I hope the good people of Jefferson County will forgive me, but I need to take a minute to gloat.
Last week Matt Groening, creator of the iconic, two-decade-running cartoon series The Simpsons, finally confirmed to Smithsonian Magazine what I had known for years: the show’s fictional backdrop, Springfield, is named after the town of Springfield, Oregon.
Having spent eight years living in Eugene, Oregon – which borders Springfield – while attending the University of Oregon, I had known this for years.
Over the next few days, Groening made efforts to back out of his statements. He said that he had never said that Springfield is in Oregon, but rather that Springfield was the name of his sled – a sly reference to Citizen Kane. Then on Sunday, he had Bart write on a chalk board, “THE TRUE LOCATION OF SPRINGFIELD IS IN ANY STATE BUT YOURS.”
Groening is hamming it up a bit, but the cat, as they say, is out of the bag.
For years various commentators had claimed that the true source of the show’s inspiration was Springfield, Massachusetts, Springfield, Ohio or Springfield, Illinois.
These commentators – motivated, no doubt, by their own bias based on a personal connection to one of the nation’s sundry Springfields – ignore the numerous tropes of the Simpson universe that quite clearly draw their names and forms from the area surrounding Springfield, Oregon.
Nearly every character in the Simpsons’ microcosm is named for a street in Portland, for example, Flanders Street, Quimby Street, and Lovejoy Street. Principle Skinner seems to be obviously named after the founder of the City of Eugene, Eugene Skinner.
The now-shuttered Trojan Nuclear Plant is also just outside of Portland, Groening’s hometown.
The statue of Jebediah Springfield – which was infamously beheaded by Bart in “The Telltale Head” – bears so striking a resemblance to The Pioneer, a statue which has held a central place on the University of Oregon Campus since 1919, that there can be no doubt it was inspired by it.
And I have even had a drink or two in the bar that was quite obviously the inspiration for Moe’s Tavern. It is called Max’s Tavern and it is located on 13th Street, just beyond the main entrance to the campus.
Springfield is one of the most common town names in the country. There are at least 34 cities and towns named Springfield – including five in Wisconsin and one in West Virginia. There are also some 36 Springfield Townships – 11 of which are in Ohio.
Groening has indicated that part of the reason he chose the name Springfield is because of its ubiquity. He knew that Simpsons fans all over the country would try to lay claim to the fictional universe, and, expert promoter that he is, he has not shied away from exploiting this fact to whip up controversy and resulting publicity.
Most noteworthy in these efforts was a contest between several of the nation’s Springfields to be the location for the premier of The Simpsons Movie.
Residents of Eugene and Springfield take a special pride in the certain knowledge that their area features so prominently in the show. Other than National Lampoon’s Animal House, which was mostly filmed on the U of O campus and the surrounding area, it is one of the few times the entertainment world has seen fit to include the area.
The ultimate insult came when Springfield, Vermont was chosen to host the premier of The Simpsons Movie, a slight many of us will never forgive.
But last week’s announcement finally and firmly vindicates the position of the position that I had held for years. To everyone who has argued this point with me over the last decade: I told you so.