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The Real-Life Inspiration Behind The Simpsons Family

After 30-plus years on TV, "The Simpsons" is such a mainstay that its titular cartoon family almost seems real. For many, they might even seem like extended family, like the uncles, aunts, and cousins who come to visit on the weekends. Needless to say, even if those yellow-skinned, bug-eyed freaks don't feel like family, many couldn't imagine their lives without the antics of Homer Simpson and his motley kin. And while the show is brimming with the unrealistic and absurd, there is a layer of heartfelt authenticity that definitely contributes to its popularity.

As many fans might already know, that authenticity isn't manufactured. In reality, "The Simpsons" creator Matt Groening had real-life inspiration for the family that won the hearts of millions. Cartoon logic aside,"The Simpsons" is still a family sitcom. So, to make his fictional family feel genuine in its more grounded moments, Groening borrowed a few things from his real family.

Most of the Simpsons are named after members of Groening's family

The biggest thing Groening borrowed when making "The Simpsons" were the names of his own family members. Aside from Bart, whose name is an anagram for "brat" and who is partly based on Groening himself (via DavidSheff.com), every member of the Simpsons family has a real-world counterpart. Groening's father was indeed named Homer, and he has two sisters named Lisa and Maggie. And while Marge Simpson's complete first name is Marjorie, the name of Groening's mother, Margaret, can also be shortened to Marge.

Oddly, this wasn't a thoroughly planned decision on the part of Matt Groening. According to The Seattle Times, Groening spontaneously used those names while pitching the show to Fox in 1987. Nevertheless, the names stuck and became part of television history while also granting the Groenings an odd sort of pseudo-fame.

"Some people, when they make the connection, act star struck," Lisa Groening told The Seattle Times in 2007. "Yes, it's strange. I have to explain that I had nothing to do with creating the show ... and I'm not Lisa Simpson."

The Groenings are nothing like their animated doppelgangers

While it may not be surprising that the Groenings got some increased notoriety from "The Simpsons," it may be more surprising to learn that their personalities are completely different from their respective TV characters. Homer Groening, for instance, was no bald, bumbling fool who abuses his son. Instead, he was a kind and caring father who flew planes in the Second World War and afterward made his living writing, advertising, and making films. Oh, and he kept a full head of hair until the day he died in 1996.

Much the same can also be said for Margaret, Lisa, and Maggie, whose real-life appearances and mannerisms are nothing like those you see on screen. The real outlier in this scenario is Matt Groening, who carries personality traits from each of the Simpsons.

"He has all the goofy dumbness and weird rage of Homer," said Lisa Groening. "He's bratty and semi-rebellious like Bart. He can definitely be a know-it-all like Lisa. A lot of times, he chooses to be quiet, like Maggie. But he also has the sweetness of Marge. I'll give him that."

However, it seems as though the character Matt Groening identifies with the most is Bart. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Groening described Bart as "an outgrowth of those times when, as a boy, I was unfairly made to sit for hours in the principal's office, vowing to get revenge later in life for my punishment."

Groening got the idea of the Simpsons from his dad's films

While we certainly can't credit the Groenings for the personalities of the Simpsons, we can definitely credit Homer Groening for providing the groundwork of the series. We previously mentioned that one of the real Homer's many skills was filmmaking, and it is in those old films that Matt Groening got the idea for "dramatizing" his family.

"In 1963 he and I made up a story about a brother and a sister, Lisa and Matt, having an adventure out in the woods with animals," Groening said in an interview with The Smithsonian. "I told it to my sister Lisa, and she, in turn, told it to my sister Maggie. My father recorded the telling of the story by Lisa to Maggie, and then he used it as the soundtrack to a movie. So the idea of dramatizing the family—Lisa, Maggie, Matt—I think was the inspiration for doing something kind of autobiographical with 'The Simpsons.'"

The film in question is titled "The Story," and is uploaded in its entirety on YouTube. While the six-minute family film may not be as animated (pun intended) or quippy as the cartoon series which would follow it, it is a keen look into the creative inspirations which would go on to foster Matt Groening's career.