Principal Seymour Skinner

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Principal Seymour Skinner

Postby D.B. » Sun Jan 30, 2005 1:05 pm

Skinner's character sheet thread. Sheana, take it away...
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Re:Principal Seymour Skinner

Postby Sheana_Molloy » Sun Jan 30, 2005 4:22 pm

Okay, here I go.  Folks, if I leave something out or make a mistake, be sure to tell me, and I'll fix it. :)

---

On Principals:  A look at Seymour Skinner

Principal Seymour Skinner is one of the most present citizens in Springfield, and one of the most popular supporting characters amongst fans of OFF.  He is right up there with Apu and Mr. Burns in terms of the number of episodes that have either been dedicated to him or had him as one of the main characters of a plot, and even when not a focus he can usually be found helping to advance the story somehow.  As such, the character should be treated with some respect and all potential fic-writers should have at least a passing knowledge of what makes him tick, as there’s a good chance you’ll need him in there somewhere, whether it’s punishing Bart, doing something with Lisa, or something else all together.  And so, I give you everything you need to know about ‘The Simpsons’’s Principal Skinner!

BACKGROUND:

Seymour Skinner (AKA Spanky, AKA Skinny-boy) was born in Springfield, and is the son of Sheldon & Agnes Skinner.  Not much is known about his parents’ pasts other than that Sheldon fought in WWII as a communications officer with Grampa and Mr. Burns, and that Agnes was an airplane ‘wing walker’ in her youth.  It’s been hinted by Agnes that Seymour may have been an accident, and initially unwanted.  While nothing has been said on the matter, it has been assumed that Skinner got a full highschool and college education, as he is very educated indeed.  As a young man Skinner fought in the Vietnam War, eventually making it to the position of Sergeant and spending time in the Green Berets.  However, he was captured by enemy forces and was a POW in a tiger cage for eighteen months, leading to some mental unbalancing and personality quirks.  Eventually rescued and released, Skinner returned to Springfield.  He got a job as a fourth-grade science teacher, but eventually garnered the position of Principal of Springfield Elementary School, a position he still holds to this day.  During the summers when school is out he works as a handyman painting houses, and every now and then participates in some activity with the other cast members.  He is apparently a music lover (he once dressed up in a ‘60s mod suit to attend a Who concert, has been seen conducting along to Beethoven and was a founding member of a barbershop quartet), is a great lover of science, and has been involved in relationships with Marge’s sister Patty Bouvier and Edna Krabappel.  He also has great appreciation for the powerful wild cat the puma, "Nature's Principal".

Note- Being a ‘Nam veteran and of a certain age has caused a bit of an issue with Skinner.  At one point he was said to be of the relatively young age of 44, but in passing years it’s been upped to 49 (another case of everybody but the Simpson family itself aging).  Why does this matter?  Because later this year in ’05 it will have been 30 years since the Vietnam War ended (1975), and Skinner is increasingly becoming too young to have taken part in it.  Even at 49, he would have been only 19 in ’75, which is still too young to have taken part in the war for as long as he did.  That means writers will either have to up his age again by a few years, which could cause problems, or just set the fic in a certain period of time.  If set in the late ‘90s or very early ‘00s, it shouldn’t cause any difficulties.

PERSONALITY:

When you get right down to it, Skinner’s personality can be summarised as Well-Meaning But Clueless Nerd.  He is most certainly a nerd.  He takes part in Ren Fair re-enactments, he loves Star Wars and can occasionally be found doting on old action figures, he collects Stormin’ Norman plates, he will randomly quote Lewis Carroll, et cetera.  If it’s even remotely geeky, it’s pretty likely that Skinner will like it.  His initial idea of a good time for a kid is going to the natural history museum or the local 4H Club, good clean fun all, and he is surprised when that is not the case.  He makes corny jokes, and laughs too loud at ones other people make.  He is pretty stiff and upright otherwise, always neatly dressed, a neat freak with little to no clue about what the average person finds exciting and entertaining.  Because of this nerdiness and the influence of ‘Nam and his mother, Skinner is slightly socially-stunted.  You can bet that if alcohol is involved, 9 times out of 10 he will either be the designated driver or not even be there at all.

