H
omer Simpson has come between Marcel and his friends.

Last Tuesday, Marcel left middle school muttering. His English teacher had begun keeping her classroom open during lunch to screen episodes of The Simpsons for interested students. It’s hardly surprising that a lot of students turned out to be interested—sixth graders in particular, boys and girls that Marcel had come to count on seeing during their lunch breaks.

Marcel loves The Simpsons—maybe even more than the average kid—so it’s significant that he would find the opportunity to screen 10-year-old Treehouse of Horror episodes objectionable. It speaks more to the hours of work he’s invested in building a community of peers and the degree to which he is missing their fellowship and lame, pick-up kickball games than for any disdain for the Matt Groening franchise that I was hearing about it.

“Do you just want to watch The Simpsons, too?” I asked him, confused.

“No,” he said, exasperated. “I don’t want to go in, I want them to come out.”

When Marcel was in the third grade, recesses were difficult. The social demands and challenges of the unstructured breaks between classroom time created problems that trailed him throughout his day until the last bell rang. To this day, I’m grateful to his first grade teacher—a woman who hadn’t had Marcel in her class for a full two years—for opening her classroom to him during recess. He stapled papers there, helped out around her room and just generally hang out until the bell rang to summon him back to class.

So I’m ambivalent about what’s happening for Marcel at lunchtime right now. I sympathize with those other sixth graders, the ones who may not have found anyone yet to commiserate with at lunch or to kick the ball with after. At the same time, Marcel has worked hard to build connections with peers at this new school. He did his fair share of hunching over his sack lunch those first few months, tentatively building connections with strangers at a new school, but he did it!

I have pretty definite opinions about the place that television should have in and around the classroom but I don’t want to pretend that this is entirely about that. What I really want to know is where was this teacher, with her lax media policy and her Simpsons boxed sets, at the beginning of the school year? Now that he’s done the yeoman’s work of socializing and integrating and stumbling and, finally, succeeding, now a teacher is going to undermine his one window for social connection with daily showings of an animated satire?

In talking to Marcel, I’ve been more generous about the teacher. I’ve told him that it is a service that she is providing to children who’ve yet to find their place at the middle school and that he should just tell his friends that he is missing them during lunch.

Quietly, I’m hoping The Simpsons finds itself cancelled in the classroom now that the students are back from Thanksgiving break.