Homer the great binge drinker

19 January 2010

Written by: Tom Cowie

Sunday morning. I am engulfed by complete darkness.

One by one my senses begin to reappear. The sound of a thousand screaming rocks being ground to a pulp filters through. It takes a moment to realise it is merely a hills hoist blowing in the wind.

Suddenly the pain kicks in. From my dance-weary feet all the way up to my drought-stricken head, every part of my body hates me for last night’s exploits.

I decide to take the surprisingly complex step of opening my eyes. After adjusting to the seemingly dazzling light, relief pours in as I realise I have somehow made it back to the safety of my own bedroom.

For many young people, this excruciating phenomenon is both a normal and acceptable part of their weekly routine.

Fumbling over the ingredients of my unique hangover cure – poached eggs on vegemite toast – I feel I need someone or something to blame. The heat; the cheap wine; the lack of salt for tequila shots. Anything but myself.

Whilst devouring my sustenance, I have a vague recollection of a mate’s rambling theory from a few hours previous that Homer Simpson is responsible for the current binge-drinking culture.

Could it be that the most endearing fictional character of my generation is to blame for my current woes?

It sounds vaguely possible. After all, the image of this lovable drunk has been broadcast into our lounge room at least once a night since my very earliest memories.

Plus he is rarely seen to discourage even his own offspring from dabbling in alcoholic ways. In answer to Bart’s question-in-song-form “Can I be a booze hound?” Homer warns “Not ‘til you’re 15”.

At least he is not shoving it done his throat…or is he?

The theory calls for couch-based testing.

My chosen episode is a classic. The sort you will hear quoted time and time again. It is episode 171 – Homer vs the Eighteenth Amendment.

After Bart becomes intoxicated at a St Patrick’s Day parade, prohibition is reintroduced and it is up to our chunky protagonist to refill the town’s beer glasses.

The early signs indicate the theory has definite potential.

It does occur to me, however, that we cannot judge our own drinking culture on this American-centric view of the world. There needs to be something to bridge the societal gap.

The Victorian State Government has been criticised for their lack of inquiry into this issue, forcing me to turn to a study from north of the Murray.

The NSW Government Fact Sheet for Alcohol and Young People presents several factors that can lead to alcohol abuse.

Factor number one: peer pressure.

As Bart stumbles down the street, we see his school friends yelling “Yay, Bart!”

Check.

Next factor: alcohol is used as a catalyst for social gatherings.

Enter the scene where bar-owner Moe Syzlak is asked what sort of pet shop is “filled with rambunctious yahoos and hot jazz music at one o’clock in the morning?”

Moe’s response – “the best damn pet shop in town!”

Check.

Final major factor: children will imitate the environment they grow up in.

Throughout the series it is not uncommon to hear Homer’s catchcry of “I’m going down to Moe’s for a couple of beers” to get away from his life’s problems.

Here, though, the roles are reversed and it is Bart who offers the phrase.

“I’ll come with you!” is his father’s reply.

Check. Check.

As the episode progresses, I become more and more intoxicated with my friend’s theory.

Then comes the finale – a street party where everybody is invited and the liquor flows like bogans to a monster truck rally. Our hero proposes a toast “to alcohol – the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.”

And then it hits me. Our bingeing culture cannot be blamed on The Simpsons, or any other cultural phenomena for that matter.

Neither can it be said, like Homer Jay so eloquently puts it, that alcohol itself is the cause. Human nature will always find a means of escape from the drudgery of day-to-day life.

In the end the problem comes down to individual responsibility. It is my choice to go out drinking every weekend. It follows that it is my choice to wake up the next morning in a catatonic state.

Moreover, it is even the choice of some to get into drunken brawls and for others to have unwanted surprises nine months after a big night out.

We could accept this, or just keep thinking like our yellow, fat and bald philosopher.

Because it was he who once proclaimed; “When will I learn? The answer to life’s problems aren’t at the bottom of a bottle, they’re on TV!”

Sam Drummond is a law student at Monash University and a SYN radio broadcaster. He has also been published at the National Times.