Vietnam definitely played hob with Skinner’s mind, giving him fairly frequent flashback episodes and the odd nightmare with screaming fits, almost every night.  Things like a car back-firing or even a school bell ringing can make him have a fit.  This means that occasionally Skinner will 'wig out', either on his own or in company, and start behaving like he’s still in the war.  This also means that the military and the military way of life is ever-present in his mind, causing Skinner to occasionally try to run the Elementary school as if it’s the army.  On the rare occasions that he gets violent, Skinner will even use tactics he used in ‘Nam, such as dressing up in uniform and patroling in a vigilante group, driving a bus like an all-terrain vehicle, or attacking a lawyer and his goons with martial arts moves he learned as a Green Beret.  This training means that he is no pansy in a fight, and in a semi-alternate future ('Spin-Off Showcase') he not only wrestled a gator but won.

Most of the time, Skinner is a bit of a wet blanket.  He lets his mother bully him around, he lets Superintendent Chalmers bully him around, he does what people tell him to do with little to no argument.  When very stressed-out he loses it slightly, and even gets the hiccups.  He has book smarts and is actually a pretty clever person, once escaping a bad situation in a rather MacGuyver-like fashion using his science teacher skills and being the only person in a large mob to think of calling the mayor’s office ahead of time to make sure they got in with an appointment, but he has little to no smarts in other areas.  He can be gullible, he is frequently flustered and tries to B.S. his way out of situations, and often seems to have no idea about how certain things work in the real world, getting chided for it on more than one occasion by Apu.  However, despite all of this, Skinner is anything but emotionless and a total push-over.  He has shown that he can get very angry indeed, be it at something Bart did or at Moe’s revenge-filled babbling.  He can lose his temper, and he can shout, either instantly shutting people up or sending them scurrying, abashed.  He is also capable of showing great emotions such as love, lust, stubborness, vindictiveness and jealousy, though admittedly not often.  Normally this only happens when he’s pushed to his limits.

However, despite all of this, one of the most important things a writer should remember about Seymour Skinner is that he is well-meaning, and one of the (apparently) few truly good-natured people in Springfield.  He cares about those who are his friends, he cares about the women in his life, and most importantly, he cares very deeply about the children in his school (straight from the mouth of Matt Groening).  He really does want them to get a good education, and Bart and the other hoodlums to straighten up and grow up well.  They are the most important thing in his life, and when one of them succeeds he couldn’t be prouder.  The mere thought of not being there for the kids breaks his heart, because he’d do almost anything for them.  For more on this subject, see Relationships with Bart and Lisa.  Because of this feeling of duty to the kids, Skinner is always looking for ways to boost funding for the school, from drilling oil to even going so far as to suggest legalizing gambling in Springfield.  He always perks up when there's a Lottery going on, because of the money it brings to schools.
Last edited by Anonymous on Sun Apr 17, 2005 5:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re:Principal Seymour Skinner

Postby Sheana_Molloy » Sun Jan 30, 2005 4:23 pm

RELATIONSHIPS:

Both friendly and romantic, Skinner has certain relationships with The Simpson family and other residents of Springfield that all writers need to be aware of.

MARGE & MAGGIE: Skinner has no known relationship with Maggie, and his one with Marge is fairly minimal. Most of their interaction is limited to Marge coming to the school when Bart gets in trouble and talking about it, with Skinner being stern and occasionally giving advice about what to do about the situation. Other than that, their meetings outside of the Elementary School are few and far between. He once asked Marge for advice at church, got set up with Patty by her and Homer and doesn’t hold any actual illwill against any member of the Simpson family, so the relationship can be assumed to be a friendly one.

HOMER: Skinner’s relationship with Homer is a complicated one, and one that the writers of the show itself seem to contradict/forget about frequently. Seymour and Homer actually are friends, even if just sort-of, and they knew each other long before either Bart or Lisa started going to school. Homer and Skinner formed The Be Sharpes together, along with Apu, Wiggum and later Barney, and when Homer asked them all to get together again years later for a little reunion, Skinner cheerfully obliged. Skinner (along with the other Sharpes) also volunteered to join Homer’s vigilante group, and took it very seriously indeed. He has also played basketball, been set-up with Patty by him, and done other things with Homer; Homer was one of the only people to show up for Skinner’s bachelor party. It is by no means a great friendship, though, as their great personality differences tend to cause clashes. Homer finds Skinner’s flashbacks amusing, and Skinner once got so angry about something Homer’s son (Bart, of course) did that he punched Homer in the face not once but several times. So the relationship can be a very difficult one to pinpoint sometimes, but most of the time it is a friendly one.

