As any self-respecting access officer will tell you, there is little real difference between Oxford colleges. Wherever you end up, you’ll probably have a great time and will end up laughing over the times you pored over prospectus pages to find ‘the college for you’ before you applied.
…But once you’re here, it’s difficult to resist categorising other colleges as desperate, dead or distant, just because we met a student from that college once who was a bit odd (even for Oxford). In the spirit of friendly collegiate banter, we’re taking some of the old familiar stereotypes and applying them to a television institution as iconic as the RadCam itself: The Simpsons.
First up is Hertford College, located on the cobbles of Catte Street in the middle of town. Originally founded in 1282, Hertford is so generally inoffensive that its logo is a gentle deer, its Hall is decorated with tasteful photographs rather than ageing portraits, and the college door is even bedecked with flowers. The student body are jovial – sometimes unnervingly so – and docile. To complete the image of domestic bliss, they even have a cat named Simpkins – or multiple cats named Simpkins, because like poor Snowball, each new cat is given the name of its deceased predecessor. Who could represent ol’ Hart Hall better than Ned Flanders?
It’s easy to take a shot at Ned for just being nice in a world as morally ambiguous as Springfield (a surprisingly suitable parallel for our beloved city), but at the end of the day, there’s no one in town who really begrudges his unfaltering kindness. While Hertford is perhaps not so pious – having been witness to a Hertford bop, I know they don’t take “a daily dose of vitamin Church!” like Nedward – they certainly show the same cheeriness and optimism that characterise the Flanders family.
Just like Ned, Hertford can be characterised as a little earnest; their pale-brick buildings and the Bridge of Sighs are beautiful Oxford landmarks, but they anchor the college firmly into the past. “The only dancing I like is square,” he tells Edna Krabappel – both Ned and Hertford would never be described as edgy. Nonetheless, it is the lack of edge which lends the college its sincerity. Where would Homer be without the consistent help of the neighbour he constantly derides; more importantly, where would Oxford be without the supportive hollers of Hertford fans at every sporting event to remind them what real college patriotism looks like?
Stupid sexy Flanders
Just like Ned in his revealing snowsuit from Season 11 (Simpsons casuals, get on my level), Hertfordians can be quite forward with their college pride. In the stifling proximity of such a small campus, some become as consumed with college life as Ned is with The Man Upstairs; they take on a deer-in-headlights look (no pun intended) when confronted with the seemingly barbaric ways of other colleges. Nonetheless, the average Hertfordian isn’t so sheltered, and will generally get on fine with their neighbour-eenos – even if Brasenose plays Homer to their Ned by being a serious, hedonistic and disparaging rival across the cobbles.