The Children’s TV Canon

The Simpsons: “Lisa the Vegetarian” (1995)

I first saw this episode when I was 8, and if you told me at that age that kids were too young for The Simpsons, I would have cried like a baby. The episode, a landmark in how vegetarians were represented on TV, opens with a perfect illustration of what us big kids call cognitive dissonance. After the Simpsons find themselves cooing over an adorable lamb at a petting zoo, they return home to scarf down a dinner of lamb chops. Lisa is the only one that seems to notice the disconnect (“This is lamb, not a lamb,” Homer explains), and she soon finds herself giving up meat. If the rest of the episode were simply animal-rights propaganda, I’m not sure I’d be recommending it so publicly. After all, I am keenly aware that, as Homer, Bart, and Marge put it, “You don’t win friends with salad.” But the episode’s true message isn’t vegetarianism; it’s tolerance. After just about everyone in Springfield reacts to Lisa’s personal dietary choice with a defensiveness that quickly turns into bullying (a phenomenon with which I am also acutely familiar), Lisa turns militant, flinging the centerpiece of Homer’s barbecue into the river. In the fallout, everyone learns that they must respect one another, regardless of how they eat. What Homer says of the waterlogged roast pig is also true of this episode, more than 20 years later: “It’s still good.” —Forrest Wickman

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