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The Simpsons character
Seymour Skinner.png
Seymour Skinner
Gender Male
Job Principal of Springfield Elementary School and former singer
Relatives Father: Sheldon Skinner (deceased)
Mother: Agnes Skinner
Voice actor Harry Shearer
First appearance
The Simpsons "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire"

Principal W. Seymour Skinner (born in Capitol City as Armin Tamzarian)[1][2] is a fictional character on the animated sitcom The Simpsons who was born sometime in 1953, voiced by Harry Shearer. He is the interim principal of Springfield Elementary School, and a stereotypical educational bureaucrat. He struggles to control the crumbling school and is constantly engaged in a battle against its inadequate resources, apathetic and bitter teachers, and often rowdy and unenthusiastic students, Bart Simpson being a standout example. A strict disciplinarian, Skinner has an uptight, militaristic attitude that stems from his years in the United States Army as a Green Beret, which included service in the Vietnam War, in which he was captured by the Viet Cong and was held as a war prisoner for eighteen months. Skinner is also quite bitter about the treatment he and other Vietnam veterans received upon returning from the war. "Yeah sure, and they told me I'd get a big parade after I got back from 'nam. Instead they spat on me. I can still feel it searing."

Contents

Role in The Simpsons

Out of genuine concern for the quality of education of his students, most of Skinner's actions revolve around ensuring the school has adequate funding. His constant desperate, and usually ineffective attempts at maintaining discipline are an effort to receive good reviews from the frequent inspections of his very strict boss, Superintendent Chalmers - who makes no effort to hide his disapproval of Skinner. These inspections usually turn awry due to Bart Simpson's elaborate pranks—which play off Skinner's desperation for order. Over the years of pranks and inspections, though, Skinner has developed a love-hate relationship with each of them; when Skinner was fired and replaced by Ned Flanders, Bart found pranks less meaningful, due to Flanders' lax approach to discipline.[3] In an accident involving both Skinner and Chalmers, Chalmers showed grief over Skinner before he realized he was still alive.[4] Although he likes to maintain the image of a strict disciplinarian, he is often weak-willed and nervous and has a very unhealthy dependence on his mother who constantly makes demands from him. In an early episode, she addresses him by the nickname "Spanky."[5] Also, earlier on in the show, it was heavily implied that Seymour Skinner suffers from posttraumatic stress disorder from his days in Vietnam, where he spent 18 months as a prisoner of war.[6][7] Seeing his entire platoon devoured by an Elephant was one of the many things that led to the development of his posttraumatic stress disorder. Skinner's unhealthy relationship with his mother began early: it is revealed in the episode Boy Meets Curl that Agnes's pregnancy resulted in her failing to win a medal at the Helsinki Olympics in 1952.

Aside from a short-lived relationship with Patty Bouvier,[8] Skinner's love life has focused on Edna Krabappel. The two dated for several years and became engaged,[9] but later cancelled the wedding.[10] Edna has shown she does want to live a life with Skinner, but first wants him to commit to her—namely by not letting his mother, with whom he still lives, control him anymore. In the early years of the show, it was implied that Seymour and his mother had a relationship similar to that of Norman Bates and his mother from the film Psycho. During the early years of the show, it was established that Skinner had served as a sergeant in the US Army during the Vietnam War and been captured at the Battle of Khe Sanh. Skinner often seems weak-willed and easily suppressed—perhaps because he wants to avoid confrontation—but often will use his military command experience gained in the Vietnam War to get real respect and discipline; when he and the students were snowed-in at the school, he treated them like his squad to control the chaos temporarily—before they mutinied.[11]

The controversial season nine episode "The Principal and the Pauper" revolutionises Skinner's back-story, revealing that Skinner is an imposter. Born Armin Tamzarian, it emerges that he was a troubled orphan until he was forced into the United States Army during the Vietnam War. There, he was befriended by Sgt. Seymour Skinner, whom he came to idolize. When Skinner was reported missing presumed dead, Tamzarian returned to Springfield to tell Skinner's mother, but she deliberately mistook him for Seymour, so he assumed his identity and followed Skinner's dream of becoming a school principal. In the season 8, episode "The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase", it is revealed that Skinner (AKA Armin Tamzarian) was born in New Orleans. The real Seymour Skinner (voiced by Martin Sheen), had been alive after all, and briefly returned to Springfield to take his rightful place as Springfield Elementary School Principal, but had proved hopelessly unpopular and the Springfielders ran him out of town on the railroad. Judge Snyder granted Tamzarian Skinner's "name, and his past, present, future, and mother", and decreed that no one will mention his true identity again "under penalty of torture". The episode provoked a very negative reaction both from fans and the show's staff. A clip from the episode was used in season eleven's "Behind the Laughter" as an example of the show's increasingly "gimmicky and nonsensical plots".

Character

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Creation

Principal Skinner first appeared in "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire", which was also the first Simpsons episode to air.[12] The first drawing of Skinner was done by Matt Groening,[13] who based him on "all the principals of [his] youth, rolled into one bland lump."[14] Writer Jon Vitti named him after behavioral psychologist B. F. Skinner.[15] An original idea for Skinner was that he would continually mispronounce words. He does this in the series premiere "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire," but the idea was later dropped.[16] Skinner was originally supposed to wear a toupée, but it was dropped because the writers didn't like "that type of joke."[17] In later episodes, Skinner's behavior was based on teachers that Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein had in high school.[18]

Development

Superintendent Chalmers was introduced in the episode "Whacking Day" as a boss for Skinner. Harry Shearer and Hank Azaria, the voice of Chalmers, fell right into the characters and quite often ad-lib between them.[19]

