‘The Simpsons’ Continues to Enrage Monorail Advocates

Have they never been to Brockway, Ogdenville or North Haverbrook?
‘The Simpsons’ Continues to Enrage Monorail Advocates

Consistently heralded as one of the greatest episodes in the history of The Simpsons, “Marge vs. the Monorail” finds a smooth-talking con artist manipulating the town of Springfield into purchasing an unnecessary, highly-dangerous monorail system that very nearly kills Homer, Bart and actor Leonard Nimoy of Little Rascals fame. 

But not everybody loves this episode. We are, of course, talking about monorail enthusiasts. 

The Monorail Society, an online group that aims to ”promote knowledge of and discussions about the various modes of monorail systems” aren’t huge fans of The Simpsons, and are seemingly still pretty miffed about a 22-minute cartoon that came out decades ago. Their website contains not one, but two pages dedicated to denouncing what they call a “faulty episode.” Even the “Monorail Song” couldn’t win them over.

The Monorail Society claims that “Marge vs. the Monorail” is “selling its viewers a sham … discrediting a technology because someone used it incorrectly.” And The Monorail Society’s founder and president Kim Pedersen further questioned why the episode’s writer, Conan O’Brien, couldn’t have simply picked another form of transportation to lampoon, such as the “true huckster-sold rail technology of our time: 'light' rail.”

This may seem kind of extremely stupid, but one can see their point to a certain degree. “Marge vs. the Monorail” was never intended to be a treatise on transportation and urban planning. It was only written because O’Brien randomly drove past a billboard that read “Monorail” and decided to combine that concept with a parody of Irwin Allen disaster movies like The Towering Inferno, and the plot of The Music Man.

Yet, due to the show’s continued popularity, real-life monorail projects inevitably get compared to the disastrous Springfield monorail. Pederson told an interviewer that this problem illustrates just “how many people make their educated opinion on transit (based on) cartoon shows.” A number of articles have used The Simpsons as a springboard to criticize monorails in general, and in 2020, Virgin’s CTO was even asked to comment on the deluge of Simpsons memes mocking their (now-defunct) monorail-esque Hyperloop.

But more often than not, Simpsons comparisons are made when people hear about failed, costly, ill-conceived monorail projects, like in Sydney and Las Vegas. Which seems fair, even though these systems typically failed for financial reasons, not because the monorails were recycled World’s Fair rides full of possum families. 

Simpsons creator Matt Groening was asked about the minor controversy in a 2021 interview. After learning of The Monorail Society’s grievances, he responded, “I don’t know what to say, I’m sorry. That’s a by-product of our viciousness." Groening attempted to repair some of the damage his show had caused by adding: “You’re up off the ground, and you’re above traffic. Monorails are great.” 

No word on whether or not Groening ever plans to apologize to the popsicle-stick skyscraper community.

You (yes, you) should follow JM on Twitter (if it still exists by the time you’re reading this).


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