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A sensation in animation

In the 21st century, reality TV has focused on the scary and/or incompetent mothers of Wife Swap and the nanny shows.

Published May 13, 2006

The Simpsons
Go to Mothers Day Special Report

This is hardly the golden age of TV moms.

Family comedies and dramas often have been case studies of smart parenting, embodied by witty, wise and loving mothers: Carol Brady, Ma Walton, Clair Huxtable, even Roseanne Connor.

But in the 21st century, reality TV has focused on the scary and/or incompetent mothers of Wife Swap and the nanny shows. In the fictional realm, the ratings race is dominated by crime procedurals, populated with characters so icy it's hard to imagine they even have mothers. Forget about the dumpy hubby-hot wife sitcoms, where the interchangeable kids live mostly offscreen. And Earl's ex? Let's not go there.

But there is a tall, blue beacon of maternal beatitude: Marge Simpson, best mom on TV.

She may be nothing more than line and pigment, but Marge's heart is as golden as her complexion.

Married to the quintessential slacker, she picks up even more slack than most moms.

She's worked as a cop, a roller-skating carhop and a church "Listen Lady"; she's sued Big Sugar and worked to save the manatees; she's fended off flirtations by a millionaire ex-classmate, Moe the bartender and Ricky Gervais.

But her heart is always at home. No matter what threatens her kids - schoolyard bullies, homicidal clowns, drooling aliens - Marge is there to get her "special little guy" out of trouble, foster Lisa's ever-tender self-esteem, pick Maggie up off the floor yet again and offer such gems of wisdom as "Our differences are only skin deep, but our sames go down to the bone."

Blessed with the sandpaper-and-sugar-cookie voice of Julie Kavner, Marge can swoop from an indignant screech to a comforting murmur in a heartbeat. And even the littlest kid will recognize that warning growl of hers - and know it means business.

Of course, Marge's kids do have a pretty severe case of arrested development. With the show ending its 17th season, if they were living in real time, Bart would be halfway through his first prison sentence, Lisa would have a couple of doctorates and a Nobel Peace Prize, and Maggie would have passed her pacifier along to babies of her own.

But if Marge were your mom, would you ever want to grow up?

[Last modified May 12, 2006, 15:33:51]

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