DIGITAL EXCLUSIVE

MEDIA MONEY: BART SIMPSON SKATEBOARDING ICON

Honoring the cartoon boy who influenced so many of us.
POSTEDBYCHRIS MORGAN

Why did you get into skateboarding? What made you first get on the board? There have been many influences out there over the years. Ask a dozen skateboarders and you will get a plethora of early skating role models. Maybe you were influenced by the X Games or you have the street cred of being able to say that you got really into skateboarding videos. If you are younger, young enough to rankle the old-school skaters by reminding us of the unceasing march of time, you probably started with YouTube videos.

However, let’s not forget one of the biggest skateboarding icons of all-time. He’s the first skater many of us ever encountered. This legend has influenced generations of skaters even though he was only 10 years old. Also, he’s still 10 years old. Oh, and he’s yellow and a cartoon. We’re talking about Bart Simpson.

Just to be clear, we aren’t joking. Well, we kind of are. It’s funny to call Bart Simpson a skateboarding icon. However, it’s also entirely true. When was the first time you ever saw a skateboard? If you’re of a certain age, it was probably under Bart’s feet. Right in the opening credits of The Simpsons, he tears out of Springfield Elementary on his board. It’s green with a red stripe. That image is burned in your brain if you grew up on the show. The Simpsons debuted in 1989. The X Games debuted in 1995. Bart had a chance to be the preeminent skateboarder in the world for years, and he made the most of it.

At this point, The Simpsons are part of the fabric of society. It’s been on for over 30 years and almost 700 episodes. There have been great episodes and bad episodes, and the show is no longer a cultural sensation. When it debuted, though, The Simpsons changed the game. It brought animation back to primetime. It was a pop-culture giant. It was also controversial, which is weird to think about now given how relatively tame it feels. The primary problem people had wasn’t violence or sex or language. No, people were upset about what a “bad kid” Bart was.

Bart talked back to his dad, who he called by his first name. He didn’t listen to his parents. He got in trouble at school. Bart was always pranking his fellow students and Principal Skinner. In the early days, he placed a ton of prank phone calls to Moe’s Tavern. That’s something that has become increasingly dated and all but forgotten. Although, we’ll always remember when Bart got his comeuppance when he called the bar looking for “Hugh Jass” and a man actually named Hugh Jass was there. In short, Bart misbehaved, and certain folks clutched their pearls and worried he’d be a bad influence on their children.

Clearly, Bart was striking a chord, because in the early days he was effectively the star of the show. While it was called The Simpsons, and the show has increasingly become an ensemble piece, right out the gate it became a sort of the Homer and Bart show. As time as gone on, Bart has faded a bit from the forefront of the show, but he was what drew so much of the attention early on, and a lot of that was kids.

Maybe those parents had a reason to be worried. Bart was cool, for lack of a better word. People loved his rebellious attitude. He was plastered all over merchandise. He’s the one who had the catchphrases like “Don’t have a cow, man” and “Ay caramba.” Bootleg merchandise flooded the world. Sometimes he was a Rastafarian for some reason. It was weird. Bart Simpson had hit songs. No, really. “Do the Bartman” became a number-one hit in places like Ireland and Australia. The music video was the most-played video on MTV for three months in 1991. We were living in Bart Simpson’s world.

In a lot of that merch, bootleg, and otherwise, Bart had his trusty skateboard by his side. It was his primary means of transportation. He rode it during the opening credits of every episode, and all throughout the series. When Bart decided to become a daredevil, he did his stunts on his board. When Mr. Burns hit him with his car, Bart was on his board. His skateboard was an extension of him, and an extension of his rebellious attitude. The other kids didn’t ride skateboards. Milhouse wasn’t getting on a board. The dude likes Vaseline on toast! Ralph Wiggum on a skateboard? Forget about it. Even the bullies don’t really skate, which means something. Skating isn’t for “bad” kids. It’s for kids like Bart. We didn’t want to be Jimbo (and not just because his real name is Corky) or Nelson. We wanted to be Bart, and part of being like Bart was skateboarding.

There are definitely adults out in the world right now who first decided to skateboard to emulate Bart Simpson. They thought he was cool and that made skateboarding cool by proxy. It was a perpetual feedback loop. Bart was cool because he skated, and skating was cool because Bart did it. For 30 years he’s been on that board. That’s a dedication to skating. Also, his board must be incredibly durable. To this day, and with all due respect to guys like Tony Hawk, Bart Simpson is the most famous skateboarder in the world. He’s influential like a few of us can ever imagine. The dude is an icon, now and forever.

Also, he’s done some impressive stuff on his board. Take, for example, the time he had to flee the kids of Shelbyville, Springfield’s rival city while looking for Springfield’s famed lemon tree. He pulls off some incredible moves in his getaway, including pulling a 360 loop inside a pipe. While he never jumped Springfield Gorge as he planned, Bart did jump a car, a swimming pool, and a whole bunch of dogs, including a bright-pink dog that is a reminder of the off-model animation of the early episodes.

He has once pushed down a giant, steep hill by Jessica Lovejoy he managed to maneuver for a while, even over oil and ball bearings, before admittedly wiping out. However, Bart got back up, and he never stopped skating. In the 300th episode of the show, Bart put a full-on halfpipe in his apartment, because he’s dedicated to the cause.

None can dream of skating like Bart Simpson, mostly because he’s a cartoon boy that doesn’t have to abide by the laws of physics. We can all strive to remain as active in the world of skateboarding for as long as him. So many of us first hopped on board when we were around 10 because we knew a 10-year-old who loved to skate and did awesome stuff on his board. That was Bart. He was relatable, and we could strive to be like him.

Kids didn’t want to be like Homer or Marge. Some did want to be like Lisa, who is an icon in her own way. Bart was the cool rebel, though. He blew minds when he hit TV in the late ‘80s. We all have our influences. We all have our own pantheon of skateboarding history. Well if you don’t include Bart Simpson in that pantheon you’re making a mistake. Bart is a skateboarding icon, and his legacy should not be forgotten. If you want to write Bart’s importance in skating history off, well we’re sure that he has three words for you: Eat my shorts.

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