I recall reading a Christopher Hitchens piece somewhere or other where he discussed a scene from a Jeeves and Wooster novel. Jeeves and Wooster are out and about, going shooting or something probably, when they encounter a CND protest going through town. Hitchens described it as jarring; he believed that Jeeves and Wooster were a perfect creation, who inhabited a perfect world of terrible aunts and community dance parties, and that there was no place in that world for nuclear bombs. He summed this up by saying: ‘you don’t shine light on magic,’ or something similar – I haven’t got the article to hand.
Watching the Simpsons this week, that phrase was brought to mind. I watched an episode in which a family of hipsters moved in next door to Homer. Further hipsters then descended on Springfield, briefly changing the character of the town, before vacating it en mass after the NYT declared Springfield to be the coolest place in America. These hipsters, I thought, with their beards and their skinny jeans, are too modern for the Simpsons. I realized I also think this whenever I see a mobile phone, or a Twitter or Facebook reference in the Simpsons. I mentally tut; I feel upset by the shining of light on magic.
But then I realized that this analysis doesn’t actually work. I blamed the Simpsons for changing, for adapting to modern technology and fashion. But it is of course me who has changed. The Simpsons has always been set in present day. I’m just so used to watching re-runs from the 1990s that it doesn’t seem like that to me.
There was a time when the Simpsons was cooler than me. It knew all about Cypress Hill and Smashing Pumpkins when I was too young to know they were real, contemporary things. Then there was a long period of mutuality as I grew into my teens, and long beyond. Now, who knows what. I am no longer qualified to know what is cool, and I feel, I think, jealousy. Jealousy that the Simpsons continues to be young and contemporary, to attract new viewers from new generations, while I grow older and, I guess, am slowly being removed from its target demographic by time.
I am jealous because the Simpsons belongs to my generation. What other cultural phenomenon could bind disparate youth the world over? Every movement the Simpsons take into the future is a betrayal of me and my late-millennial brethren. But here is a fact: I will continue to watch it almost every day as long as it is on TV. The Simpsons is to the millennial as the Beatles were to the baby-boomer.
What else of this week? I went cycling yesterday and enjoyed weather both wetter and colder than that promised by the BBC. On Saturday we finally put the feet on the bedside dresser only 10 months after we bought it, and I entered the Dundee Book Prize. And today, Nicola Sturgeon announced there will be a second Scottish Independence Referendum.
I cautiously voted yes in the last referendum. I am much more decidedly on the no side this time (although I began firmly in the no camp last time as well.) However, a lot has changed since 2014: Brexit, Trump, the alt-right. And Scotland is a more divided society than ever. Maybe it is just twitter that makes it seem like this, but I feel like people have become a lot more unreasonable on all sides. I saw this week that Owen Jones, I would contend as committed a socialist as is feasible, had quit social media due to harassment from his own kind. He was tired of being called a traitor, of having his motives questioned. Every day I see it claimed, essentially, that anyone who does not support Scottish independence is a traitor. I wonder: a traitor to whom?
I see a world that is divided, and people who are on hand to manipulate and rule. I do not see the SNP as the same as Trump or the alt-right or UKIP. This is a different thing altogether. But they encourage a similar fanaticism, a same all-or-nothing-ism. I don’t think it is healthy, and I don’t look forward to the next couple of years of political argument. The only guarantee, whether of Scottish independence, or Brexit, or Trump, is that it will make us all poorer and less united.
Today as I walked in the park at lunchtime, I wondered to myself: what would happen if I just lay down and cried and never got up again, and never spoke again. It would never have come to this if Ed Miliband had won the 2015 election.