Like a bunch of lemmings jumping off a cliff, just about every news outlet from CBS News to the E! network to the gadget blog Gizmodo to the New Yorker (!) to the Los Angeles Times to the FOX Network to local newscasts around the country has regurgitated the SHOCKING news that Simpsons creator Matt Groening had finally revealed the location of the fictional cartoon town of Springfield: his home state of Oregon. Except, uh, he didn't say that at all and you'd have to be severely incompetent at basic reading comprehension to think otherwise?
Here's what he actually said in an interview with Smithsonian magazine:
OK, why do the Simpsons live in a town called Springfield? Isn't that a little generic?
Springfield was named after Springfield, Oregon. The only reason is that when I was a kid, the TV show "Father Knows Best" took place in the town of Springfield, and I was thrilled because I imagined that it was the town next to Portland, my hometown. When I grew up, I realized it was just a fictitious name. I also figured out that Springfield was one of the most common names for a city in the U.S. In anticipation of the success of the show, I thought, "This will be cool; everyone will think it's their Springfield." And they do.
You've never said it was named after Springfield, Oregon, before, have you?
I don't want to ruin it for people, you know? Whenever people say it's Springfield, Ohio, or Springfield, Massachusetts, or Springfield, wherever, I always go, "Yup, that's right."
Interviewer Claudia De La Roca is mistaken, Groening has said the name was partially inspired by Springfield, Oregon at least several times before - the earliest reference I can find is in a 1993 Washington Post article by Tom Shales that you have to pay to read - but he either forgot (he's been giving interviews about The Simpsons for a quarter of a century now) or chose not to correct her. Still, at no point does he say Oregon is where the Simpsons live. That didn't stop the Smithsonian from titling the article "Matt Groening Reveals the Location of the Real Springfield," which albeit technically accurate (he "revealed" the location of the real, physical, actually-existing Springfield that he named the fake, fictional, cartoon Springfield after) but still grossly misleading. Of course, the rest of the vaunted Fourth Estate failed to comprehend the nuance and reported it as "THE SIMPSONS LIVE IN OREGON" as if Springfield's state has been a LOST-like closely-guarded secret and not, you know, a long-running joke? The nerds at the Simpsons Archive have been keeping track for years, and if you look at "the evidence," you'll find that everything contradicts everything else, and every state is an impossibility. Also, there was a whole episode about Homer having to drive Bart all the way to Oregon after he misses a flight to Portland, which makes no sense if it's a neighboring town.
The media misinterpreting Groening is nothing new. Ten years ago when he said "I think we are closer to winding [the show] up" - in other words that he didn't think they were going to go on for another thirteen years - and it got reported, essentially, as "SIMPSONS TO END TOMORROW!!!" Maybe Groening and other TV show creators should just stop giving interviews altogether. Oh, and let's not forget about the time last October when AOL/Huffington Post had the headline "'The Simpsons' Definitely Ending For Good" on their homepage... until, you know, when it got renewed for two more years.
I'm still not totally sure if it's all just cynical sensationalism to pump up $$$PAGEVIEWS$$$, or just gross incompetence, or a mish-mash of both. Here's something to ponder: if we can't trust the media to fact-check a TV cartoon, how can we trust them to independently verify a government's claims that a Middle-Eastern country has weapons of mass destruction and poses an imminent threat? Hypothetically, of course.
Please join us next week when the media discovers the Simpsons are named after Matt Groening's family members (IDENTITY OF THE REAL HOMER SIMPSON REVEALED AT LAST!!!).