The Simpsons visit Marfa

MARFA – The town is buzzing about the latest tourists even though no one actually saw them in person. The Simpsons were in Marfa last weekend.

During Sunday’s episode, Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie bring Grampa to the “art capital of Texas” to help clear his conscience. While babysitting his grandchildren, Grampa breaks down when he see a box of Bart’s plastic army men. The Simpsons discover through a medical evaluation and revisiting flashbacks that Grampa modeled for those toys after World War II, but Grampa learns that a misunderstanding and a kiss between him and photographer Philip Hefflin at that shoot lead to Hefflin’s firing. Marge convinces Grampa to relieve his guilt by confronting Hefflin, and Lisa uses the internet to locate him in Marfa because of course that’s where he’d be.

Executive Producer Al Jean told the Big Bend Sentinel that the show writers wanted to visit Texas in an episode and needed a town for the photographer. Episode writer Mike Price pitched Marfa and it was the perfect fit. Several of the writers have visited the town and loved it. “We thought Marfa was a perfect place for Philip to live so Grampa had to go there out of necessity,” said Jean. “Since the Simpsons aren’t rich, we like to give them a reason to go places.”

The scene featuring the Lone Star State is five minutes long, so they squeezed as much as they could. When The Simpsons arrive in Texas, they drive 480 miles to Asleep At The Wheel’s “Miles and Miles of Texas,” passing billboards and references that poke fun of the TV show, Friday Night Lights, the oil industry and recently re-elected US Senator Ted Cruz. Jean said the Cruz joke would have been removed had Cruz lost against his Democrat opponent Beto O’Rourke.

Before the family arrives in Marfa, they stop at Prada Marfa, which is one landmark Jean wanted to include for its spectacular visual. A confused Marge tries to open the doors of the popular art installation while Lisa briefly explains why it stands in the middle of nowhere. Grampa stands next to a sign indicating there are still 37 miles until Marfa, revealing that the writers did their homework and know that Prada Marfa is actually in Valentine, west of town.

It’s also at this site where Marge and Lisa see the Marfa Lights. Lisa tries to explain them, but Marge would rather not ruin the mystique. The first scene of Marfa shows the Welcome to Marfa sign where the Chinati Foundation’s John Chamberlain Building stands in real life. Grampa ignores sidewalks and walks down Highland Avenue while he tries to find Hefflin. Downtown looks desolate with the lack of hustle and bustle, but for some, this is a typical Tuesday. He passes more tongue-in-cheek fictional businesses such as Alamo’s Tavern, Tex-Mex Lexis Car Dealership and a theater showing “The Next-to-The-Last Picture Show,” a reference to the 1971 film about a dying West Texas town starring Jeff Bridges and Cybill Shepherd.

Grampa stumbles into his friend’s studio and is taken aback by the colorful art based on the photoshoot. Grampa tries to apologize to Hefflin for his firing but Hefflin tells him he decided after that moment to always live his truth, so he leaves his wife and has lived in Marfa with no regrets.

Former Marfa resident Daniel Hernandez thought it was interesting to see the way the show portrayed his hometown. He laughed when Gram-pa “locks and loads” his pill box like a gun in a Western movie and walks down Highland Avenue singing a parody of “The Yellow Rose of Texas.”

“I thought it was really funny the way they put that all together,” said Hernandez. “For me, it’s always interesting to see Marfa portrayed in whatever sense it is.”

Hernandez was the first to share the news that Marfa would be featured on The Simpsons through the Marfa Facebook group after he found out from his brother Joel. But first, he received official confirmation from Jean himself on Twitter.

State Representative Alfonso “Poncho” Nevárez was excited to see a town from his District 74 featured on the show.

He tweeted “What? Damn, I’d like to be a caricature of myself in this!” when he saw the news, and after it aired, he posted two screenshots of Highland Avenue with the Marfa water tower, Presidio County Courthouse and jail in the background.

“If you ever wondered how Marfa would look like in the world of the Simpsons. Here you go. Nice shot of the Presidio County Courthouse,” Nevárez tweeted.

The reaction was similar among Marfa residents and admirers. Photos and videos were widely shared as people expressed excitement on social media. A few posted side by side comparisons of the animated version of Prada Marfa with their personal photos. Ballroom Marfa posted on their Instagram that they were thrilled to see it on The Simpsons.

Rudy Scott, a Marfa resident since 1995, joked on Facebook that he can die now after seeing that episode.

“I have seen it all now that the Simpsons were in Marfa. It was funny to see the writers poke fun at our little part of the world. The Simpsons writers are creative and have managed to laugh at just about everything,” said Scott.

Being featured on a long-running TV show like this one has some, mostly out-of-towners, concern with their favorite destination reaching critical mass. It’d be no surprise for this latest pop culture reference to draw more visitors, but the same was said when Marfa was featured on 60 Minutes and Amazon’s I Love Dick series. The thing to remember is that traveling to this part of state is not exactly the most convenient.