Ralph Wiggum

Ralph Wiggum is a fictional character on the animated series The Simpsons, voiced by Nancy Cartwright. He is best known as the show's resident oddball, and has been immortalized for his non sequiturs and erratic behaviour. His lines range from nonsensical, or bizarre interpretations of a current event, to surprisingly profound statements that go over people's heads. For this, Ralph is somewhat of an outcast among his peers, although he seems to be on good relations with a good number of the major child characters on the show such as Bart, Lisa and Milhouse.

The son of Chief Clancy Wiggum and mother Sarah Wiggum, Ralph is a good-hearted and generally well-meaning boy who suffers from either severe learning and social disabilities, or some other form of childhood psychiatric disorder. The nature of his mentality is kept rather ambiguous, much like many of the signature traits of much of the show's cast. Like almost every other character on the show, he may not be quite as simple as he first seems, as evidenced by his hinted immense potential as a performer.

Ralph's first credited appearance in the show was the episode "Moaning Lisa," although he has appeared as an unnamed character beforehand in even the very first episode "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire." However, he was considerably different in both appearance and behavior from his later appearances. The original design can be seen in Simpsons Comics #59. So much in fact that many consider the episode "Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment" his "true" first appearance because he is first depicted as he appears for the rest of the series here, although he appears in "Lisa's Pony" sporting his new look but humorously speaking with his old voice which is highly reminiscent of Nelson Muntz's tone. Originally intended to be a "Mini-Homer", Ralph eventually took on a life of his own. The show's writing staff figured that he'd also fit perfectly as the son of Chief Wiggum, a fact made canon in "I Love Lisa" (although he is referred to by his last name of Wiggum in "Kamp Krusty" before).

The original Ralph design makes a cameo appearance in the episode Bart's Comet.

Ralph is quite an enigma of a child. Upon first glance, one might mistake him for a child with dementia; or perhaps they might even look at him as a mentally challenged child. Throughout the course of the show however, there have been many hints dropped over the true nature of his character. What is definite however, is that he suffers from learning disabilities of some sort, as evidenced by his apparently slow grasp of things in the world around him, his difficulty in studying, and his sporadic speech impediments. His unique manner of speech is often the source of the character's trademark random quotes, where Ralph may make a commentary such as "It tastes like...burning!", or "Mr. Flanders, you're blindeded!," as well as his tendency to call his teacher "School Mommy" and on one occasion calling Superintendent Chalmers "Super Nintendo Chalmers." However, Ralph is also able to speak in a normal manner much of the time, which only adds to the question of his condition and character. For more information on the mystery surrounding his mentality, see below.

Ralph is often seen in very awkward situations such as eating glue paste, crayons, worms and other such erratic forms of behavior that have since become a staple of the character. Ralph has a rather immense imagination, and is seemingly oblivious to the world around him. As such, he is generally a very cheerful boy. However, Ralph also has a hint of tragedy and dark satire to him, like almost every other character on the show. Throughout the show's history, Ralph is eternally the odd one out among his peers at school. This was the basis of the episode "I Love Lisa," one of two episodes in which Ralph played a significant role. Ralph seems to be fully aware of his difficulty fitting in with children his age. In this episode, he is heartbroken on Valentine's Day over the fact that, despite his best efforts, he himself receives absolutely no valentines from any of his classmates. In a bout of platonic pity, Lisa Simpson rewrites a Valentine's card for Ralph to cheer him up. Ralph, however, sees this as something a little more. His genuinely endearing attempt to woo Lisa fills the majority of the episode, an escapade which unfortunately ends with heartbreak when Lisa reveals her true intention with the Valentine.

Afterwards, a distraught Ralph laments over his heartbreak as well as social difficulty to his unfortunately clueless but well meaning father. Ralph, however, is cast to play George Washington, the lead role in a major school play, alongside Lisa, and it is here that another of Ralph's hinted traits are revealed as Ralph stuns the audience with his incredible performance as the first president, which Ralph uses as an emotional outlet. Afterwards, a genuinely remorseful Lisa apologizes to Ralph and they agree to be friends. This would not be the last hint viewers would see of Ralph's hidden potential. As of now, Ralph has been the focus of one other episode, "This Little Wiggy". In the episode, Bart is forced to spend a day with Ralph because Marge feels sorry for him when he is picked on in the beginning. While Bart is at first unhappy with this, he genuinely has a good time with Ralph during their time together, and learns more about him in the process. Despite Ralph's awkward behavior and occasionally irritating moments, he is consistently depicted as being a well-meaning child who just wants to help. In the comic story The Squish of Death, Bart sums up his general opinion of Ralph nicely when Ralph states "I like to color outside the lines!" to which Bart responds, "We know, Ralph, and that's alright with us."

Ralph seems to generally get along with many people, as well as occasionally irritate and baffle them. Ralph's father is the police chief of Springfield, Clancy Wiggum and his mother is Sarah Wiggum. Ralph's relationship with his parents seems to be very loving. Clancy in particular rather adores his son as the two do much together, such as various road trips or Ralph's first trip to a major league baseball game as depicted in the comic If you can't Wiggum, join 'em!. Ralph can apparently be quite a handful however, and there are times where Clancy can be neglectful of his son as well.

When it comes to school, Ralph is predictably unpopular, although he seemingly enjoyed notoriety after his role of Washington. Bart is probably the closest thing Ralph has to a friend, as he is often included in groups with the prankster for various hijinks. Although he can get irritated with him, Bart defends Ralph from verbal bullying at times. It is hinted that in the future, Ralph and Bart's friendship may become much stronger. Ralph also does a fair bit with Lisa, although she too can get irritated from time to time. Their friendship after "I Love Lisa" has endured. Ralph is often seen with a wide variety of children as well, but on schoolgrounds Ralph is unfortunately known as "the most harmless kid in school", which opens him up to bullying like much of the young cast. Ralph is treated as somewhat of a nuisance by the school board. However, Marge Simpson seems to have taken particular notice of Ralph and his potential strengths as well as generally positive character.

Ralph has a multitude of imaginary friends as well, Wiggle Puppy and a pyromaniacal leprechaun being particularly well known among viewers. Ralph's teacher, Ms. Hoover, is quite indifferent to his personality and his imagination. Though she will often correct him in a dull, condescending manner, she has yet to outright scold him. It is often implied by various official works of the show such as the Ralph Book that Ms. Hoover's callous behavior denies Ralph the positive attention that he may need.

The nature of Ralph's mentality and developmental problem is very ambiguous. Although it is easy to pass off Ralph as a mentally challenged child, there are many things which show that this may not be the case. Ralph is quite capable of acting in a normal manner, he makes very valid and sensible points once in a while. Often his bizarre behavior is attributed to his wild imagination. Ralph's behavior and difficulty in school is highly reminiscent of a few childhood psychiatric disorders such as autism, sluggish cognitive tempo, and others as well, all of which are not impediments of intelligence but rather of social and environmental development.

Ralph often makes metaphors for things to explain to himself how the world works around him, such as describing shutting down the Nuclear Power Plant to avert a meltdown by comparing it to catching a pixie and wrapping it in tinfoil. This is a quality often associated with children who have a moderate to severe case of autism and also by children who have a very high degree of creative and artistic intellect. One could even say that Ralph has either a unique perspective of everything, or he simply can't express easily what he's thinking. As such, Ralph could be many things, from a mentally disturbed child to an artistic genius which brings up the subject of his prowess in performing arts. Ralph is consistently shown to have a high degree of latent creative and performing talent.

Aside from his role of Washington, Ralph apparently impressed Marge a great deal with his portrayal as Sir Lancelot and his acting exploits are referred to a few more times. He also shows impressive talent in singing (comic story Faking the Band), dancing ("Last Tap Dance in Springfield"), critique ("Fraudcast News"), he draws very often and in the comic a substitute teacher insists that he is an artistic genius due to his tendency to speak in haiku. Despite his supposedly subpar level of intelligence, when representing Canada at the Model UN club, he actually knows the words to the Canadian anthem as seen in "Das Bus." Although he has botched up on stage occasionally (he once sang "A-B-C-D-E-F-G... How I wonder what you are") as well, generally it is strongly implied that he has genuine talent. Ralph also seems to be aware that he isn't "normal".

