever did, in no small part because it explores nearly every character in the cast so well, and that includes Marge. We've seen in all these moments how much love and joy Marge has brought her family, but she gives so much to them that she doesn't have much left for herself. The Simpsons never goes full-Sylvia Plath with Marge's quiet desperation, but it can get pretty bleak — in this case, hilariously so. 

In "Bart on the Road," it's spring break, and Bart's away on a road trip with his friends (with a fake ID and the alibi that he's at a "grammar rodeo"), and Lisa is sleeping over at the power plant with Homer. As she helps Lisa pack, Marge tells her, "With Bart gone and now you and your father, I'm not going to have anyone to talk to," but Lisa runs off before Marge can finish.

We next see Marge sitting alone in front of the TV with a glassy-eyed stare, the bright light in the darkness looking downright eerie. She gets fed up with that, and after looking in everyone's empty rooms, Marge sneaks into Maggie's. At first, she tries to politely get Maggie's attention before finally poking her. Maggie wakes up and starts crying, and Marge comforts her, trying to hide her glee at finally having someone to mother again. Tragicomedy at its finest.

She falls out with Bart over Christmas shoplifting

Marge and Bart's relationship forms the basis for one of The Simpsons' greatest episodes, "Marge Be Not Proud." After Bart's caught shoplifting the Bonestorm video game he's lusting over and gets dragged out of the family Christmas photo by a security guard, he and Marge start drifting apart. When Bart tries to apologize, he expects her to blow up, but she just responds with a few curt words and a thousand-yard stare. Bart thinks he got off easy, but Lisa knows better. "I admit I haven't known Mom as long as you have, but I know when she's really upset."

We see Lisa's right in a scene with Marge in bed. It's a showcase for Julie Kavner's devastating emotional range, as Marge says, "Bart's not my little baby any more. Maybe I mother him too much." The damage to their relationship turns out to be much more painful than any punishment could ever be.

In the end, Bart manages to make it right. He gets his own portrait — "Paid in full" — to cover up the corner of the family photo where he's being hauled away. Marge is back to loving him just like she used to. She picks him up and kisses him, and even though Bart complains, he's obviously thrilled.

Marge Simpson has a memorable stint as substitute teacher

Several episodes have seen Marge step outside her usual role as a homemaker, and none of them have been more hilarious than "The PTA Disbands." As Bart's teacher, Mrs. Krabappel's resentment for the school is bubbling over, and Bart pushes her over the edge, hoping to get some time off while the teachers strike. But when Skinner brings in community members to replace the teachers, Marge volunteers. 

Bart has spent the past several days declaring open war on the substitutes, so he's not prepared to see Marge walk into the classroom. Besides all the new ways she's found to embarrass Bart in front of his friends, Milhouse reminds Bart her life's in danger from Bart's booby traps. Bart saves Marge from the classic tack on the chair, but Milhouse says he meant "the other one," and suddenly, Bart dives to get Marge out of the path of a giant log that appears out of nowhere. Marge is hilariously blasé about it. "Kids have been doing that since my day," she says.

Marge's incredible embarrassing-ness only gets worse, and Bart secretly asks her for more lunch money because the bullies have gone into overdrive now that she's teaching. They promptly clobber Bart again, and when Marge doesn't help, we learn it's because one of them is distracting her with "a very nice jig."

She learns old habits die hard

Lisa has always been the good child of the Simpsons family. Anyone would look like a saint next to Bart, of course, but Lisa's straight As and perfect behavior give Marge something to be proud of. But sometimes, even Lisa can be pushed too far. When Lisa gives up meat in "Lisa the Vegetarian," she's horrified that she's accidentally inspired Homer to put on a barbecue. Marge tries to support her, but she ends up joining Homer and Bart's chant of "you don't win friends with salads!" because she "just got caught up in the rhythm."

At the barbecue, Lisa tries to win the meat-eaters over with a great big bowl of gazpacho, but they laugh at her, and she hits her breaking point when Homer launches a burger in her face. Right behind Homer's back, Lisa calmly drives a riding mower into the barbecue and sends a suckling pig flying down the hill. Marge's reaction isn't all that appropriate, but it's certainly hilarious: "Bart, no!" When Bart asks what he did wrong, she clarifies, "Sorry, force of habit."

Marge comforts homesick Lisa

In "The Private War of Lisa Simpson," Bart's pranks finally go too far when he monkeys around with the police's loudspeakers and sends a shockwave all through Springfield. Meanwhile, Lisa is feeling stifled by her unstimulating curriculum, so when Marge and Homer cart Bart off to military school, Lisa is so excited by the rigorous academics that she wants to go, too.

As the only girl on campus, she's quickly ostracized — even Bart's afraid to be seen with her. She's unable to reach Marge and Homer at home, and she's so desperate for someone to talk to she even wears her rambling grandpa out. On the way back to her bunk, she finds a cassette from Marge. Lisa is just about to give up and go home, but Marge's recording gives her the strength to stick it out. Marge reminds Lisa of how much she's loved and that there's nothing wrong with being homesick. And then, in one of the most powerful moments of melancholy beauty in a series that got them down to an art form, we hear Marge's tender, cracking voice sing "You Are My Sunshine" as we see Lisa curled up in a fetal position on her bunk, looking even tinier from a bird's-eye view, as she rewinds the tape over and over again.

Her heartbreaking breakup message for Homer

Marge has stood by her man through adversities that would drive most people to madness. In The Simpsons Movie, we finally learn what it would take to break them up. Homer's stupidity dooms the entire city of Springfield when he dumps a silo full of toxic waste into the lake and turns the town into an environmental hazard. The EPA cracks down by sealing Springfield under a huge glass dome, but the Simpsons narrowly escape to Alaska. Homer wants to forget all about the friends and family whose lives he's upended, and finally, Marge can't take it any more.

One evening, Homer returns to the cabin to find it empty except for a videotape. It's a goodbye message from Marge. Sounding on the verge of real tears, she describes their whole relationship up to that point. Marge says she's willing to overlook Homer's many flaws, explaining, "I overlook these things because .... well, that's the thing. I just don't know how to finish that sentence anymore."

It's a difficult decision, and Marge makes a huge sacrifice to make it final — she records her goodbye over the wedding video she risked her life to save from their burning house. Just to twist the knife even further, we see Marge and Homer's wedding dance, set to the Carpenters' "Close to You." And just to twist it even more, it's the same song that played the first time they met in "The Way We Was."

Marge Simpson told us at times like this, all you can do is laugh

In "Scenes from the Class Struggle in Springfield," Marge impulsively picks up a used Chanel suit. Suddenly, she's one of the beautiful people, and she impresses the members of the Springfield Country Club so much that they invite her to join. Marge wants to do everything she can to stay in their good graces, and she puts her foot down to keep her family in line, especially Bart, who she tells, "No grifting!" (He responds by closing up the card-cheating mechanism he hid up his sleeve.) But keeping the country club happy turns out to be a full-time job. With nothing but the one fashionable suit to impress them with, Marge stays up every night altering it so it'll look like she has a new one every day.

Then, one night, Marge's sewing machine chews up her suit, destroying her dreams of high-society living forever. She says, "At times like this, I guess all you can do is laugh," and then she can't even do that, sitting and staring into space in long, awkward silence. And that right there gets at the tragicomic core that makes Marge Simpson one of the greatest characters in TV history.