LINDSEY FRANCES PELLINO
It’s been nearly twenty years since Maude left this earth. Her shocking death was the culmination of sweeps weeks speculations as to who The Simpsons would kill off next. (God dammit, I refuse to give spoiler warnings for a decades old episode of one of the most famous shows on earth). An “obituary” of sorts even appeared in the BBC News. The loyal wife of do-gooder Ned Flanders was killed by a t-shirt cannon as Homer Simpson bent down to pick up a bobby pin. She receives the full brunt of the blow, after returning to her seat at just the right/wrong time. She fell to her death.
I could make some far fetched comment about the Freudian symbolism of the prudish woman being killed by a phallic object, wielded by nubile male fantasy-inhabiting sprites (cheerleaders), after just having purchased a fucking hot dog. I could make the case for the hubristic folly of Homer bending over to pick up a bobby pin – the vain grasping of a man with a total of three hairs. I could also make some other comment about how Homer’s accidental negligence and frivolity is the true cause of her death, much like Frank “Grimey” Grimes (rest in peace). I definitely could make a comment about how nothing past season eleven counts as Good™.
However I’m more concerned about how nobody gives a shit about Maude. As Marge graces the cover of Playboy, the other women of Springfield are left to wither. Take, for example, the real reason Maude Flanders “left” the show. Voice actress Maggie Roswell, who also voiced Helen Lovejoy and Miss Hoover, had the audacity to ask for a raise to cover the expense of having to fly out for recordings. Instead of getting her raise, she got booted. She did eventually come back after striking an agreement, but not soon enough to save poor Maude.
Maude was expendable. It didn’t matter if Maude lived or died. As a bonus it even gave Ned something to do, increasing his character complexity despite having been the basis of the “Flanderization” trope. We got to see him struggle with his faith after his persistent, devoted cheer once more failed to save him from strife. Maybe her death was a net positive for the residents of Springfield. One less nag to poo-poo Maison Derriere. One less scold from the moral majority. One less broad for Moe and Homer to drunkenly slobber over. Her kids were dweebs and worthy of scorn for their lameness. Her death allowed Ned to bang the boozy, floozy Miss Edna K in yet another madonna / whore switcheroo. Good riddance to the prude. Ultimately, she was boring, as Reverend Lovejoy eulogizes “In many ways, Maude Flanders was a supporting player in our lives. She didn’t grab our attention with memorable catchphrases, or comical accents. But, whether you noticed her or not, Maude was always there … and we thought she always would be.”
I think of all the real life Maude Flanders. Women whose lives have been shaped by their husband, not ever really getting to shine on their own. Women who were the foil for someone larger than life with big blue hair. Women who die in freak accidents and tragedies far before their time. Women who are forgotten shortly after their deaths. Women who become known only for their deaths. Whose deaths are treated like a joke (Bart eats the letters AC on her REST IN PEACE cake – guess what that spells). Whose deaths were spectacles serving some greater purpose, a sacrifice that guts the victim then tosses them to the wayside.
A woman shouldn’t have to be flashy in order to be worthy. Maude was an artist, drawing aspirational sketches for a faith themed amusement park. Her well-intentioned tirades against various sexy and violent events showed that she cared about the moral character of her town. She was protective and doting to her children, trying to raise them right in this wicked world. Hell, even the devotion to her husband makes sense, as he is a buff, well-hung selfless man – compared to Marge’s continual allegiance to a husband that often treats her like garbage. And, ultimately, she was voiced by a real life woman who wanted her bosses to pay her fairly for her labor. One has to wonder that if in today’s climate, Maude Flanders would still be alive. Roswell would have had the platforms to campaign for her equal pay. Maybe someone would have started a #SaveMaude hashtag to spread the word of her impending doom. Maybe the producers would have had to share a canned statement after the backlash brewed beyond their PR spin. Maybe we would take Maude’s existence less for granted.
Maude is a lesson in appreciating the bland, the mild, the meek. The humble and the moderate. There are countless victims of gaudy disregard. The fact that her family could be satisfied by plain white bread with a glass of water on the side for dipping speaks to a deeply profound serenity. It’s almost Buddhist – her detachment and rejection of material, hedonistic pursuits. Isn’t that something to be admired, perhaps even strived for? To be able to find contentment with simplicity?
May her spirit live on in the heart of every woman, man, and child who is content with their meager lot in life. God bless Maude Flanders, the Saint of the Temperate.
On the podcast we talked about her poetry collection, hysterical Sisters, Laura Palmer, tragic feminine archetypes, toxic masculinity, Greek Tragedy, Sylvia Plath, Tragedy Queens, and Astrology.
Lindsey Frances Pellino is a poet, animal rescue manager, and hospice worker living in the not rich part of Connecticut. Her first collection of poetry HYSTERICAL SISTERS, published by Vegetarian Alcoholic Press on Valentine’s Day, is about fictional and real life women and sisters. You can find her on Instagram at @gay4moleman1992