The Queen of Summer: Martin Prince’s Finest Moments -The Toast

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The world owes a great deal to minor Simpsons characters, and I have taken it upon myself to periodically-yet-irregularly celebrate them as the spirit moves me. Today we honor Martin Prince.

Remember that John Mulaney routine where he says that “all little boys are a little bit gay…they’re sort of floaty and have hard opinions about things”? Martin Prince is that wonderful, fey little boy. He has not yet learned to appear as if he cares about anything less than he does. When he enthuses, he does so with his entire tiny, vibrating body.

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In Sweet Seymour Skinner’s Badassssss Song, Martin’s theatrical recounting of geologic forces (“Kaboom! The sound of a thunderous volcanic explosion, which gives birth to the magnificent geode!”) is almost immediately overshadowed by Bart’s dog. “My geode must be acknowledged,” Martin insists in the exact same tone that Glenn Close tells Michael Douglas “I won’t be ignored, Dan” in Fatal Attraction.

It is not acknowledged. Mrs. Krabappel feeds the Raisin Roundies Martin made for her that morning to Santa’s Little Helper. Martin never wins. He never quits, but he never wins, either.

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More friends! More allies! More, I say. Hang those who talk of less. There’s a few inches over here, ho!

What I love best about Martin is his naked, unabashed desire to be petted and adored. He contains the seeds of his own destruction; he is an unrepentant tryhard and it is his very need for affection that keeps him from making and keeping true friends. He can’t be satisfied with having a Milhouse of his own — he needs to be the Queen of Summer. Martin Prince is all appetite and no moderation. He wants a feast, but he will take scraps if that is all he can get, and hang those who talk of less.

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Much like a Sorkin hero, Martin does not know the meaning of a proportionate response. He wears seventeen pairs of bathing trunks to the neighborhood pool and attempts to defy his tormenters by declaring himself invulnerable to their attacks.

They take every pair.

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By the episode’s end, Martin’s hubris has proved his undoing. He stands alone in the ruins of a collapsed empire, naked and singing “The Summer Wind” to himself, like a tiny, chubby Lear. Summer is a cruel season for the indoor children.

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It is Martin’s relationship with Nelson that I find most endearing, out of his many deeply endearing characteristics. In Lemon of Troy, Nelson is forced to act as Martin’s “burly protector,” but he makes sure everyone he pulls off of Martin — a bully magnet if there ever was one — knows that “we never hang out, normally.”

In gratitude to the boy who normally beats him up after school, Martin composes an ode to their friendship: “Hark to the tale of Nelson and the boy he loved so dear! They remained the best of friends for years and years and years!” He frolics around Nelson as he sings it.

Martin only asks that you love him a very little. He will love you back enough for two.

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This scene — where Martin repeatedly hands Nelson an invitation to his birthday party and refuses to acknowledge Nelson’s repeated rejections — speaks to my heart in the most lovely, painful way imaginable.

“Here you are, Nelson.” [Nelson shoves the invitation off his desk. Martin bends over to retrieve it.]

“Here you are, Nelson.” [Nelson shoves the invitation off his desk. Martin bends over to retrieve it.]

“Here you are, Nelson.” [Nelson shoves the invitation off his desk. Martin bends over to retrieve it.]

“Here you are, Nelson.”

I have been the Martin in this relationship, and you have too. Admit it; only then will you escape the cycle of suffering and rebirth.

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In Lisa’s Wedding, we learn that Martin was horribly disfigured in a science-fair accident and lives only in the hope of winning the love of Ms. Hoover, which goes to show that sexuality is a fluid and ever-changing living animal.

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In Grade School Confidential, Martin serves oysters instead of cake at a children’s birthday party.

“What kind of a little boy has a tea set?” asks Mrs. Krabappel, speaking for all of Martin’s haters. The underlying question is: What’s wrong with Martin? Why does he like the wrong things, in the wrong amount?

Principal Skinner, Zen-like, pours a cup of tea in response. “I think we both know the answer to that,” he tells her. “A lucky boy.”

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“To catch a fish. To make love to a woman. To live.”

Martin has most assuredly never done any of these things, but that does not mean he isn’t telling the truth.

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In the third Treehouse of Horror episode, the Simpsons host a Halloween party at their home. Other boys dress as pirates and movie characters and Frankensteins; Martin is “Calliope, the muse of poetry!”

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The piggy-print pajamas. The fuzzy pink slippers. Martin cannot even sleep right. He is hopeless; this is why I love him. He cannot keep his mouth shut, he is effeminate, he is excited about school, he is a narc, he is chubby (though not exactly drawn “rounder” than any of the other children, he is most often referred to as such), and he wants to be your best friend more than anything else in the world. Martin Prince is undeniable. He is no one but himself.

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He is the kind of little boy who spends his last ten dollars on a sensible bobbed wig and a talking Al Gore doll.

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He wins $600 playing the market, then spends all his money at Wee World buying a precious little jumping Scottie Dog he names Flipsie. Nelson destroys it within 30 seconds, but I don’t think Martin ever regretted how he spent his money.

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In Kamp Krusty, Martin is sent off to “image enhancement” camp, but refuses to go quietly.

“Spare me your euphemisms! It’s fat camp, for Daddy’s chubby little secret!”

“You promised you wouldn’t make a scene,” his father whispers agonizedly.

Martin has never promised not to make a scene. Martin makes no such promises.

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Before the episode is out, however, Martin has been freed by Bart (one of the wonderful things about the Simpsons is how it mirrors the real-life fluidity of childhood friendships — sometimes Bart and Martin are friends, sometimes they’re enemies, sometimes they’re reluctant allies) and makes a beeline for the gruel pot. “Sweet, nourishing gruel,” he cries as he sticks his head in it.

Martin is hungry. Martin eats. Martin cannot be contained. Martin is happy, and nourished, and well.

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Martin Prince, is his finest and truest self, is un-put-downable. He will always hand Nelson another invitation to his birthday party. He will always bake another batch of Raisin Roundies for Mrs. Krabappel after she feeds them to Bart’s dog. He will dress up like the muse of poetry for Halloween, knowing full well it’s going to earn him a beating, every time. And you can kick him, and you can punch him, and you can break his face, but you can’t change the way he feels.

You can’t keep a good man down.

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