The Simpsons: Lisa is the Villain in ‘Bart Sells His Soul’

The Golden Age of The Simpsons still holds up to this day, despite various modern controversies and some outdated stereotypes. The concepts and lessons contained within remain both compelling and hilarious. Lisa is one of my absolute favorite characters within the prodigious cast of the show. However, there is one episode I re-watched recently that made me re-think my opinions of the character.

In the Season 7 episode ‘Bart Sells His Soul,’ Bart and Milhouse get into a theological discussion (rather advanced for a pair of 10-year-olds) about the nature of the soul. Milhouse whole-heartedly believes in the concept of the soul as presented by organized religion, while Bart maintains that the soul is fake, made up by religion to manipulate the masses and make a profit off of tax-free donations. And he’s entitled to that opinion.

You know who’s not okay with that? Lisa.

While Lisa is generally portrayed as a liberal free-thinker, supporting the rights of the oppressed, her actions in this episode greatly contrast those character traits. Once she finds out that Bart sold his soul to Milhouse (it was actually just words written on a piece of paper), she is clearly disturbed by the fact that Bart doesn’t take the concept of the soul seriously. She presses her own agenda upon him repeatedly, and mocks him in front of their family for his beliefs.

Because she disagrees with Bart’s opinion, she ostracizes him, and uses a series of arbitrary coincidences to convince Bart that he has lost his soul. She even buys his soul when she finds it in the Android’s Dungeon comic book store, and then proceeds to withhold it from him. It is only after he goes through Hell, is missing all night, and comes home in a clearly broken state, that she concedes and returns his soul to him.

She takes advantage of his emotionally vulnerable state, and convinces him that all the trouble he endured was actually good, and was necessary for him to deserve his soul. She is basically using psychological torture to imprint Bart with her own beliefs, as many cults do in real life.This is very disturbing behavior for one of the most progressive characters in The Simpsons. Granted, the early days of the series have their problematic moments, and, whether or not you agree with these criticisms, it’s undeniable that society has come a long way in how we view women and minorities, putting these issues more under the microscope than ever. However, atheists and those with atheistic ideas (those who don’t believe in angels, heaven, or the soul, but may still believe in a higher power) are still one of the most distrusted groups in the United States. If this episode was made today, I’m sorry to say, I think Bart’s opinions would still be treated with scorn.

 

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