Along with other recurring characters like Mr Burns, Fat Tony, and Jimbo, Kearney and Dolph, Sideshow Bob is one of The Simpsons‘ long-standing villains. If asked to define Robert Underdunk Terwilliger’s primary motivation in a sentence, most Simpsons fans would probably say “to kill Bart Simpson”.
But till I recently re-watched the season one episode ‘Krusty Gets Busted’ I’d forgotten that Bob wasn’t always motivated by mere homodical rage. And nor did Bob only frame Krusty the Klown in that instalment because he was sick of being the butt of Krusty’s jokes (though he admits this was an important factor:
“Yes, I admit it, I hated him,” Bob confesses as Chief Wiggum leads him away in cuffs. “His hackney shennanigans robbed me of my dignity for years. I played the buffoon, while he squandered a fortune on his vulgar appitites. That’s why I framed Krusty.”)
But interestingly, Bob also sought to get rid of Krusty because he was sick of the clown dumbing-down his young audience, who Bob exposed to the likes of high-culture beacons including Gore Vidal and Susan Sontag. Screams Bob:
“Treat kids as equals! They’re people too! They’re smarter than you think! They were smart enough to catch me!”
Early seasons of The Simpsons focused on the idea that Our Favourite Family is so dysfunctional they corrupt everyone who crosses their path, and Bob’s speedy reduction from “homicidal cultural advocate” to “homocidal sociopath” fits pretty well with this theme. As far as I can remember, Bob’s goal to cultivate the minds of children never resurfaces as a factor in his later schemes, making it a curious, forgotten remnant of his initial characterisation.