Thursday, January 8, 2009

Call Me Tanya... From The Simpsons

Quite a while ago, a book was purchased for me: The Simpsons Rainy Day Fun Book. It being exactly what it sounds like, I happily cut out the various exercises and tricks the book offers — in retrospect, in an effort to appease parents of children who had become enamored with such catchphrases as “Don’t have a cow, man” and “Eat my shorts.” Think paper airplanes, word puzzles, fun recipes kids can make(!) and the like.

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.


I can only imagine that the makers of the Simpsons Rainy Day Fun Book decided that the show lacked any appealing young female characters and consequently named and showcased Tanya, in hopes that she’d eventually make her way back onto the show. After all, the original book hit shelves in 1991, when either the second season was ending or the third one was beginning. Many characters had not yet grown into the roles they have now. However, we’re currently at the twentieth season now, when even seeming one-timers like 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:


  1. Also, the bow in her hair keeps changing from pink to red. This disgruntles me further.

  2. Also, if you look at the first image of her, the artist made a mistake drawing what's behind her hoop earring: It should be hair and neck, but it's all hair. D'oh.

  3. That's some good detective work Lou... err, Drew.

    Sorry I started to channel Chief Wiggum there.

  4. R-D-R-R indeed.

    Something else I've wondered is about Ms. Mellon, the teacher at the gifted school. Re-watching the episode recently, I assumed she was voiced by Marcia Wallace, who also voices Mrs. Krabappel. They sound really similar. But IMDb lists someone named Jo Ann Harris, who used to also voice Bart's friend Lewis (he was silenced long ago) and did a few other roles early in the series. But Ms. Mellon sounds similar to Mrs. Krabappel to the point that I wonder if maybe the similarity is intention and Mellon is supposed to be a sort of alternate dimension Krabappel, even if she appears too early in the series for such a reference. Nonetheless, Melons and crab apples are both fruits.

  5. I think Tanya might be a long-lost member of the Bouvier family.

  6. Nathan: Is it the blue hair or the daring choice in earrings?

    Personally, I think she looks a bit like Milhouse's stylish older sister.

  7. I think what I like best about Tanya is the fact her left sleeve doesn't have any color in it! (see cut-out)