There are few things that all humans have in common. The first two, tool usage and the capacity for higher reason are widely known, but the third- the love of The Simpsons, is rarely recognized. And now that we know that higher order primates are capable of tool usage and dolphins are said to be capable of higher reasoning, we can really say that the only thing that separates us from the animals is our near universal love of The Simpsons – and in particular, Bart Simpson.
One of the more interesting ways this love manifests itself is through bootleg Bart shirts. If you’re not familiar with Bootleg Bart shirts, seriously where the fuck have you been? If you ever went to a flea market, a truck stop or really any place that sold cheap ass t-shirts during the 90’s you must have seen one at least once. You might have seen one and not known it was bootleg, and frankly the shirts that mirror the originals, albeit entertaining at times, pale in comparison to the crazy bootlegs from the hood and around the world, especially countries with lots of black folks. There’s an entire facebook page devoted to these bootlegs.
Bootleg Bart was prevalent in all sorts of countercultural movements, but really he came to shine in the black community. The idea was to take a popular cultural phenomena and integrate it with The Simpsons, hence we get afro-centric Black Bart quoting Malcolm X and threatening to blast whitey.
As the folks at Egotripland explain,
“People could relate to him, and so, they adopted him. Bart’s anti-establishment stance fused easily with the burgeoning Afrocentric, knowledge-of-self movement that was overtaking hip-hop, which expressed itself in the clothing that we wore. If you didn’t wear some kind of “Black and Proud” statement on your person, whether it be in the form of leather Africa medallions, a “Negro League” baseball jersey, an “African American College Alliance” sweatshirt, or an oversized tee with some other “I’m Black” affirmation on it meant, well, you just weren’t down for the cause, G.”
In a weird way, Black Bart helped me to connect with my own culture. When I was a little kid my parents would take me to Jamaica to visit our relatives. They were from Kingston and not the nice part (is there really a nice part?), but THE. HOOD. The suburb of Newark where I was born and raised seemed relatively cushy compared to Kingston. 8pm curfews, gunshots lulling us to sleep. The neighborhood kids disregarded my Osh-Kosh wearing ass so I’d make friends with the animals roaming the neighborhood, only to find out the next day that my family had eaten them (fairly certain this might have inspired my vegetarianism).
My parents didn’t want us spoiled American punks to go home with a bad impression of the place, so they’d take us to the touristy parts (aka where the white people were). Usually around the landmarks there’d be these corny-ass flea markets appealing to tourists. They had the typical junk found in any touristy flea market in the Caribbean, sculptures made of puka shells, purses made of coconut shells, wide-brimmed hats for the old folks to preserve their precious white skin, etc. But it was here, at these lame-ass markets, that I had my first experience with Rasta-Bart. Once I saw my culture integrated with something I was familiar with, I came to realize the people of my parent’s homeland weren’t so different from me. We had at least one thing in common- our love of The Simpsons. And when I went back to Kingston and the neighborhood kids complimented us on our awesome Bootleg Bart shirts, my siblings and I were no longer those sheltered American brats, we were one of them. This is the kind of power these shirts have- the power to bring cultures together. If there’s one thing I regret most in life, it’s not keeping my Rasta-bart shirt. Granted, that shirt would probably only fit over about half my titties, but still. Now trying to find these shirts is like tracking a mothafucking unicorn. And when I have found these shirts to buy, folks are trying to sell them for bookoo bucks (really can I blame them?).
In the name of cultural understanding, I really want to demand these shirts come back BUT, if I were to wake up one day only to see these shirts at Urban Outfitters or some shit, I know a huge piece of my soul would die. So maybe these shirts are gonna have to be an endangered species we don’t want to preserve. Like the Dodo of t-shirts or some shit. Think about it. Random factoid of the day: the Dodo are in the same family as pigeons. If that shit were around now we’d just know it as the bigger version of those rats with wings. Let’s be content with celebrating the retrospective allure these shirts possess, so they too don’t become giant rats with wings.Tweet