BART: If Skinner’s relationship with Homer is a complicated one, his one with Bart is doubly so. Over the years the two have been both friends and enemies with what could be considered a grudging respect for each other. Bart is a prankster and a rebel, seeing Skinner as both an easy target for pranks and the despotic overlord against which he needs to rebel. Bart will take advantage of him whenever he can, and Skinner is usually gullible/unaware enough for this to succeed. Skinner, while trying his hardest to straighten the boy out and make him a good student, is usually so aggravated about it all that he considers Bart to be a pest, but also a challenge. He will not give up on the boy, even going so far as to leave the shool and try to track him down when Bart plays hookey. However, when the whole rebel-opressor/school element is taken out of the equation, Skinner and Bart have actually proven themselves to get on as pretty good friends, talking and even hanging out together. Interestingly enough, when not faced with a school full of children to watch over, Skinner still has the urge to educate children & keep them happy somehow, which he proved when he took Bart everywhere from the beach to a restaurant and even to an amusement park, a place that Skinner would normally never go to. Even when they’re ‘enemies’, Skinner still maintains a slight sense of humor about his situation with Bart, once taping a ‘Teach Me’ sign to the boy’s back and having a chuckle with Sideshow Bob about their similar problems, comparing Bart to the Road Runner. He didn’t even mind when Bart did political cartoons for a paper with him in the background. So while they don’t actually hate each other, it is a very tempestuous relationship.

LISA: Of all the Simpsons, it’s Lisa that Skinner gets on with the best. Along with Martin Prince she is his pride and joy at the Elementary School, and the student he always uses to try and prove that the school is functioning properly and turning out intelligent and well-prepared students. He has even come right out and said that he feels that she is a very special little girl, and seems to be one of the few Springfieldians that really does respect Lisa’s intelligence. He generally entrusts her with tasks that he wouldn’t any other student, feeling she is the most mature and capable one to do it, and encourages her when he can. When Lisa lost a national spelling bee and came in second place rather than first, Skinner was one of the main people who organized a congratulatory homecoming for her, cheering her on because second place was still a major accomplishment and nothing to be ashamed of. When Lisa challenged Mr. Burns’ media takeover and was running out of ways to get her newspaper out, Skinner secretly gave her his old hand-powered printing press, because he felt that she was doing the right thing and wanted her to succeed. While they don’t always see eye to eye, usually because of a slim budget forcing Skinner to cut the odd arts program, writers should keep in mind that Skinner will almost always be there to support Lisa.

APU: Skinner is friends with Apu, having been in The Be Sharpes, a vigilante group and a basketball team with him, and even attending his wedding, but it is a tempestuous friendship at best because they most definitely don’t see eye to eye on many things, and Apu has suddenly cut in and dashed hopes/admonished Skinner on more than one occasion, though admittedly normally just when Skinner’s being foolish.
Last edited by Anonymous on Sun Jan 30, 2005 4:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re:Principal Seymour Skinner

Postby Sheana_Molloy » Sun Jan 30, 2005 4:23 pm

PATTY:  Skinner’s relationship with Patty Bouvier, fairly brief though it was, was a rather tragic one, because the two really did wind up loving each other, but Patty couldn’t go through with it for fear of destroying her twin sister’s psyche.  This most certainly broke Skinner’s heart, and very likely contributed to his future shyness and uncertainty with Edna Krabappel.  Patty brought out great surges of emotion in Skinner, even lust, and showed that even a ‘stuffed-shirt’ like him could be human.  It is not clear what their relationship is currently, most likely they have simply avoided each other since and, sadly, moved on with their lives.

EDNA:  If anybody has caused any great turmoil and confusion in Skinner’s life, it’s Edna Krabappel, the fourth grade teacher at his school.  Complete opposites in every way possible, Edna and Skinner used to be enemies of a sort, arguing at the drop of a hat on almost every existing subject.  They once sat together in a locked room for hours, refusing to even think of working out some sort of compromise until they finally had no choice.  Edna can be loud, bitter, cynical and a pleasure-seeker (though she is a good person), which often goes against Skinner's quiet, oblivious every-dayness.  But, proving that opposites indeed attract (or that Skinner’s just used to strong women), the two realized they had feelings for each other, and embarked on a long and constantly see-sawing relationship.  They still (and probably always will) argue about absolutely everything, and Skinner’s uncertainty post-poned a wedding and momentarily broke them up.  However, they are apparently still meeting once in a while in secret, which goes to show that differences aside they will probably always feel drawn to each other, no matter what.  Edna is apparently one of the only people who can drive Skinner to do things he normally never would, often out of desperation, going so far as to track her down cross-country and even fight another man for her.  This relationship is far from over.

