The Trope Namer for Where the Hell Is Springfield? is the hometown of The Simpsons. The show never explicitly mentions which state it's in, and there are so many Springfields in the United States that the name really serves as a shorthand for Everytown, America and Flyover Country. But that hasn't stopped fans from trying to determine where exactly it is (or at least where it isn't), and there are a few clues as to where the city really is:
- Creator Matt Groening is from Portland, Oregon (a state with a Springfield in it). Evergreen Terrace is a residential street in Portland (where Groening's childhood home was located). Also, some of the characters are named after streets in Portland. It's natural to assume some Creator Provincialism. Springfield also has some traits of California, because that's where most of the other writers live. When Word of God revealed that this was basically true, that Couch Gag for that week's episode had Bart writing, "The true location of Springfield is in any state but yours."
- Groening also attended college in Olympia, Washington, and there are some resemblances between Springfield and Olympia – particularly the city square with its statue of Jebediah Springfield, which is highly reminiscent of Olympia's Sylvester Park. David Silverman, who directed several episodes and The Simpsons Movie, also half-jokingly suggested that Springfield is in the fictional state of North Tacoma, which may be a reference to nearby Tacoma, WA.
- Film Theory has their own take on this, prioritizing early episodes and plot elements which aren't jokes about Springfield's location per se. They determined that Springfield must indeed be in Oregon, which they also note fits nicely with Groening's background. It does this by eliminating all states where Springfield is not, using background information like the radio station KBBL (implying it's west of the Mississippi River), Bart driving through Branson, Missouri on his way to Knoxville, Tennessee, Homer's map on his workbench knocking out California, Nevada, and Utah, the Murderhorn's highest altitude, Homer expressing ignorance of the existence of New Mexico, the state observing daylight saving time, the frequent high mountains, deserts and coastlines, and the presence of a state income tax.
- In keeping with the idea that Springfield is synonymous with Everytown, America, publicity for The Simpsons Movie included a video contest to determine which Springfield the film would premiere in. The winner: Springfield, Vermont.
- The animation in at least two episodes ("Bart vs. Lisa vs. the Third Grade" and the Couch Gag for "The Ziff Who Came to Dinner") hint that the town is simply just a heavily fictionalized version of Springfield, Illinois. Incidentally, there's also a Shelbyville in that state.
The show itself has included many gags and oblique references as to its location, which tends to change from time to time:
- The "Treehouse of Horror XIII" story "Send in the Clones" has multiplying Homers in a Grey Goo scenario. A map of the outbreak shows that the Homers started spreading from various Springfields.
- In "Bart vs. Lisa vs. the Third Grade", the Capital City Goofball says:The time has come to change our state flag. This Confederate symbol is an embarrassment, particularly as we are a northern state.
- It's worth noting that Groening's home state of Oregon is somewhat infamous for many of its citizens waving the Confederate flag, particularly in rural areas. Despite Oregon being a northern state.
- "Behind the Laughter" refers to the Simpsons as a "Northern Kentucky family" on the original broadcast, which changed to a "Southern Missouri family" for Fox network repeats. Several more variantsnote were recorded but unused, the original intention having been that every time the episode aired, it would give a different state. (You can hear them all on the DVD's special features.) And this refers not to the Simpsons as characters, but rather as animated actors who play caricatured versions of themselves on the show.
- In "Moe Letter Blues", Moe says that Springfield's zip code is 80085 (which spells "boobs" if you type it into a calculator). 80085 is not a real zip code, but other zip codes starting with 800* are in Colorado. Holding the calculator upside down gives you 58008, which is in North Dakota.
- In "Kill the Alligator and Run", the Simpsons visit Florida and get banned from visiting ever again. It's then revealed that the family is banned from every state except Arizona and North Dakota. And neither one has a Springfield.
- "Much Apu About Nothing" has two clues:
- Homer tries to locate Springfield on a map and points very close to Springfield, Illinois, only for Lisa to tell him he's not even close. When Lisa points out the correct location, Bart wanders into the frame and blocks the view, except for the New England States.