In "The Principal and the Pauper" it is revealed that Skinner was not who he claimed to be and was really named Armin Tamzarian. The episode was pitched and written by Ken Keeler and he was inspired by the Tichborne Case of nineteenth century England.[20] Producers Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein were excited about the episode because Principal Skinner was one of their favorite characters. They "spent a month immersed in the mind of Seymour Skinner" to prepare that episode, and from that point forward, took every opportunity to "tinker with [Skinner's] personality and his backstory and his homelife." They intended for the episode to be "an experiment" and that the ending was meant to allow viewers to reset to the point before Skinner was revealed to be an impostor.[21] The revelation that Principal Skinner was an impostor and the self-referential deus ex machina ending were negatively received by many fans and critics.[22][23] Oakley considers "The Principal and the Pauper" the most controversial episode from his tenure as executive producer.[21] In a 2001 interview, Harry Shearer, the voice of Principal Skinner, recalled that after reading the script, he told the writers, "That's so wrong. You're taking something that an audience has built eight years or nine years of investment in and just tossed it in the trash can for no good reason, for a story we've done before with other characters. It's so arbitrary and gratuitous, and it's disrespectful to the audience."[24][25] The writers themselves have since mocked the inconsistencies created by the episode; in the season 15 episode I, (Annoyed Grunt)-Bot, Lisa is seen writing Snowball II on a cat food dish to save money after what would be the third Snowball's purchase. Skinner walks by and asks "that's really a cheat, isn't it?" to which Lisa pointedly replies, "I guess you're right, Principal Tamzarian." Further clouding the issue, Agnes claims in "Boy Meets Curl" that one of Skinner's pre-natal kicks dislodged the crossbar and cost Agnes a gold medal in the pole vault in the Helsinki Olympics. A flashback reveals a fetus that bore a strong resemblance to Principal Skinner.

Before he was a principal, he taught fourth grade science.[26] Skinner is also fatally allergic to peanuts.[27]

References

  1. ^ ""The Simpsons" The Principal and the Pauper (1997) at IMDB". http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0701257/. 
  2. ^ ""The Principal and the Pauper"". The Simpsons Episode Guide. http://www.thesimpsons.com/episode_guide/0902.htm. Retrieved 2007-08-04. )
  3. ^ "Sweet Seymour Skinner's Baadasssss Song". Oakley, Bill; Weinstein, Josh; Anderson, Bob. The Simpsons. Fox. 1994-04-28. No. 19, season 5.
  4. ^ "The Debarted". Cohen, Joel H.; Nastuk, Matthew. The Simpsons. Fox. 2008-03-02. No. 13, season 19.
  5. ^ The Simpsons episode "The Crepes of Wrath"
  6. ^ The Simpsons episode "I Love Lisa"
  7. ^ The Simpsons episode "The Boy who knew too much" deleted scene
  8. ^ "Principal Charming". Stern, David M.; Kirkland, Mark. The Simpsons. Fox. 1991-02-14. No. 14, season 2.
  9. ^ "Special Edna". Snee, Dennis; Anderson, Bob. The Simpsons. Fox. 2003-01-05. No. 7, season 14.
  10. ^ "My Big Fat Geek Wedding". Curran, Kevin; Kirkland, Mark. The Simpsons. Fox. 2004-04-18. No. 17, season 15.
  11. ^ "Skinner's Sense of Snow". Long, Tim; Kramer, Lance. The Simpsons. Fox. 2000-12-17. No. 8, season 12.
  12. ^ Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire". BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/simpsons/episodeguide/season1/page1.shtml. Retrieved 2008-12-20. 
  13. ^ Silverman, David. (2001). Commentary for "Bart the Genius", in The Simpsons: The Complete First Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  14. ^ Joe Rhodes (2000-10-21). "Flash! 24 Simpsons Stars Reveal Themselves". TV Guide. 
  15. ^ Reiss, Mike. (2002). Commentary for "Principal Charming", in The Simpsons: The Complete Second Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  16. ^ Groening, Matt. (2001). Commentary for "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire", in The Simpsons: The Complete First Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  17. ^ Groening, Matt. (2002). Commentary for "Principal Charming", in The Simpsons: The Complete SecondSeason [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  18. ^ Weinstein, Josh. (2004). Commentary for "Sweet Seymour Skinner's Baadasssss Song", in The Simpsons: The Complete Fifth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  19. ^ Jean, Al. (2004). Commentary for "Whacking Day", in The Simpsons: The Complete Fourth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  20. ^ Keeler, Ken. (2006). Commentary for "The Principal and the Pauper", in The Simpsons: The Complete Ninth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  21. ^ a b Oakley, Bill. (2006). Commentary for "The Principal and the Pauper", in The Simpsons: The Complete Ninth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  22. ^ Sloane, Robert (2004). "Who Wants Candy? Disenchantment in The Simpsons". in John Alberti. Leaving Springfield: The Simpsons and the Possibility of Oppositional Culture. Wayne State University Press. p. 165. ISBN 0814328490. 
  23. ^ Turner, Chris (2005). Planet Simpson: How a Cartoon Masterpiece Documented an Era and Defined a Generation. pp. 41–42. ISBN 0-679-31318-4. 
  24. ^ Wilonsky, Robert (2001-04-27). "Shearer Delight". East Bay Express. http://www.eastbayexpress.com/gyrobase/shearer_delight/Content?oid=282154&showFullText=true. Retrieved 2008-12-20. 
  25. ^ Goldstein, Meredith (2006-12-07). "Tapping into the many roles of Harry Shearer". The Boston Globe. p. 8E. 
  26. ^ "Bart the Murderer". Swartzwelder, John; Moore, Rich. The Simpsons. Fox. 1991-10-10. No. 4, season 3.
  27. ^ "Please Homer, Don't Hammer 'Em"

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