GROUNDSKEEPER WILLY:  Skinner and Willy (who Skinner calls ‘William’, the only person in Springfield to do so) are most certainly not friends, but still have a grudging respect for each other.  They always argue, and Willy is always calling Skinner names, but somehow Skinner can always manage to get Willy to do what he wants in the end.  If Skinner was Goldfinger, Willy would be his Oddjob, doing his bidding.

COMIC BOOK GUY:  If Skinner's 'Nam experiences ever do make him crack, then CBG will probably be the first person on his list to go down.  CBG has by now dated & done the deed with the two most important women in his life, Agnes and Edna, with little to no shame over it.  The two are in MENSA together, and it is rather doubtable that meetings are very fun when both are there at the same time.

CHALMERS:  If Skinner has a true enemy, it would be his boss, Superintendent Chalmers.  A boss in the old sitcom comedy style, Chalmers is always terrorizing Skinner in some form or fashion, putting his nerves on edge.  Skinner is never more stressed or nervous then when Chalmers is involved somehow, nor more creative.  Skinner has let loose some truly impressive pieces of ad-libbed B.S. to try and worm his way out of one mess after another, and for some inexplicable reason Chalmers always falls for it.  While he rarely shows it if he can help it, Skinner resents and dislikes Chalmers very much, and if push comes to shove he may finally lash out at him.

AGNES:  The most important character to keep in mind when writing Skinner is that of Agnes, his mother, as when Skinner’s around there’s a fairly good chance she’ll pop up too.  Sheldon passed away some time ago (something Skinner is still sensitive about), but Agnes is still ever present, and Skinner lives with her.  Agnes is crabby, mean, rude and possessive, everything Seymour is not, but somehow he still feels affection for her and dependence, a dependence which most likely comes from the skewed way he was raised.  Dependent though he is, writers should keep in mind that Skinner will sometimes argue with Agnes, and will feel resentment for the way she constantly puts him down or tries to butt into his life:  he couldn’t help but attack a dummy of her in a psychology session, or aim for a knife at a carnival game when she was blathering on, and when Bart exclaimed that he must be rich Skinner mumbled to himself about why would he live with his mother if he was rich, something that hints at the fact that his housing situation isn’t completely by choice.  Another telling clue is his Freudian slip of “smother” instead of “mother” once.  Deep down Agnes cares about him too, but is usually too self-centered to realize/show it.  When Skinner is trying to do something, Agnes can usually be found tagging along or butting in.

OTHER:

Morals- Skinner is generally a pretty moral person, regularly attending church and despairing at things like influential cartoon violence, but not up to the level that, say, Ned Flanders is.  He prefers blandness and is easily offended by certain things, but is not against certain other things, like, say, romance out of wedlock.  At one point he was even an admirer of a dancer at the local burlesque house, visiting regularly to bring the woman flowers (cue ‘Roxanne’).  He is a great believer in doing the right thing, and if his school or somebody he cares about is threatened, he will take action.  He does not respond well to threats, or to bribes.  He has been aproached by Fat Tony & the rest of the Legitimate Business Men's Club on several occasions, and he once managed to get them to exit his office post-haste after a bit of yelling.

Physicality- Unusually for most of Springfield, Skinner is physically fit and one of the few people in the town not shaped like a toothpick or an over-ripe pear.  He knows martial arts courtesy of the Green Berets, and is a good climber, having scaled everything from trees to pipes to a sheer cliff face with little to no difficulty.  Having also gained a good knowledge of guns and knives over the years, if a writer needs a ridiculous action/war movie-type scene to pull off, Skinner’s probably your man.  He has at least one metal plate in him from ‘Nam.

