The Simpsons' Matt Selman On 'The End Of The Hedge Meme,' And Why SimpsonsWorld Makes More Sense Than Westworld

Homer coming out of hedge in The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror
(Image credit: Hulu)

Spoilers below for The Simpsons’ “Treehouse of Horror XXXIII,” so be warned if you haven’t yet watched. 

The Simpsons has been around long enough to the point where it seems theoretically possible that memes of the show’s classic bits have been shared online by more people than the ones who watched the episodes they came from. Thus, only a show with such a long and storied legacy could have possibly delivered anything like the “SimpsonsWorld” segment from this year’s “Treehouse of Horror XXXIII” special, which presented a Westworld-esque park for fans to hang out amongst their favorite characters and scenes. And yes, the plethora of callbacks and references included a fun twist on the famed hedge meme moment.

During the episode, a group of Simpsons fans barraged Host Homer, demanding he deliver the fan-favorite moment while chanting “Meme!” in his face. But he had the last laugh, soon forcing the fans into their own hedge-caused doom complete with unexplained bloodshed. When co-showrunner Matt Selman spoke with CinemaBlend about the dual “Treehouse” specials, I asked if he expected to get some wild reactions to bringing the hedge meme back into the show, and he responded with: 

I hope so. I mean, I hope that's the end of the hedge meme on the show. We've referenced it a number of times. When did we do it? . . . It's been on the show in a self referential way before; that meme existed in The Simpsons world. But this is like something they would have at that park. I don't know why — [laughs] — it has negative consequences when you go.

So in Matt Selman's mind, Homer's hedge moment is now as dead as the people who last entered it, at least within the continuity of this episode, which obviously doesn't tie into the overall loose AF canon. So then it's as dead as Maude Flanders, who is legitimately dead within the show's "real" world, though even she was brought back to die anew within the "Treehouse" special's fan-filled theme park.

Outside of aiming to put particular references to bed, Matt Selman was indeed enthused about putting SimpsonsWorld together alongside other members of the special's creative team, including Carolyn "The Carolynvisible Womine" Omine and Ryan "Kohcus Pocus" Koh, and wishes there were even more callbacks than the dozens and dozens that made it to the finished edit. 

It was definitely Carolyn's idea to start with Monorail, that one joke about 'I call the big one Bitey' is kind of a beloved, but maybe not super-famous moment from classic Simpsons. I think it's beloved, but not like the most quotable famous moment from the classic years. But I felt it was a good, beloved, not under- or overdone way to get into it. I wish I could have put more references in. I tried to. You know, there's that one first pan at the beginning, there's a lot, and then there's some underground, and then when they come out, there's more. There's probably a decent amount.

When I asked how difficult it was not to just spin an entire episode like that around an iconic one-off character like Hank Scorpio (who made an appearance with his flamethrower), Selman voiced his desire to have had an entire episode's runtime to devote to the Westworld parody.

Part of me wishes I'd done a whole half hour or more on just that, and made the most self-referential piece of up-its-own-butt Simpsons ever made. I wish I could have done a full [one]; it could have been really meta-crazy. But we didn't, so anyway, I'm happy with what we did. I thought we just jammed in a ton of crazy stuff for the superfans. And I was thinking that theme park would be more successful than the Westworld theme park.

As a fan of Westworld that has enjoyed a fair amount of darkly tinged amusement imagining how the HBO show's parks would go over in the real world, I can fully buy into Matt Selman's take below on why this version of a Simpsons theme park would be better suited for returning audiences than Delos' hyper-violent and sexualized attractions. Speaking to his own enjoyment of the sci-fi saga, the EP said:

It's a really good show. But I feel where it fails is, like, for the people that can afford to go to it, the experience they get is so dark and disturbing, and also possibly threatening. Even when the park is functional, it's not a safe environment. You would be severely traumatized by the things you saw, or perhaps did, and I guess maybe that's the point is maybe that in the future, billionaires want to go commit sexual crimes against people in robots from the past. But that's not what people want out of most theme parks. What they want to do is kind of have fun and be entertained. A Simpsons theme park, where like 100 different Simpsons episodes were going on at once - and you can just walk around and interact with them in your favorite moments in a kind of jovial fashion, and there's no chance of a horse kicking you in the face or someone getting shot in the head - I think that'd be more popular. [Laughs.]

And considering Matt Selman has been a Simpsons writer and producer for as many years as he has — he started on the show back in 1997 — and has been present throughout 25 years of Fox history, including the big Disney buyout, he obviously also has a slightly more cynical take on why the park would be a good idea for others beyond just the fans visiting. 

Plus, you could sell more upselling with the merch and all that. I think it'd be a more popular park than actual Westworld, where if you're a billionaire sociopath with no actual fear, you can go do this stuff.

Those who want to have fun, choose something Simpsons-related, and those who want to live out a life full of sin-adjacent acts, become a billionaire first. Sounds simple enough. 

Matt Selman pointed out that the premiere party celebrating this year's pair of "Treehouse of Horror" specials did offer some fun examples by way of real-world versions of famed Simpsons moments, and he thinks those ideas would go a long way in pleasing fans if they were accessible to others. 

Well, at the premiere party, they actually built a little meme hedge, that people to sink into. Just kind of a cheap one with plastic leaves, and it was very popular. I'm like, if you just build the kind of good version of this and charge people $50 a suck-in, you'd be printing money. And then if you'd if did like the wall of memes, you'd have five different beloved Simpsons memes, and there were some kind of VR green screen or something. But I wouldn't get any extra money for that, so I'm not going to, like, push myself. I'm not gonna spend the 5,000 emails to make it happen. But it could happen. It'd be great.

While no one should expect Universal Studios to bring a huge overall to the Simpsons-focused areas of its theme parks — despite other animated fare getting snipped out — it's certainly a fun thought to consider. I would love to have some kind of go-kart ride using the show's most famous vehicles, from the Canyonero to The Homer. Maybe someone can do it in VR.

For those who haven’t yet watched the previous week’s take on Stephen King’s IT and the film adaptations, which featured its own bevy of references and fun moments, you can do so with a Hulu subscription

The Simpsons airs every Sunday night on Fox at 8:00 p.m. ET, followed by new eps of The Great North, Bob’s Burgers and Family Guy. Head to our 2022 TV premiere schedule to see what else is heading to primetime soon. 

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.