Though The Simpsons will often homage, parody or skewer popular music and TV, when they do so it's easily recognizable. It's a little trickier when they tackle classic historical photos, though. While these still images are seared in the public consciousness, the nature of animation means that any tribute or reference will fade in seconds in favor of an inevitable shot of Homer's asscrack. They might be harder to catch, but there are still scores of historical photo references throughout The Simpsons' decades-long run.
In the above episode "Lisa the Beauty Queen," the Simpsons' eldest daughter is sworn in as the new Miss Springfield; the framing and tone of the shot eerily echoes Lyndon Johnson swearing in as President of the United States after the assassination of JFK. A lot of work went into the details to Simpsonizing that moment in time, from Homer's bowtie and dopey onlooking expression to Marge's distinctly Jackie O-style outfit.
And that's not even close to the only meticulously-recreated photo.
This time it's almost as if we get an alternate angle on a classic snapshot, with a grumpy Grandpa Simpson sulking in his lawnchair just behind a canoodling couple at Woodstock in 1969.
The Fall of Saigon was a harrowing, tragic moment in world history, and no photo better encapsulated the desperation of those left behind more than one stark black and white photo. The creators of The Simpsons were so struck by this photo that they decided it was a good fit for that time the family ran away from angry Austrailians.
This classic shot of President Nixon and Elvis is the most-requested photo at the National Archives, so you know The Simpsons had to have a take on it. It looks as though Mr. Burns was next in the photo op line.
"The Weeping Frenchman" captured the heartbreaking plight of a man whose country was overrun by Nazis in World War II. He makes for a pretty good Milhouse.
In a classic episode, Homer, Barney, Principal Skinner and Apu form a barbershop quartet that takes the world by storm in a way that mirrors the meteoric rise of The Beatles. Towards the end of their run, Homer's dejected Be-Sharps meet in a studio and evoke the deflated John, Paul, George and Ringo. Yoko's band-ruining aura even infects cartoon characters.
Lou and Eddie are the kind of bit players in Springfield that you usually only see during reaction shots after Chief Wiggum blurts "Bake 'em away, toys." It's hard to see them as anything other than background players, always dressed in uniform.
Until you look closely at this crowd shot from "Lisa on Ice."
That's them behind Homer. It's bizarre and uncomfortable to behold, like seeing your teacher at the grocery store. While it's interesting to see Lou and Eddie out of their work duds, it doesn't explain why they're hanging out at a pee-wee hockey game in their spare time.
Nobody ever accused Homer of being a genius, but the creators behind the show just might be. In the episode The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace, Homer becomes obssessed with becoming an inventor like his idol Thomas Edison. At one point we cut away to Homer writing away on a chalkboard, with a set of numbers and symbols we assume to be gibberish. But here's the deal: That formula is fucking mindblowing.
The equation on the chalkboard not only predicts the weight of the "God particle" known as the Higgs Boson, but Homer beat the scientific community to the solution by a full fourteen years. The equation on the chalkboard comes out to a number only slightly larger than the actual Higgs Boson, and I'm pretty sure in the math world that "slightly larger" is synonymous with "exactly the same."
The sharp wit of The Simpsons has attracted actual geniuses to guest star on the show, like Stephen Hawking.
It's hard to tell through his computerized voice, but you'd probably guess that Hawking was humoring an oblivious Homer about his doughnut-shaped universe theory. It really does sound like something a child would come up with, or at the ramblings of a man who sleep-eats 52 slices of American cheese on a regular basis.
In reality, the doughnut-universe theory is considered valid and credible within the scientific community.
The doughnut-universe theory hinges on the universe being ring-shaped and finite, as opposed to vast and infinite, and there's evidence to back it up. We definitely won't know for sure if Homer is right during our lifetime, so we're free to believe in the theory from the guy who thinks a "saxomophone" is a real instrument.