I can’t remember how many conversations I’ve had that haven’t contained at least three references to The Simpsons – it honestly may be easier to count the conversations that didn’t contain reference to Matt Groening’s cartoon creation. If you’re an Irish person of a certain age, your post-school afternoons were built around waiting for The Simpsons to come on RTÉ 2 (or Sky 1 if we’re being fancy). And the long-lasting appeal of the show, or at least the show’s first 8 or so seasons, has carried over to social media. Irish Simpsons Fans is one of the most popular Facebook groups in Ireland, with over thirty-thousand members. While the show’s quality has been on a decline for years, the Facebook group has the momentum of a runaway freigh train. I spoke to Michelle, one of the admins of Irish Simpsons Fans (ISF), to ask her why they are so popular.
Express: How did Irish Simpsons fans come about and how long did it take for the group to take off?
Michelle: Two of the admins attended the same conference, and discussed being fans of a UK-based Simpsons fan group, and came up with the idea of an Irish version. This time last year we were at 11,000 members, and we are currently at 33,000. We began growing rapidly last summer after news sites began picking up our content.
Express: The group seems to go through different trends of memes. What have some of your favourite (and least favourite) trends been?
I really like the 8th of December memes that poked fun at people descending on Dublin for Christmas shopping. Of course, Gerry Adams memes are staples, they’re great. Not a massive fan of wrestling memes; they tend to be very niche, and fans of wrestling often comment on them confused. And those rhyming Valentines posts can get into the sea…
Express: What is it about The Simpsons, do you think, that it’s sustained such a level of popularity 20 years after arguably its peak of popularity?
Michelle: The Simpsons is classic and timeless, and part of a load of people’s childhoods. The quotes and characters are instantly recognisable, and I don’t think there’s a person in the country who hasn’t at least seen one episode.
Express: The group now has over 30,000 members. Can it be tough to admin & moderate/manage a group of that size?
Michelle: When we broke 5 figures we made the decision to bring on moderators, as there were only 4 admins at the time. It took the pressure off and we all work together to keep the page fun and enjoyable. We’ve dealt with it on the page before. Deleting and moderating comments, blocking if necessary. We’re a fun spot, and we haven’t time for that. But on a personal level, I found that some members have gotten sexist or aggressive to me when I deleted something they liked. I noticed it when I compared it to messages the other admins received.
Express: There have been some feuds with other meme groups along the way: how have they gone, and how was ISF able to stave off the competition?
Michelle: Hindsight is 2020, and if we had our time over we’d probably do things differently. We’ve found that things will take care of themselves if we continue to run the page in the best way possible. The page stays very current, we’ll see a meme on an event or situation within minutes of that news breaking, which keeps us growing
Express: ISF recently launched a fundraiser for the Repeal campaign: can you tell me more about how that came about, and how it’s gone?
Michelle: It was something we discussed for a while, especially as some of our team know people involved in the coalition [to repeal the eighth amendment]. 100% of the profits from sales do go to the coalition, and feedback has been great. I saw 3 different people in one day wearing the Lisa Repeal jumper that my best friend Brian Quinn designed, which is fantastic. We also love getting suggestions and designs from our members, so drop us a line on Twitter or by email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Express: Are there any other future plans for ISF, outside of a steady flow of quality Simpsons memes?
Michelle: We’ll keep you posted
Thanks to Michelle for talking to us. If you want to join ISF yourself, you can find it by going to Facebook.com/SimpsonsIreland. They can also be found over on Twitter, @iresimpsonsfans, and their merch can be bought by going to SimpsonsForRepeal.Threadless.com.