Jebediah Springfield: The Symbol vs. the Person


The plot of the classic episode of The Simpsons “Lisa the Iconoclast” had Lisa Simpson researching Jebediah Springfield and discovering that her hometown’s beloved founder was in reality a massive fraud.  It turns out that Jebediah Springfield’s real identity was Hans Sprungfeld, a bloodthirsty pirate who once attacked George Washington.  This man who was credited with founding his town on the quote “a noble spirit embiggens the smallest man” in reality hated the people who would inhabit his town.

Lisa being Lisa, she does her best to spread the world about Jebediah Springfield’s true identity and predictably, everybody she informs (except Homer) reacts with hostility and denies her revelations.  Even Marge, who is usually in Lisa’s corner when she gets caught up in issues like this, flatly refused to hear a thing about the beloved Jebediah Springfield being a pirate.  The episode ends with Lisa getting the whole town’s attention at the bicentennial parade about to tell them Jebediah Springfield’s true identity, but at the last second decides against it.

Jebediah Springfield obviously isn’t a real person, but the…um, “finer details” about many actual historical figures often get forgotten as the decades and centuries pass their respective times.  The accounts of these figures get retold generations later as tales of valor, heroism, and inspiration.  The false account as Jebediah Springfield as the noble founder is a tale that has inspired generations of Springfielders up to the current day (even a cynical, unhappy guy like Moe Szyslak holds Jebediah Springfield close to his heart).  It is for this reason that Lisa decided not to tell the whole town his true identity when she had the perfect opportunity.  The spirit of the myth has brought the whole town together and the best in everyone (especially in a town where large gatherings like this usually end in riots), so the false story is justified.

I disagree.

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Jebediah Springfield: The Symbol vs. the Person