Every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain. Remember when I took that home winemaking course, and I forgot how to drive?— Homer
Recently, a survey showed that more people know about the Simpsons than our Constitution, specifically the Bill of Rights. Said survey, conducted by McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum, explains that more than 50 percent are able to name two or more of the five family members - Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie. However, only one in one-thousand Americans are able to name all five freedoms guaranteed by the first amendment to the United States Constitution.
We've created this helpful guide on the Constitution, linking it to the Simpsons in order to provide those who don't know much about the Constitution a fun way to learn about it. This guide was written by Dave Hettel and donated to Simpson Crazy.
In the episode entitled Make Room for Lisa, Lisa explains to Homer what the Bill of Rights gives to the citizens; however, she stops when Homer takes out the document from its glass case and examines it. One of the guards, upon finding that Homer got chocolate all over the Bill of Rights exclaims, "Oh, I am so sick of people hiding behind the Bill of Rights," referencing numerous Supreme Court cases where a right guaranteed by the Bill of Rights is under question. In this segment, Homer gets chocolate on the Bill of Rights and then licks it off. He however licks off the text of the eighth amendment, which specifically forbids cruel and unusual punishment; this leads to the guards beating Homer later.
In The Parent Rap, after Bart steals a police car, a judge, aptly named Constance Harm, forces Homer and Bart to be tethered together at the arms. Homer complains about his sentence:
Homer: This punishment is so cruel.
Marge: And unusual.
Bart's and Homer's punishment references the eighth amendment to the Constitution, which, among other things, says that "cruel and unusual punishments [shall not be] inflicted." This tethering is clearly cruel and unusual, and Bart later references the constitutionality of the order by asking, "can that judge do this to us?" Marge and Homer are later punished, cruelly and unusually, by the same judge to be bonded in wooden stocks.
In the episode Brush with Greatness, Bart's chalkboard saying is "I will not hide behind the fifth amendment." Given his troublesome nature, Bart apparently decides to invoke his rights regarding the fifth amendment, which states that no person "shall be compelled ... to be a witness against himself." He probably would use the phrase, "I plead the fifth," when asked about the crimes he's committed. However, it's quite obvious Bart's teachers don't believe him.
When Homer gets a gun in The Cartridge Family after a sporting event turns awry, the family is startled and Marge is angry at him. Homer replies to Marge's problems by saying:
Homer: But I have to have a gun! It's in the Constitution!
Lisa: Dad, the Second Amendment is just a remnant from the revolutionary days. It has no meaning today!
Homer and Lisa discuss the purpose of the second amendment, which states that "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed." In short, it means that people are allowed to purchase and carry guns, unlike in some other countries. Homer exercises this right to keep and bear a weapon.
When Bart helps the original creator of Itchy & Scratchy, Chester Lampwick, to get his deserved money in The Day the Violence Died, another cartoon appears on the television, entitled "Amendment-to-Be." The cartoon vaguely goes over the ratification process for an amendment to the Constitution: after the amendment is passed through both houses of Congress and wins a majority vote, it is sent to the states, where three fourths of the states must ratify the amendment to make it a part of the Constitution. The lyrics to the "Amendment-to-Be" song are: (lyrics in italics are sung)
Boy: Hey, who left all this garbage lying on the steps of Congress?
Amendment: I'm not garbage.
I'm an amendment to be
Yes, an amendment to be
And I'm hoping that they'll ratify me
There's a lot of flag burners
Who have got too much freedom
I wanna make it legal
To beat 'em
'Cause there's limits to our liberties
'Least I hope and pray that there are
'Cause those liberal freaks go too far.
Boy: But why can't we just make a law against flag burning?
Amendment: Because that law would be unconstitutional. But if we changed the Constitution...
Boy: Then we could make all sorts of crazy laws!
Amendment: Now you're catching on!
Boy: But what if they say you're not good enough to be in the Constitution?
Amendment: Then I'll destroy all opposition to me
And I'll make Ted Kennedy pay
If he fights back
I'll say that he's gay
Big Fat Guy: Good news, Amendment! They ratified 'ya. You're in the U.S. Constitution!
The amendment process to the Constitution is dealt with in article five of the original Constitution.
Although the episode title directly mentions the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution, Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment doesn't reference it at all; instead, it is found that a municipal law, created around the year 1800, prevents the transporting, selling, and brewing of your own alcohol. A new culture arises in Springfield after the law is found, and Homer helps turn Moe's into a speakeasy of sorts. After a new cop in town cuts the beer supply, Homer begins brewing his own, again breaking the law. The whole episode reminds the viewer of the situation in the 1930's, where illegal transport and brewing of alcohol created the first major organized crime. There's no direct reference to the Constitution in the episode, but the whole plot resembles the trouble with organized crime brought on by the Eighteenth Amendment.
In the episode Lemon of Troy, Bart's chalkboard saying is "the first amendment does not cover burping." The first amendment protects free speech, but given a few Supreme Court cases, that speech is only guaranteed if it is not blatantly obscene. Apparently Ms. Krabappel thinks that burping is blatantly obscene. The other rights protected by the first amendment are freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and freedom of petition for redress of grievances.