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HOMER O'SIMPSON; Working class zero was Irish.

Byline: EDDIE FITZMAURICE

ENGLISH comic strips in the late 1800s were the unlikely inspiration for Homer Simpson, the world's most lovable loser.

The Simpsons' makers are said to have drawn on negative stereotypes applied to the Irish by the English when creating Homer's character for US TV.

Canadian writer and historian Jeet Heer claims Homer's aversion to hard work, his fondness for booze, even his distinctive jaw-line can be seen in propaganda depictions of the Irish in 19th century England.

Mr Heer, an anthropologist from York University in Toronto, said: "We've already seen how the minstrel/blackface image lives on in the guise of Mickey Mouse and other cartoon creations. Something similar has happened to the Victorian stereotype of the Irish, which now has mysteriously transformed into the relatively benign form of Homer Simpson."

Mr Heer claims English fears over independence for Ireland led to the Irish being portrayed in terms that would today be regarded as overtly racist.

He said: "The Victorian image, created by a mixture of English anxiety over the Irish independence movement and the rise of pseudo-Darwinian racial science, typically portrays the Irish as a separate race, closer to our primate cousins than to humans.

"In countless Victorian cartoons the typical Irishman was shown to be violent, ignorant and drink-prone."

Mr Heer, who has made a study of cultural influences on The Simpson's, claims Homer's character can also be traced back to an Irish-American comic strip Bringing Up Father from 1913.

The central character, Jiggs, is a former construction worker who retains a love of Irish working class culture despite moving up the social scale.

Mr Heer added: "Jiggs is the transitional figure between the 19th century depiction of the typical Irishman and Homer Simpson.

"But like Jiggs, Homer is proudly and aggressively common, resistant to reform, fond of alcohol and resigned to his family situation although occasionally balky.

"In spite of this he is also perceived as loving his family and having a good heart. Many men see themselves in Homer."

CAPTION(S):

Cartoon capers... The Simpsons are derived from scurrilous 19th Century art Fine figure of a man... Homer J Simpson
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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Dec 20, 2009
Words:357
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