A slightly less while ago, someone gave me a second version of this book: the aforementioned activity book combined with its dry weather version, The Simpsons Ultra-Jumbo Rain-or-Shine Fun Book, which included outdoor activities as well as the ones created to entertain the homebound and resentful.
It’s from this second, two-faced version of the book that I have scanned what you see below, which came from a paper-puppet activity which was titled “Put On Your Own TV Show” and which encouraged children to position paper cut-out versions of Simpsons characters in front of a backdrop of the Simpson family living room, with the expectation that this would be somehow fun. I suppose it might have been. I never partook. However, I did flip past these pages, which included various members of the Simpsons cast, all of which were immediately familiar, save for one: some bitch named Tanya.
What the hell? Really, even nine-year-old me would have felt the need to ask, “Who on Ganesha’s green earth is Tanya?”
If you’ll note the page Tanya appears on — the second of three, I note, as I flip through the book today — she appears to be deserving of being located on the same page as such Springfield Elementary regulars as Principal Skinner, Mrs. Krabappel, Otto, Nelson, and Milhouse. (Barney, Apu and Moe appear on the same page, but, given Tanya’s height, I’d guess she’s not intended to be a bar patron or Kwik-E-Mart employee.)
Her appearance alongside instantly recognizable Simpsons characters is puzzling. I mean, even I — a diehard Simpsons fan — don’t readily recognize her. I might assume her presence results from a desire on the parts of the book’s creators to appeal to any potential female rain-plagued activity seekers. After all, by virtue of being massively unpopular, Lisa Simpson lacks any female friends worth exhibiting. Bart too. Even the villainous twincicles Sherri and Terri appear on the subsequent page, curiously alongside such antagonists as Mr. Burns and Sideshow Bob. In fact, the closest that Lisa has to a good friend would be Janey Powell, the dark brown-haired and pink-dressed friend who originally appeared in “Bart the General” and who infrequently pops in again whenever it’s convenient that Lisa has a friend. Otherwise, Lisa is friendless. (Kind of like Family Guy’s Meg Griffin, come to think of it.) Janey does not get to be a cut-out. Anyway, I really do think that the presence of the mysterious Tanya results only from the fact that she has both earrings and a necklace and someone involved in the creation of this Simpsons-themed book assumed these qualities would appeal to girls.
But, it turns out, Tanya does actually have a place in Simpsons history, however small. It took a while, but as a result of the fact that I couldn’t shake the feeling that Tanya didn’t look wholly strange, I eventually thought of where I might have seen her before: The second-ever episode of The Simpsons, “Bart the Genius,” in which Bart tricks the world into thinking he’s special-in-the-good-way and consequently ends up in smart kid school.
Among his fellow students is none other than Tanya.
Princess Kashmir and Ms. Albright and Lurleen Lumpkin have made repeat appearances. Tanya has not appeared again, so it would be a pretty safe bet to say that we won’t.
Mystery solved, I guess, but what a strange bit to trip us up upon, so many years down the road. And what ever happened to Tanya? Did she — unlike the rest of the Simpsons cast — continue to age realistically since she was Bart’s classmate in 1990? Is she really 29 now? Did she opt to not be featured again on The Simspons? Is she relieved? Resentful?
Those questions, I suppose, would demand another post.
The Simpsons, previously: