|The Simpsons character|
|Voiced by||Nancy Cartwright|
|Occupation||Student at Springfield Elementary School. 2008 presidential candidate endorsed by both parties.|
|Relatives||Parents: Clancy and Sarah
Grandparents: Iggy Wiggum
|The Simpsons||"Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire"|
Ralph Wiggum is a recurring character on the animated series The Simpsons, voiced by Nancy Cartwright. The son of Police Chief Wiggum and a classmate of Lisa Simpson, Ralph is best known as the show's resident oddball, and is noted for his non sequiturs and erratic behavior. His lines range from nonsensical, or bizarre interpretations of a current event, to surprisingly profound statements that go over people's heads; and his behavior varies between blissfully unaware, to dim-witted, to awkwardly spontaneous, even occasionally straightforward. The very nature of the character has undergone seemingly differing interpretations over the years and within various media.
Role in The Simpsons
Ralph is a simple-minded but good-natured 7-year-old boy in Lisa Simpson's second-grade class taught by Ms. Hoover. Although his beginnings were that of a tertiary child character along the same lines as Lisa's on-and-off friend Janey, he has since become one of the more prominent secondary characters on the show, even being the focus or at least a major character of some episodes.
To date, these include: "I Love Lisa" (season four, 1993), an episode which arguably set him apart from other tertiary characters and defined much of the character," This Little Wiggy" (season nine, 1998), and "E Pluribus Wiggum" (season nineteen, 2008); as well as appearances both minor and prominent in many other episodes. Ralph also appears in various other media, such as the Simpsons comic book by Bongo.
Ralph's primary role in the show is to deliver tangent and non-sequitur material, usually with cluelessness and odd behavior often used to perplex or give the audience a quick laugh. He has a very carefree and somewhat "loopy" temperament, as he is often off in his own world. This role has had many variations over the years and as such Ralph often displays inconsistent behavior. In some episodes he may seem quite stupid, verbally challenged, and slow such as proclaiming "I won, I won!" when being told he was failing English, then questioning it and saying, "Me fail English? That's unpossible!", or running on all fours on a hamster wheel. In "To Cur with Love", a flashback scene shows Chief Wiggum and Lou talking about what they want to be when they grow up. Lou (after hearing that Wiggum's goal in life is to be chief of police) says he wants "to be a leader for his people, like Ralph Abernathy," to which Wiggum says "Ralph. I like that name" implying that Ralph was named after him. Although it has been implied, it has never been explicitly stated in any Simpsons-related media that Ralph is intellectually disabled and/or brain damaged. This is supported in a flashback where Chief Wiggum is holding a baby Ralph, who is drinking out of a bottle; Wiggum suddenly drops the baby Ralph, who lands flat on his head. When Wiggum picks Ralph up again, Ralph suddenly has difficulty drinking out of his bottle.
In other episodes, he speaks in a perfectly normal tone and occasionally even displays taciturn behavior such as questioning a film production staff member over the use of a painted cow over a horse, seemingly playing straight man to Bart as an adult in one possible flashforward, or his overall behavior in the episode I Love Lisa, in which Ralph played a central role. He even occasionally displays a penchant for certain talents. The inconclusive nature of his character seems to be one of his only consistencies, and has even been used as a joke in itself a few times such as Ralph being poached by the Chicago Tribune. Occasionally, Ralph has even been used to break the fourth wall straightforwardly.
