Slate takes a look back at the groundbreaking episode, “Lisa the Vegetarian,” which aired on “The Simpsons” twenty years ago.
Alan Siegel gives a behind-the-scenes story of how Paul and Linda McCartney came to guest star on the iconic show, and Lisa’s enduring legacy as a vegetarian.
In the episode, which aired on Oct. 15, 1995, Lisa Simpson, arguably the show’s moral center, becomes a vegetarian, much to the dismay of her meat-eating family. The McCartneys are featured hanging out with “Simpsons” character, Apu, who was revealed to be vegan in the episode.
Siegel details how the writers were shooting around ideas that the McCartneys would connect with so they could appear on the show and it was only when they came up with the idea of Lisa becoming a vegetarian that then-showrunner David Mirkin thought they had a shot of landing them as guest stars. They were right.
Mirkin, also a vegetarian, flew to England to record the couple’s lines and gifted them a container of his favorite turkey substitute from a New York deli.
“I figured they would very carefully try it,” Mirkin recalled in the piece. “And I turn around and the two of them are eating it directly out of the container, shoving it into their mouths and shoving it into each other’s mouths because they loved it so much.”
As we reported here in 2009, it was the former Beatle who pushed for Lisa’s permanent veggie diet.
“It’s actually Paul McCartney who was responsible for another permanent change,” Mirkin said at the time. “When I asked him to do the vegetarian episode, he agreed but made me promise to keep Lisa as a vegetarian – and I was happy to comply with that because I’m a vegetarian too! Every time I see him, he always checks – and he’s always surrounded by nine or ten lawyers, so it’s quite frightening!”
Linda told Entertainment Weekly in 1995 that the guest spot gave them the chance “to spread the vegetarian word to a wider audience.” And they sure did — the episode garnered an Environmental Media Award and a Genesis Award for highlighting environmental and animal issues.
Twenty years later and Lisa Simpson, who hasn’t aged a day, still adheres to the veggie diet — she was even honored for her vegetarianism by the Humane Society in 2008.
Now the only question is: will she ever be vegan?