Children who are highly gifted in creative and artistic intellect are often mistaken by school officials to be mentally disrupted. Ralph is often used as satire to poke fun at modern school's tendency to misjudge young children in this manner, as well as their inability to give children special attention they need due to budget constraints. In the Ralph Wiggum Book for instance, a small blurb in Ralph's daily schedule has Ms. Hoover scold and eventually berate Ralph for being destined to always be terrible at history, despite the fact Ralph was daydreaming about the exploits of Lord Raglan in exact detail. Regardless of everything however, in the end The Simpsons can be just as random as Ralph himself. Much like the case with every character on the show, it is ultimately up to the viewer to decide what Ralph's true nature is.

Ralph's signature use as a character in the show is to deliver either an odd bit of behavior, or dialogue which either perplexes others or merely gives the audience a quick laugh. A good example is during class, Ralph's teacher Ms. Hoover will stop lecturing the class for a moment to question Ralph's actions such as eating something he shouldn't, or saying something bizarre or oblivious. Another common use is that Ralph will be at a major event in the episode's story, and will say commentary which can either perplex everyone present or point out something so glaringly obvious it's funny. Ralph has quite a knack for getting himself into sticky situations as well, which is another type of scene he is often used for. There is criticism that as the show has gone on, Ralph has become less a merely clueless and eccentric child to more of a dim-witted one liner character with little subtlety. Although his endearing qualities are more inconsistent than before, this hasn't stopped him from being one of the show's most recognizable and remembered characters.

In the official Simpsons comic by Bongo Comics, Ralph is often featured prominently in short stories and one takes.

With a combination of his hilarious commentary and his endearingly innocent character, Ralph eventually became one of the show's most popular characters. He is a favorite character to feature on merchandise such as stickers and clothing, and when Nancy Cartwright appeared on the Conan O'Brien show her characterization of Ralph sparked a massive reaction far greater than her other characters including Bart. Ralph's popularity as a character has even spread so far that the rock band Bloodhound Gang made a song called "Ralph Wiggum," dedicated to the character and comprised solely of some of his most famous quotes for lyrics. The song can be found on their album Hefty Fine. Another band, Trillium Circle has a member named Ralph Wiggum, presumably a pseudonym. Show creator Matt Groening has stated that Ralph is one of his personal favorite characters on the Simpsons, and whenever someone asks who writes specific characters (a common misconception about the writing process), writers will most likely take credit for writing for Ralph.

Ralph's future is one of the murkiest and most vague of all the children on the show. The Simpsons frequently featured non-canon episodes, and the 'future' episodes are among them. Due to the timeless nature of the show, the dates are relative:

* "Lisa's Wedding": By far Ralph's most mysterious sighting. "Sideshow Ralph Wiggum" is a name mentioned on a very fast scrolling list of celebrities that have been arrested in a witchhunt-like manner. The reference is easy to miss, and may require a DVD player going frame by frame to catch. Also, Ralph is barely able to be seen behind the aged Krusty the Clown during the wedding.
* "Bart to the Future": Ralph's most prominent role in a future episode. Ralph is very good friends with Bart, and shares an apartment with him. Surprisingly, Ralph seems to be the voice of maturity in Bart's immediate life, and he is pretty well composed with a full head of thick brown hair, showing quite a bit of intelligence and a more focused attitude. In spite of this, he isn't above the random behavior of his childish self from time to time. His friendship with Bart is turbulent due to Bart's flakey ways; but he apparently sticks with him in the end.
* "Future-Drama": Ralph has a brief cameo during his high school prom, in which he claims he can use the toilet. Although he is only briefly featured, he appears to be an older version of his younger self here complete with non-sequitur. Ralph becomes inadvertently intoxicated when Nelson Muntz spikes the punch, leading to humorous hallucinations.
* "The Rise and Fall of Bartholomew J. Simpson": This story in the comic series featured a 'future' reminiscent of the one in Lisa's Wedding, but it is different in many ways. Ralph has a cameo alongside his aging father where Ralph is surfing a futuristic version of the Internet.
* "Lisa the Simpson": Lisa has a pessimistic daydream where she imagines becoming like her father in the future. Ralph appears as Lisa's husband, being introduced through the line, "Hi Lisa, it's me, your husband, Ralph." In this imaginary scenario, Ralph and Lisa have many kids and Lisa is grossly obese while Ralph appears to have a minimum wage job. This sequence was of course, from Lisa's paranoid imagination and thus is not real.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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