White hair--or blue, they've much in common

TWO PEARLS OF MOTHERHOOD

October 18, 1990|By Holly Selby

This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Marge -- the ever-supportive mother on Fox Broadcasting's hit show "The Simpsons" -- recently became pen pals with First Lady Barbara Bush.

It didn't begin all that well: Mrs. Bush was quoted as calling "The Simpsons" "the dumbest thing" she'd ever seen, to which Mrs. Simpson responded with a Sept. 28 letter, in which she described herself as deeply hurt. But soon after, Mrs. Bush answered with a friendly note, complete with a postscript that said, "Homer looks like a handsome fella."

The exchange may end there, but who knows? After all, the two ladies stand for similar values -- and they do dress a lot alike.

Indeed, television viewers seem to like Mrs. Simpson for the same reasons they took to her pen pal, says Karen Stoddard, chairman of the Communications Arts Department at Notre Dame College.

"Like Mrs. Bush, Marge is incredibly nice and supportive of her children and her husband. She's traditional according to the mythical image we have of mothers. She is the way we wish all mothers would be," she says.

"And she wears those damn pearls."

Certainly, neither woman is known for couture dressing. Mrs. Simpson, in fact, was recently placed on TV Guide's trashiest dresser list. (Mrs. Bush was not.)

Nonetheless, Mrs. Simpson, like the white-haired Mrs. Bush, seems content with the way she looks. "Those pearls signify a very traditional outlook on life," says Alan Entin, a family psychologist in Richmond, Va.

And Mrs. Simpson -- whose TV show is Fox's highest rated ever -- brings to stardom a certain feeling of comfortableness, much like the feeling Mrs. Bush introduced into the White House after the Reagan era.

Some television personalities are so glamorous people can never measure up to the standards they set, says Mr. Entin. But "when we see people like Marge we say, 'We're like that.' Like with Mrs. Bush. She's for real. She looks like a mother is supposed to look."

In addition, Mrs. Bush has proudly brought attention to the fact that she chose family over career, says Mike Marsden, professor of popular culture at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.

Mrs. Simpson, too, stays home, "but you get no indication that Marge didn't get that choice. And when you put Marge in that context, as a woman who chose to stay home, well, like Barbara Bush, she is a remarkable woman. She's always the center of the family, the anchor."

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