Sympathy for Ralph Wiggum

Dear Ralph:

I thought it was a good idea to reach out to you, since you’ve been the source of so much bitterness and resentment over the past couple of weeks from many of my fellow Canadians, especially those of us from Atlantic Canada.

See, we caught your starring role as “Random Child From Newfoundland” when your show, The Simpsons, devoted its April 28 episode to my country. And I’m sure you put your all into delivering your one spoken-word line, “I’m a Newfie,” and then taking a baseball bat to a plush seal-pup toy while singing a traditional Newfoundland song whose origin is still a mystery to me.

First of all Ralph, I want you to know that I have no hard feelings about that scene in the episode entitled “D’Oh Canada.” I recognize that you, as the sophisticated actor you are, were simply playing the part that was assigned to you. After all, over the 30-year run of The Simpsons, you’ve played everybody from George Washington to Hamlet’s enemy Laertes, as well as a brave shepherd in the story of David and Goliath. “Stupid Newfie” was just the latest step in this fine tradition of a true thespian.

Besides, you’ve expertly depicted geographical areas in previous episodes. Who could forget your stirring rendition of “O Canada” while dressed as a Mountie as a fight broke out in the Springfield Elementary Model United Nations? How could we not be moved by your depiction of the state of Idaho, which consisted of wearing an “IDAHO” sign and gaily announcing to Principal Skinner and your fellow students, “I’m Idaho!”

You’ve done it all, Ralph. You were the first cast member to appear in The Simpsons Movie, barging into the 20th-Century Fox logo to sing the back half of the studio’s theme music. You even had the distinction of being Springfield’s chosen presidential candidate in the 2008 U.S. election. (You’d also make a fine candidate for 2020, especially since you appear to have a greater grasp on reality than the current White House occupant. But that’s for another time.)

So, to return my first point: That scene in “D’Oh Canada” isn’t your fault. Episode writer Tim Long, an Ontario native who I had previously trusted as one of the brave new wave of Simpsons writers, crafted that ridiculous role for you and the producers dropped it in your lap. And like the good little soldier you are, you took it on as just another part to play and did it with zeal and aplomb.

I’ve lost you? Ah…You did that scene with enthusiasm. No? With determination. No? Um…You were a good boy. Okay. There we are.

Again, it’s not your fault. You’re not the first Simpsons cast member to get yanked into a plotline about clubbing seal-pups. Remember the “Replaceable You” episode from 2011, when Bart Simpson and Martin Prince made a friendly baby-seal toy for a science fair, and the toy company that bought the rights to it accidentally unleashed a wave of angry little seals on Springfield? You don’t remember? After 600 episodes, they “all start to blend together”? Yeah, I hear you, Ralph.

You probably also don’t remember that one of your three – ahem – “fathers,” Simpsons co-creator Sam Simon, campaigned against the Newfoundland seal hunt and even went to the province to offer seal hunters $1 million each to quit the hunt. He brought along that actress who used to play the lifeguard on that show, Pamela Anderson, who helped the cause by announcing that “$1 million is a lot of money in Newfoundland.” It didn’t quite work, especially after an actual Newfoundland comic, Mark Critch, showed up and offered Ms. Anderson $1 million to quit acting, as if she had even started “acting.”

The point is, Ralph, you were used as a political pawn in the guise of a failed joke. Even the seal-pup doll you were clubbing isn’t accurate, because the Newfoundland seal hunt doesn’t permit baby seals to be so much as injured. But perhaps your producers, remembering Mr. Simon’s crusade and wanting to honour his memory, shoved it into what could have been a decent scene about how Canadians routinely stereotype the people of both Quebec and Newfoundland, and sullied the whole thing in the process.

I hope you get a better part in a future Simpsons episode, Ralph. Maybe, in the meantime, your police chief daddy could take you to see Come From Away, a more accurate depiction of Newfoundlanders and their assistance to America in its time of need. They’re much more than a cheap stereotype or a flimsy punchline.

Your friend from Atlantic Canada,


P.S. Along with The Simpsons’ writers and producers, you should probably ignore that leprechaun sitting on your shoulder. He’s just bad news.