There are hundreds of episodes of The Simpsons that could be discussed for the 30th anniversary of the family appearing on the Tracey Ullman Show, but what may go unmentioned is one of the show’s greatest contributions to internet culture: the Frinkiac.
The Frinkiac is an image generator developed by Simpsons fans Sean Schultz, Allie Young and Paul Lehrer that matches a quote from any episode of The Simpsons with its corresponding scene so people can share the exact moment they’re thinking of. It’s become the equivalent of sending a GIF of a yawning dog to express how tired you are, David Tennant’s 10th Doctor from Doctor Who standing in the rain to demonstrate how sad you are, or perhaps more importantly, a GIF of Homer Simpson doing anything to express, well, anything.
The Frinkiac is one of the websites I visit most often because of how important the supplementation of GIFs, images and videos have become to online conversation. Why try to find a phrase that expresses how you feel (says the author) when there’s an image of Bart Simpson yelling “Don’t have a cow, man!” that can do it much better? The more I use it, the more I appreciate the fact that it exists for the sole purpose of sharing Simpsons moments with other fans.
The Simpsons is a universally loved series, one engrained in popular culture that most of the references people make online are understood — even by those who aren’t diehard fans. As we celebrate 30 years of having The Simpsons and its humor in our lives, I can’t help but think about the Frinkiac and what it could do for other series.
Simply put, I want a Frinkiac for Arrested Development and Archer and 30 Rock. If the Frinkiac and the legacy of The Simpsons has proven anything, it’s that we’ve hit a period of joke telling and sharing on the internet that it’s time for other versions to exist. We have 30 years of Simpsons material to rely on and use in conversations, but why can’t we do that with more modern series? Why can’t we have a version that allows us to easily find the 30 Rock reference we’re looking for and pair the quote with the corresponding image?
Shows like 30 Rock and Arrested Development share quite a few similarities with The Simpsons. 30 Rock, for example, relies on popular culture references. It’s so chock full of one-liners that audiences remember years after the episode aired. Its characters are easily quotable and quick to reference in conversation, which like The Simpsons, makes it an ideal series for its own Frinkiac.
Seriously, just think of the possibilities that could arise from a tool that allows us to easily make Tracy Jordan or Liz Lemon-style Frinkiac images?
Right now, there are a few places to get GIFs or specific images from shows like 30 Rock. Tumblr and Giphy are a fine resource, but these tend to cater to the most memorable moments. If you needed a GIF of Liz Lemon “high fiving a million angels,” there’s a pretty good chance that Tumblr will have you covered. For example, finding a GIF of Dr. Spaceman saying, “Science is whatever we want it to be.”
Going forward, there’s no reason a Frinkiac version for most other series can’t exist. While a good portion of the scenes we want to use as reference in conversation from different shows can be found on Giphy or Tumblr, I should be able to find whichever scene I’m thinking of — and most importantly, I shouldn’t have to spend much time doing it. Tumblr isn’t nearly as exhaustive as Frinkiac is, and that’s why we need more tools like this one. The Frinkiac allows even the most obscure scene to be recalled and shared with others, and it doesn’t require more than knowing the quote you’re looking for to make that happen.
The Frinkiac understands the importance of pop culture in an age when conversation through imagery online is at its peak. It’s why we use emojis, GIFs, stills and other images as a way to get our point across when talking to someone online. The Frinkiac proved there’s an audience of people who want to use it — more than three million, to be precise — so the question isn’t when similar tools will be developed for other popular series, but when?
Please, developers far more knowledgable than I, build this for the good of the internet.