The most famous of Homer Simpson's offspring

Bart Simpson
Talk about arrested development — this kid has been 10 for 11 years! And we hope he stays there. Deplorable, adorable, Bart is a brat for the ages

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21st Century: The Future of Arts

Monday, June 8, 1998
He must stay after school, every single episode of his life, to write a homily on the fourth-grade blackboard (e.g., "The Pledge of Allegiance does not end with 'Hail, Satan'"). In a family of noisy eaters, he is perhaps the loudest, at least in decibel-to-kilogram ratio. He has a few weaknesses: exposing his buttocks, sassing his father, making prank calls to Moe's Tavern ("Is Oliver there? Oliver Clothesoff?") and speaking like a Cockney chimney sweep. One of the few trophies on his bedroom shelf is labeled EVERYBODY GETS A TROPHY DAY.

Louis Armstrong
Lucille Ball
The Beatles
Marlon Brando
Coco Chanel
Charlie Chaplin
Le Corbusier
Bob Dylan
T.S. Eliot
Aretha Franklin
Martha Graham
Jim Henson
James Joyce
Pablo Picasso
Rodgers & Hammerstein
Bart Simpson
Frank Sinatra
Steven Spielberg
Igor Stravinsky
Oprah Winfrey

Bart Simpson is an underachiever — "and proud of it," as a million T shirts read, back when The Simpsons began its run on Fox and he was the first fad of the '90s. Remember "Eat my shorts"? Recall "Cowabunga" and "Ay, caramba"? His fame skyrocketed in no time; burnout was virtually assured.

Ah, but this young Sprinfieldianite has staying power: staying in the fourth grade, to the endless vexation of his teacher and his principal; staying glued to the living-room tube to watch his idol, Krusty the Clown; staying for years in the hearts and humors of a fickle, worldwide TV audience. This young scamp — with his paper bag-shaped head, his body's jagged, modernist silhouette, his brat-propelled skateboard — may be "yellow trash" to the town gentry, but to his mother and everyone else, he's our special little guy.

It's true that a few other cartoon characters might try to claim Bart's place of honor. This century is gaily strewn with them, from Winsor McCay's benign Gertie the Dinosaur (cinema's first animated icon) to Fox's other cartoon glory, King of the Hill (whose Bobby Hill, all perfect circles and mute yearning, is the anti-Bart). The Warner menagerie — Bugs, Daffy, Tweety, Wile E. Coyote — energized three decades of Saturday matinees. And when cartoons invaded TV, creatures from Bullwinkle Moose to Tex Avery's Raid insects kept alive a hallowed comic tradition. Bart fits in snugly here. As he once cogently boasted, "I'm this century's Dennis the Menace."

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Dec. 31, 1990
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