I’m scared as hell: The Simpsons and Lee Hardcastle

Sleeping has been a bit difficult these last few days.

I’m plagued by nightmares of people invading my home and taking my loved ones away from me. The feeling of loss during these imaginary episodes is horrid, but the feeling of helplessness is somewhat worse.

On the right side of my bed, I now keep a solid steel wrecking bar. On the left side of my bed, I have a sturdy knife typically used to cut up boxes. It takes barely a sound for me to jump at night.

I’m left plagued by the afterimages of the video that has caused these nightmarish and paranoid visions brought on by a lack of comfort and sleep.

Fear has overtaken me for the first time in years.

And all this from a Simpsons cough gag created by animator and director Lee Hardcastle.

***

Hardcastle’s video features a violent home invasion involving the Simpsons family where Bart, Homer, Maggie, Marge, and Lisa are all killed by Dolph Starbeam, Kearney Zzyzwicz, and Jimbo Jones.

Bart is shot in the head by a crossbow bolt, Homer has his hand cut up and head blown off by a shotgun, Marge is scalped, Maggie is chopped into bits, and Lisa is shot.

It was a video so horrible that I simply couldn’t look away, but I don’t think it was the gore that instilled fear in me.

What really scares me is the senseless nature of the violence.

Whenever we see violence in real life we try our best to rationalize it. He was a psychopath. She had problems. They had a grudge. It’s reason that makes us feel better when something unhinged happens. It’s reason that stops us from running amok. It’s reason that helps us understand the intentions of others.

A lack of reason makes events like a recent stabbing and death in Toronto absolutely terrifying.

Dolph, Kearney, and Jimbo had no reason to do what they did. As Simpsons characters, their roles are to act as bullies, yes, but they have their human moments too.

Homer and Marge are left utterly helpless in the video. Homer looks to his wife with tears in his eyes knowing what will happen to her when he’s gone. Marge is left stunned by his death and just looks on as her youngest child is killed, but she fights back although her efforts are in vain.

The sole survivor of this home invasion is Lisa, but she’s accidentally shot by a horrified Chief Wiggum who appears at the end of the video.

And it all happens so fast and to the sounds of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.

***

That all said, I can still appreciate the artistry of Hardcastle’s animation.

It takes a lot of time to move the characters frame-by-frame and a strong sense of direction to ensure your vision is met.

I’m also a bit familiar with is works having watched his Chainsaw Maid video almost eight years ago and even then his homemade animation was superb compared to the other videos you could find online.

There’s something about this latest video that just irks me in the wrong way.

Art is meant to evoke feelings within the viewer whether positive or negative. In this way, Hardcastle’s video has made me feel more than anything else in the last few weeks.

Violence is something that affects me greatly as a person. I hate watching videos of people fighting or violence being brought upon anyone. His video has me acting paranoid enough to start hiding weapons around my bed, so if shocking the viewer was Hardcastle’s intent then he succeeded.

Casual violence exists throughout the entirety of the Simpsons.

From Homer routinely choking Bart in the early seasons of the show, the antics of The Itchy and Scratchy Cartoon Show, and the deaths of a few characters, The Simpsons can be violent at times.

However, behind these acts of violence is a family we’re all supposed to love. We enjoy watching them struggle through the odds in each episode and coming out better for it too. We also like to see them fight knowing that they will find a way to resolve the conflicts they have with one another.

Then there are moments like that where you think, what was going through Homer’s head?

The family and characters in the show are able to get away with all kinds of violent acts simply because it’s a cartoon. This casual level of violence is also seen as comical most of the time acting as a punchline to a joke or a moment to punctuate the absurdity of what’s happening around the characters.

In the real world some of the actions taken by characters like Barney Gumble drinking a can of varnish or Homer allowing himself to be shot with a cannon would cause terrible bodily harm. By their very nature as cartoon characters, the Simpsons are given a degree of invincibility.

Hardcastle’s video doesn’t allow them to get away unscathed from violence. It puts them into a situation where their death is imminent and swift. It rips them away from the safe confines of their cartoon stronghold. The Simpson family has our reality’s violence forced upon them by a truly inhuman force.

Ultimately it obliterates them, but ultimately they are just representations of an idea of a family. They aren’t real. They’re made of clay, but that doesn’t make their deaths any less unnerving.

***

That all being said, I’m still keeping those weapons beside my bed. I still don’t know what I’d do if someone broke into my house and tried to bring harm unto me. I’d fight back, but would I be able to keep my own humanity in tact?

As the protagonist of my own life, I’ve made it a point to avoid conflict as much as possible in everything that I do. I sensibly stay away from crazed people in the street, I don’t get into fights, I don’t even really talk to strangers.

The idea is that if I don’t do anything to you, you don’t do anything to me. What’s scary about the idea of a home invasion is that someone out there would try to breach your sense of security for no real reason.

In many ways, Hardcastle’s video breached that for me with the Simpsons. I still think of them as the slightly dysfunctional yet utterly loveable family, but it’s hard to think of them now without the video cropping up in my mind.

The claymation invaded my mind, but through my reason I can fend them off.

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