The banning of Bart Simpson t-shirts, an ABC News special report (1990)

Originally published at: The banning of Bart Simpson t-shirts, an ABC News special report (1990) | Boing Boing


Back a while ago, Dorothy Gambrell, who writes the comic Cat and Girl, had a thing called The Fun Club, where you could subscribe and get something from her in the mail every month for a year. One was a Bart Simpson bootleg shirt that said something in Russia, which I still have.


It’s as if the school administrators were admitting that Principal Skinner was a realistic depiction of the type of person who goes into profession.


Around 1990 or '91 I got sent home for wearing a ‘Bart Simpson: Underacheiver “And Proud of it Man!”’ t-shirt my mom bought me. I still remember the exact words for the suspension. It was for expressing myself in a manner ‘contrary to the goals statement of the Public School Board’. Total BS, as I was neither an underacheiver nor was I proud of it - it was a pop culture reference FFS! Incidentally, this was around the time I stopped respecting school administration and began my slide into scholastic apathy. Funny how that works.



That’s Bart Ska-Mpson!



On the other hand, eight years later, Matt Groening apologized to parents.


A lot of old Simpsons merchandise, both official and bootleg, had Bart in that blue shirt/purple shorts combo, which he has never worn on the TV series. The show eventually made fun of this phenomenon:

That was a weird flippin’ one-off line to turn into a T-shirt slogan, too. The school psychologist says Bart’s an underachiever and seems to be proud of it all the way back in the second episode. Bart doesn’t even say it; a character who appeared in a couple early episodes and then disappeared forever does.

That’s another one the show makes fun of later on. Bart’s rifling through his permanent record in Skinner’s files:


I’ve been rewatching all the Simpsons episodes lately (in reverse). I’m in the middle of this era right now. That underachiever line is the first episode of Season 2 “Bart Gets an F”. I watched it the other night and got really excited when Dr. Prior said it. I had forgotten that it was actually a part of the show and not just the merchandise.

I had one of those dolls with the blue shirt, too. I always wondered what was up with that. Apparently he does have a blue shirt from the Tracey Ullman years, but I’m not really familiar with those clips at all.

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Thanks for the correction; I could have sworn it was Bart the Genius, but they do start to run together after 30 years.

ETA: I’m almost certain I saw the “underachiever and proud of it” T-shirts back around the time the show first debuted, though, so if the line is in season 2 that makes me think the slogan may actually predate the episode.

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The two episodes were pretty similar in the idea they were putting out there (Bart being bad at school, something to do with Martin).

The first season was only 13 episodes long (with only one airing in '89), so the difference between season one and season two in terms of when they aired was pretty tight, a January to September kind of time frame.

They blew up fast, so everything gets a little muddled. I think you’re right about that phrase, though. I seem to recall seeing it on shirts in the summer between seasons 1 and 2.

Portlandia or Documentary Now?

Could be that I’m misremembering when I saw the shirts, too. Seems like most of the Simpsons T-shirts I saw on my classmates were when I was in second grade, which would have been season 2 (fall of '90/spring of '91).

I just found my copy of Mad magazine that featured the Simpsons. It was December '90, which would back up fall of '90/spring '91. That was probably the peak of the craze and around the time they started releasing the music videos.

Ah, the 1990s.

Even the moral panics of the time seem quaintly ridiculous when compared to… well…
Gestures vaguely at everything


I mean, they were pretty clearly absurd back then, too.


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