...And when the doctor said I didn't have worms anymore, that was the happiest day of my life.
- Ralph Wiggum wraps up his presentation at 'show and tell'
Since its humble beginnings on The Tracey Ullman Show, The Simpsons has grown enormously over the years. It is now perhaps the most popular and certainly the most enduring animated series in the western world. The combination of intelligent writing, strong vocal acting, satirical content and not least of all very, very funny jokes and set-pieces has meant that The Simpsons has escaped the crippling preconception in the West that animation, whatever form and subject it takes, is solely for the consumption of a juvenile audience1.
Not only are the Simpson family themselves endearing and consistent characters, they are also supported by a cast of sometimes stereotypical but still highly-amusing background characters. Many of these recur again and again in the course of the many episodes of the long-running series. Viewers all know Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie, but most will also recognise the evangelical Ned Flanders, Principal Seymour Skinner, school bully Nelson Muntz, bespectacled nerd Milhouse Van Houten, decrepit billionaire C Montgomery Burns, graduate of Hollywood Upstairs Medical College Dr Nick Riviera, liquor connoisseur Barnard 'Barney' Gumble and washed-up actor and fish-fetishist Troy McClure among many others.
Among these characters, one Ralph Wiggum stands as an idiot savant capable of dispensing lines that seem at first to make little sense, but when meditated upon reveal a deep and far-reaching understanding of the human condition and psyche. The son of Springfield's incompetent Chief of Police Clancy Wiggum, Ralph is commonly regarded as having some kind of learning difficulty or just a particularly low IQ. This results in both his proclamations and generally 'dumb as a post' demeanour. The observant will, however, note that if Ralph does have such a problem it has not yet resulted in his being removed from mainstream education. He is (still) a classmate of the highly intelligent Lisa Simpson, and was even chosen to sit on the school's junior version of the UN Council.
Ralph's sage proclamations include the following gems of wisdom:
I ate the berries... they taste like burning.
Few would be as selfless as Ralph in this situation. Stranded without food and lacking any knowledge of the toxicity of the local flora, Ralph ingests the berries he has foraged to test their fitness for human consumption.
My cat's breath smells of cat food.
Here, Ralph sees the inner qualities of the individual, and also what motivates and energies all creatures, even a domestic cat.
Mrs Hoover, I ate my crayons.
It is only speculation at this stage, but there are some in the art community who believe that this statement was in fact a hint on the part of Ralph that he will be entering the competition for next year's Turner Prize, once the aforementioned crayons have been retrieved.
I beat the smart kids, I beat the smart kids!
Despite the positive labelling of those supposedly more gifted than himself to his own detriment, Ralph embraces these labels and uses them to heap scorn upon his detractors when he bests those who most believe are superior to him.
Hi Principal Skinner. Hi Supernintendo Chalmers.
Even on an unconscious level, Ralph is aware of the dumbing down of educational curricula and the encroachment of private industry on the academic world. Thus he terms Superintendent Chalmers 'Supernintendo', equating him with a well-known giant of the private sector.
Me fail English? That's unpossible.
Labelled a failure for his non-conformist stance on the usage of language, Ralph responds by inventing a new word to lay scorn upon the idea and demonstrate the versatile nature of the English tongue.
Aaa... she's touching my special area!
It is important to observe and respect the boundaries of space both personal and intellectual. When Marge Simpson placed her hands on Ralph, even though there was no ill intent, he was forced to remind her that however innocent unwanted invasions of the person are simply not nice.
I speak to the Leprechaun; he tells me to burn things.
Rather than indicating that Ralph is suffering from delusions, a deeper reading of his Leprechaun sightings shows that figures from mythology and folklore are identifiable as Jungian archetypes of the unconscious. Ralph is thus in contact with the primal qualities of the human mind.
Yay, sleep! That's where I'm a Viking!
Through mental discipline and deep meditation, Ralph is able to regress himself through his former lives within his dreams. Here Ralph indulges in rape and pillage while taking an afternoon nap.
And the doctor said that I wouldn't have so many nosebleeds if I stopped pushing my finger up there.
Many read this statement as Ralph simply repeating the advice of his physician in regards to his nasal bleeding. Under deeper scrutiny, it is evident that Ralph in no way states he has taken up the advice. Furthermore, he leaves the medical wisdom to float in the void as an example of the viewpoint of modern medicine which suggests that he stop picking his nose, rather than adopting a holistic approach and looking elsewhere for the root of the problem.
I saw Principal Skinner and Mrs Krabapple in the closet making babies... and I saw one of the babies... and the baby looked at me.
Like many other individuals who have demonstrated the psychic potential for precognition, Ralph was ridiculed when he admitted to having a vision of the infant children that his teachers may have spawned. Had he been Uri Gellar or David Blaine, people would have been less swift to discount his statement as claptrap.
This is my sandbox; I'm not allowed to go in the deep end.
No matter what one's station in life, it is always desirable to know one's limits; Ralph evidently does.
When I grow up I want to be a Principal, or a caterpillar.
Most children of Ralph's age, and indeed many adults, are capable of only perceiving their path through this life in linear means. While many children would simply have left this as a statement of their ambitions in this life, Ralph dares to spread his wings and speculate on the next.