THE ARMEN TAMZARIAN CONTROVERSY:

Perhaps more than any other character and episode, the Skinner episode ‘The Principal & The Pauper’ has caused a great deal of controvery and confusion amongst the OFF fanbase.  The basic summary of the episode is this:  it turned out that Skinner was not in fact Skinner, but an orphan with the ethnic name of Armen Tamzarian who took over the identity of the presumed-dead real Skinner upon returning from ‘Nam as a young man.  He leaves town after this revelation and sadly resumes his seedy old street life in Capitol City, but when Springfield realizes they prefered him to the ‘real’ Skinner, they bring him back as a permanent replacement, his past never to be spoken of again.  It was obvious that Groening and the writers felt that a mistake had been made, because of that ending and how they never refered to the episode again (except for one very brief and recent line in another controversial story).  Many people felt/feel that TP&TP was very detrimental to Skinner’s character, and have struck it from the canon.  There were some good scenes in it though, as it had Agnes realize too late what she’d lost and that Edna really did care about her man, and it did make some fans think more deeply about the character himself.  In comparison to later seasons, this S9 episode really isn't that bad in retrospect.  What is a writer to do?  Well, there are two options, and once you choose one you have to stick with it:  you can go by the ‘old’ canon, which is the prefered and familiar background & story, and completely ignore TP&TP; or, you can accept that episode as canon, referencing it for material to show how Skinner has changed over time, or to explore his personality quirks or some specific story idea.  Just be careful, and know that when you do this some people will object.  Just remember, no matter what he was Then, Skinner must always stay who he is Now.


And there you have it, a writer’s guide to Principal Skinner.  Hope it helps, and happy writing!
Last edited by Anonymous on Sun Apr 17, 2005 6:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re:Principal Seymour Skinner

Postby c_nordlander » Sun Jan 30, 2005 5:32 pm

Excellent. Absolutely exhaustive and, well, excellent bio of one of my favourite supporting characters. I can do nothing but applaud.

One nitpick: I don't remember Skinner ever quoting C. S. Lewis. Unless my memory is shaky (which it is), I think you meant Lewis Carroll. "Calloo! Callay!"
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Re:Principal Seymour Skinner

Postby Sheana_Molloy » Sun Jan 30, 2005 6:18 pm

D'oh! Yes, that'd what I meant.

Glad you like. :)
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Re:Principal Seymour Skinner

Postby Meteorite » Sun Jan 30, 2005 7:29 pm

You misspelt 'school'. Your words are meaningless now.


All joking aside, very well done Sheana! You covered just about everything there is to Skinner, and I can see no room for improvement! Just like your drawings, that's an A+ bio! ;D
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Re:Principal Seymour Skinner

Postby D.B. » Sun Jan 30, 2005 7:41 pm

That's more than expected, and it's all relevent stuff. Well done!
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Re:Principal Seymour Skinner

Postby Ekko » Wed Mar 02, 2005 3:52 am

Yeesh! How long did it take you to write all that?
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Re:Principal Seymour Skinner

Postby Sheana_Molloy » Wed Mar 02, 2005 4:18 am

Is that a good or bad "yeesh!"?
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Re:Principal Seymour Skinner

Postby Dagdamor » Thu Mar 03, 2005 6:21 am

I guess it was good one, because the article is really valuable and helpful for writers. Skinner is not my favorite character in the show, but maybe it was the extra reason to read it? ;) Good work, Sheana.

P.S. I hope someone will write the reference for Lisa...
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Re:Principal Seymour Skinner

Postby Ekko » Thu Mar 03, 2005 10:51 pm

Yeesh: exp. surprised, amazed, awed, etc...(World Book Encyclopaedia, 1992) So yes, it would be a good thing.

Lisa is my favourite character, and there's little else I'd rather see than a full 40-page bio on her. I guess that's your next project Molloy. ;D
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Re:Principal Seymour Skinner

Postby c_nordlander » Thu Mar 03, 2005 10:53 pm

In fact, that's Rich's project, unless I'm way out. So Rich, if you're reading this... *hint hint nudge nudge*
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2. Burn the heretic
3. Suffer not the mutant to live (DONE: mutant life has gone unsuffered)
4. Grow and change
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Re:Principal Seymour Skinner

Postby Ekko » Thu Mar 03, 2005 10:55 pm

Immaterial wrote:So Rich, if you're reading this... *hint hint nudge nudge*


Ditto
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Re: Principal Seymour Skinner

Postby Fionn » Thu Dec 29, 2005 6:49 am

Wow, one day that'll be a passage in the Simpsons Bible.
Hey you, out there in the cold,
Getting lonely, getting old,
Can you hear me?
Hey you, standing in the aisles,
With itching feet and fading smiles,
Can you feel me?
Hey You! Don\'t help them to bury the light.
Don\'t give in without a fight.

-\"Hey You\", by Pink Floyd

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