Marfa has come a long way. Although its population has declined every decade since 1930, the small town’s reputation as an artist’s haven and West Texas retreat for the wealthy and funky has ballooned. It was the backdrop of an Amazon Prime series—the eight-episode I Love Dick, which premiered in 2016—and has been cemented as a very specific kind of cultural institution: one that doesn’t totally make sense to people who aren’t in on the reference.
That’s a group that includes Bart, Lisa, Homer, Marge, and Grampa Simpson, who visited the town on Sunday night’s episode of the long-running animated sitcom The Simpsons. The family made its way to Marfa to help Grampa Simpson track down a man he knew after he returned from World War II, which is a far cry from the typical hipster desert trek. Marfa wasn’t integral to the plot, but the episode was nonetheless able to build on a handful of the town’s more specific references.
The episode featured the CliffsNotes version of things people know about Marfa. The “Prada Marfa” art installation outside of town was represented (Homer pees on it), the magic of the Marfa lights was highlighted (Lisa attempts to over-explain it), and the man that Grampa Simpson was looking for was one of the many artists who call Marfa home. Texas State Representative Poncho Nevarez, who represents Marfa’s District 74, noted the Simpsons-fied landmarks:
— Rep. Poncho Nevárez (@poncho_nevarez) January 7, 2019
As moments in the history of Marfa go, a Simpsons shout-out is perhaps not the most monumental thing to ever happen. It’s not even the first time that the town (population 1,747) has appeared on a primetime Fox sitcom—the 2002 King of the Hill episode “Of Mice and Little Green Men” sent Hank and Dale to Marfa to look for their sons (they spy the Marfa lights along the way). But The Simpsons is a broad cultural institution, the sort of thing that tells you that you’ve seeped into the collective cultural consciousness when it notices you. The Simpsons may not have had much to say about Marfa, but the fact that they said it at all is another little milestone for the tiny town.