Ralph has a multitude of surprising, often creativity-based talents as well as his share of flaws and quirks. The most prominent of these talents as displayed in "I Love Lisa" is performing and acting. Playing the role of George Washington in a school play based on his life, he not only recited his lines perfectly but also managed to give such an amazing performance that he brought the audience to tears. He can also tap dance, paint, play the piano and sing among other things. This is probably attributed to the boy's rich imagination, though this quality also leads to some of Ralph's more peculiar characteristics such as his penchant for imaginary friends, including a pyromaniacal leprechaun, and Wiggle-Puppy, a character he seems personally very fond of. The character also seems to have a rather large number of phobias, like being afraid of the vacuum, indulges in many odd habits, and has a knack for landing himself in peculiar situations such as gluing his shoulder to his ear, being profiled by a scary dentist, or even flying with balloons. The character's temperament has notably changed over the years; originally depicted as more awkward and oblivious but otherwise normal, after a time his more "stupid" characteristics became far more exaggerated though this has been mitigated somewhat as of late[when?] in favor of plain weirdness that shows in quotes such as "The doctor says that my nose would stop bleeding if I just kept my finger out of there" and "I'm lernding" and strange outbursts like "Hi liar". Ralph still pees in his pants, and it is a recurring gag in the show when he pees and announces it to someone in an unusual way.
Ralph is the only son of Chief Wiggum and his wife Sarah. Chief Wiggum adores his son who returns this affection in turn, though Ralph can be quite a handful. Chief Wiggum's supportive and loving relationship with his son is often depicted as one of his more sympathetic characteristics to contrast his generally boorish behavior. Ralph also has an unrequited crush on Lisa Simpson originating in "I Love Lisa", although this has not been frequently seen in the series since. As Ralph is often blissfully oblivious to the world around him, he remains a generally cheerful boy. He is a misfit at school due to his unique behavior and poor academic performance, often being the butt of ridicule and occasional bullying. Generally, however, his peers are passive towards him, and Ralph often tags along with Bart, Milhouse, and Martin in particular. Much of the faculty similarly are indifferent to Ralph: Mrs. Hoover in particular treats him with a sort of mild annoyance, and Principal Skinner seems to see him as something of a nuisance due to his poor test results and hijinks. Ralph is occasionally used as a catalyst for satire about public education's failings because of this, as he may be merely a victim of inflexible and incompetent teaching. He may not be as dim as his academic performance shows.
Creation and design
In Ralph's first credited appearance in the show, the episode "Moaning Lisa", he was considerably different in both appearance and behavior from his later appearance. The original Ralph design makes a cameo appearance in the episodes "Sweet Seymour Skinner's Baadasssss Song" and "Bart's Comet" as well as in Simpsons Comics #59, implying the design to be a separate character now. Ralph's modern design first appeared in the second season episode "Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment", and in a couple of episodes after this Ralph can be caught speaking with a voice similar to that of Nelson Muntz's, before acquiring the higher pitched voice that would become permanent after. Originally intended to be a "Mini-Homer", Ralph eventually took on a life of his own. The staff figured that he would also fit perfectly as the son of Chief Wiggum, a fact made canon in "I Love Lisa". Ralph was named after comedian Jackie Gleason's character on The Honeymooners Ralph Kramden. Matt Groening considers any lines for Ralph "really hard to write." Nancy Cartwright raises her eyebrows whenever she performs Ralph's voice.
Ralph's normal attire usually consists of a blue long sleeve shirt with a collar, a belt with a red buckle, and brown pants. However, almost all Simpsons related media and merchandise including the comic book often portray Ralph with white or light gray colored pants instead similar to how Bart is occasionally depicted with a blue shirt instead of his standard orange shirt. Ralph's "stringy" hair is meant to be drawn to make the shape of a bowl-cut. In one particular issue of the comic book, Ralph appears along with other Springfield residents drawn in a realistic style which depicts him with blonde hair, implying that the hair lines are meant to be a silhouette of a blonde bowl-cut. Adult Ralph in "Bart to the Future" also has light brown hair.
Ralph has become one of the show's most popular characters. He is commonly featured on media and merchandise related to the show, including the season 13 box set. Kidrobot released Ralph as a separate figure from the rest of their Simpsons line of figurines in 2009. The figure is twice as large as the other ones. The comedy band The Bloodhound Gang made a song titled "Ralph Wiggum" on the album Hefty Fine, dedicated to the character and composed solely of some of his most famous quotes for lyrics. Show creator Matt Groening has stated that whenever someone asks who writes specific characters (a common misconception about the writing process), writers will most likely take credit for writing for Ralph.
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- Matt Groening | The A.V. Club