Mister Burns, I don’t feel so good...
GIF: The Simpsons

Say what you will about the ceaseless march of The Simpsons over the past three decades, but the opening couch gag has evolved over the years as a space for the show to strike a balance between loving homage and truly creative interpretations of America’s favorite yellow family. But that doesn’t mean a simple bit now and then is no longer commonplace.

The Simpsons returned last night after a seasonal hiatus to continue its mind-boggling 30th season, but not before it decided to hop on board the hottest joke of, well...last summer: having Thanos (more of the comics-variety than the Josh Brolin movie version) sitting on the couch as he dusts away Homer, Marge, Lisa, and Bart.

Truly, the power of the merger going ahead begins to show itself.

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I didn’t think I had become one of those people who yearns for the heyday of the Simpsons of my youth, but the stark “here’s that popular thing you like but Simpsons!!!”-ness of this gag feels weirdly hollow, on top of being wildly late to a meme that’s practically (in the weird Jeremy-Bearimy-timeline of life on the internet) ancient history. I don’t expect every couch gag to be an elaborate endeavor that satirizes its source material as much as it gives homage to it, but this feels more like The Simpsons riding atop the coattails of ascendant popular culture than it does the other way around, and that’s kinda sad?

Then again, the return episode also included a truly bizarre moment of the show’s head eating its own memetic tail, so maybe that’s just what happens when you’re around for 30 years:

When you’re that deeply enmeshed in pop culture ephemera, you yourself become a source ripe for the lampooning. Dread it, run from it, the ouroboros still arrives.


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