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The Simpsons has been running for a long time, how does the series handle the character's aging? There's an annual Halloween episode, so we know the years pass in Springfield, but do the characters age at all?

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I'm no writer but you could make the argument that the Halloween episodes are the kids' dreams after a night eating too much candy. –  BamfTheNightAway Sep 24 '12 at 14:56
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Actually, the Halloween episodes are the ones that least support the feeling of years passing, since they are entirely divorced from continuity, to the point of having all major characters die, turned into animals, lost in an alternate 3D dimension or otherwise disposed of. Of course, as the answers state, the main continuity doesn't bother much either. –  Avner Shahar-Kashtan Sep 24 '12 at 15:47
    
There's a picture that was circulated online a lot a couple years ago of a wedding invitation to Lisa's wedding from a "future episode" from the 90s - dated August 1, 2010. –  Random832 Sep 24 '12 at 18:41
    
@Random832 This one? The episode's Lisa's Wedding –  Tobias Kienzler Sep 24 '12 at 20:17
    
see my improved answer for the whole theories used to explain this non-aging effect –  Ankit Sharma Sep 25 '12 at 6:08
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3 Answers

up vote 22 down vote accepted

The Simpsons utilizes a floating timeline to explain how the world of the show advances in time while the characters remain the same age.

From Wikipedia:

A floating timeline (also known as a sliding timescale) is a device used in fiction, particularly in comics and animation, to explain why characters age little or not at all over a period of time - despite real-world markers like notable events, people and technology appearing in the works and correlating with the real world.

The show always takes place in the current year and the characters will always remain the same (general) ages except in certain episodes that show flashbacks or someone's future or where the plot simply requires a birthday, etc.

As a result, there's actually very little continuity between the episodes themselves and plenty of things that just don't make sense if you look at the series as a whole. Basically, the writers do what they want, and if you ever notice a problem you can just assume a wizard did it.

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+1 for the "a wizard did it" –  woliveirajr Sep 24 '12 at 17:28
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On Inside the Actors Studio, the voice actor for Lisa said she's noticed that Lisa (and Bart) have had like 4 8th/9th birthdays. –  Aarthi Oct 31 '12 at 20:10
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The following Wikia link says -

The aging of characters in The Simpsons has been a subject of common fan debate. The passage of time is clear, but characters only show minor, if any, signs of aging, despite openly saying that years have passed. The children also remain in the same grades at school. The writers and character designs seem to ignore the issue of aging.

Its not the only cartoon where age doesn't change with time, there are so many others too that doesn't need to be mentioned. The given wikia link also tells you the Common Theories used for the non-aging issue of Simpsons .

Common Theories Used to explain this are -

Eternal Youth-

One common theory is that, like in many cartoons, the characters never age and are trapped at the age of their first appearance. However, Homer, Bart, Lisa and Maggie have all had episodes involving their birthdays.

Slowed Time-

Another common theory is that, because only one half-hour episode airs approximately each week, the flow of time in The Simpsons is considerably slower than in real life. This theory is supported by the apparent, though minimal, growth of the characters, as well as the noted marks of time. However, this causes a problem with episodes such as All's Fair in Oven War, when the kitchen takes 2 years (in the Simpsons-verse) to remodel, but no-one has aged.

Time Evolution-

Though the above theories are accepted, they fail to address the fact that as the years go by, it becomes apparent that the characters evolve through time. Homer and Marge fell in love in the 1970s in early seasons, and now it is said to have occurred in the 1990s. It may be that as time progresses, the characters present, past and occasionally future selves evolve into consecutive timezones.

An example is if the viewer is told in an episode that aired in 1990 that Homer was born in 1963, then in a 1991 episode he will have been born in 1964.

Anti-Growth HormonesEdit-

In a section of Behind the Laughter, Lisa said that to prolong the series, she was forced to take anti-growth hormones, however, this episode is non-canon.

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Hah, what strange theories people come up, just to explain the creative freedom and continuity ignorance of the writers. Nothing to explain here, because The Simpsons were never ever meant as a physically consistent world model and thus don't need to adhere to any theories. It's the same like trying to theoretically reason about the state they live in. I've given up on that a long time ago after realizing that it is non-answerable by design. –  Napoleon Wilson Sep 25 '12 at 8:51
    
@ChristianRau I'd like to edit your last two words into by design... –  Tobias Kienzler Sep 25 '12 at 18:41
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