Fans of the Simpsons old and new alike might be tempted to overlook the importance of the character of baby Maggie, but she plays an important role in the series, as well as commentary on current family trends. For instance, at the time Maggie was created as a character, and throughout most of the last 15 to 20 years, the average American family has had 2.5 kids. Maggie represents that half of a kid that people like to joke about. The truth is, those “babies” during the time in which Maggie was created are now in high school and college (my baby brother, the tail-ender coming after my sister and me, included – we are one of those 2 ½ kid families). In a very artful way, the Simpsons creators tapped into a phenomenon that is still occurring today.
By making Maggie unable to talk, the creators made it easy for people to forget about her. They also made it easy to truly make her a baby, not just the baby of the family. By forcing her character to remain an infant throughout the series, the creators can continue to comment on how infants are raised in our society. They’ve used baby Maggie to comment on the effect of violence on TV, bonds between Dads and their babies, as well as the relationship of older children to their infant siblings. None of those topics are discussed much in everyday conversation, but they are real family issues.
Baby Maggie, in all of her pacifier-sucking silence, is not simply an idle little being living in a vacuum. She observes all of the chaos that is the Simpson household all around her. She knows when her Mommy is gone and plays along when used as a diversion by her brother and sister. She has even wielded an ax after watching a particularly violent Itchy and Scratchy cartoon with her older brother and sister.
As you can see, it would be wrong to underestimate the role of Maggie, even if her voice is the sound of a sucking pacifier. She is just as much a part of the Simpson family as Bart or Lisa. Unlike cartoons such as Rugrats and The Family Guy, which feature talking babies, The Simpsons go out of their way to truly portray Maggie as baby – bottles, diaper changing, cooing, bottle, pacifiers, and all. As the right hand baby of her Mom Marge, Maggie helps keep the Simpson family running on a daily basis. In fact, in the beginning of each episode, it is Maggie that goes through the checkout scanner at the grocery store – literally – and helps Marge drive home from the grocery store.
So, next time you watch The Simpsons, pay special attention to the littlest Simpson. There is more going on with her character than meets the eye, whether she is attached to Marge’s hip, in her walker, sitting on the couch with her brother and sister, or crawling on the floor. She represents the babies of all families. She’s the baby, that’s all.