Like many millennials, I grew up watching a lot of television. Shows like Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Ren & Stimpy, Dinosaurs, and many more gave me social references and jokes that I still make to this day. Despite having a massive television library at my disposal, I was perhaps most importantly an avid watcher of Matt Groening's seminal series, #TheSimpsons.
The Simpsons debuted in 1989 when I was one year old, and my parents never had an issue with me watching it. In fact, I loved it so much that my mom would ground me from The Simpsons whenever I needed to be punished.
The Simpsons has given us many things over the years and has defined, mirrored, and shaped pop culture in a way few shows ever have. It was a social satire that put politics, home life, family, and friendships into perspective. Aside from that, the is one big thing in my life for which I have The Simpsons to thank: my love for the horror genre.
It's impossible for any even semi-regular viewer of The Simpsons to say that they've never seen a 'Treehouse of Horror' special. The Halloween-themed episodes that began in the show's second season quickly became an annual tradition, and the show found a solid balance of scary and humor early on.
As a kid, I was always fascinated by things that were considered to be creepy or scary, so the #TreehouseofHorror specials were a good way for me to explore that side of the entertainment spectrum. If something did manage to creep me out, I could count on a joke to turn things around so I could keep watching.
Starting early on with skits like "Hungry Are the Damned" and "The Raven," the episodes blended things I liked, such as aliens and poetry, in with the horror and it tempered the scary to show me that creepy things weren't always so creepy. It was an early lesson that taught me I could look at something that was supposed to be scary and find a way to flip it upside down.
This lesson stuck with me as I got older and started exploring the #horror genre more seriously. When I got around to watching classics like Evil Dead, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Friday the 13th, I never experienced fear like other viewers did. I was always able to look at something within the movies to laugh at, or I was able to put into perspective that none of it was real.
Not only that, but the spoofs and references of horror classics that The Simpsons touched on gave me something to think about whenever those parts came up in the real movies. A prime example is the Simpsons' spoof of Stanley Kubrick's divisive adaptation of Stephen King's The Shining. To this day, it's hard for me to watch the baseball bat scene between Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall without hearing "No TV and no beer make Homer go crazy" echoing in my head.
I have The Simpsons to thank for that.
Without the 'Treehouse of Horror' specials, I might have grown up into someone who was afraid to watch horror movies, or I might have been someone who was embarrassed that the genre intrigued me. Seeing how many great horror movies I've seen over the years and how oddly well they seem to complement my personality, I don't even want to think about what my life would be like if I hadn't had The Simpsons to keep me from being scared away.
What's your favorite 'Treehouse of Horror' moment? Let me know in the comments!