- We see a shot of Homer's paycheck, which includes state withholding. This narrows things down somewhat, because nine states don't have a state income tax.They are
- Several episodes (most notably "Bart Gets an Elephant") reference the local radio station KBBL. In the U.S., radio stations almost always start with "W" if they're east of the Mississippi River and "K" if they're west of the Mississippi.
- In "Lisa Gets an 'A'", Skinner remarks that Springfield Elementary was declared the most dilapidated school in Missouri, which draws a surprised look from Lisa. He goes on to say that this was why it was disassembled and moved to its current location.
- In "The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson", Homer was going to Harrrisburg, PA to buy an irregular coat and had to transfer from a bus to a train in New York City, implying that Springfield is somewhere on the east coast. When the Simpson family travels there by bus, they have to transfer in Atlanta twice.
- In "The Road to Cincinnati", the titular road trip Skinner and Chalmers embark on takes at least 800 miles, going through Missouri, implying Springfield is in the west half of the USA.
- In "Pygmoelian", Lenny says that Moe's liquor license is only good in Rhode Island, which is the wrong state.
- In "Mother Simpson", Homer discovers the tombstone he thought belonged to his mother Mona actually belongs to Walt Whitman. In real life, Whitman was buried in Camden, New Jersey, which is approximately a half-hour's drive away from both Springfield, NJ as well as Springfield, Pennsylvania.
- In "Midnight Rx":
- It's close enough to Canada that Homer can drive there and back in just a couple hours.
- While at the Springfield Air and Space Museum, Homer tells Marge that he'd gone to "the bathroom of the future", before Marge informs him that'd gone in the Apollo 12 command module. In real life, the Apollo 12 CM is on display at the Virginia Air and Space Center in Hampton, Virginia, which is an 8-hour drive away from Toronto, Canada.
- The city is shown in a few episodes to be located off of Interstate 95, much like the real-life Springfield, Virginia. There is even a nearby nuclear power station in Falls Church, though this particular part of Virginia is made of several neighboring small towns rather than any large cities, and none of them have grid-style city planning.
There are many indications that Springfield doesn't really exist, or if it does, it exists in an impossible location:
- The Simpsons Movie has Ned Flanders list the four states that border Springfield: Ohio, Nevada, Maine, and Kentucky. Although Ohio and Kentucky do border each other (and both have a Springfield), this is otherwise geographically impossible.
- "The Bob Next Door" has a similar gag; Sideshow Bob kidnaps Bart and takes him to the Five Corners in a Zany Scheme to avoid being arrested by causing a Jurisdiction Friction. This is a reference to the "Four Corners", a point where Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona all border each other. The problem is that the fictional "Five Corners" is an impossible location; after whichever state Springfield is in, the other states are Texas, Minnesota, California and New Jersey.
- "Half-Decent Proposal" has Homer going to "West Springfield", which is described as "three times the size of Texas".
- Springfield may or may not be near the coastline. After all, it has a naval base, and the Squidport boardwalk, and a couple of crusty sailors. But some episodes suggest otherwise, like "Bart After Dark", where Marge comments that the nearest coastline is 400 miles away.
- "Brawl in the Family" suggests that bigamy is legal in Springfield's state. In Real Life, it's not legal in any state.
- It's common to reference Springfield like this in other works:
- In the Futurama episode "Hell Is Other Robots", Fry and Leela stumble upon the entrance to Robot Hell, and Leela asks, "Who would have thought Hell actually existed – and that it was in New Jersey?" But during that scene, there's a brief shot of a wall with Sweetie Graffiti reading "HS & MB" – i.e. Homer Simpson and Marge Bouvier. And there is a Springfield in New Jersey, and the state's reputation fits nicely with Springfield's Crapsack World nature. But The Simpsons and Futurama are also Mutually Fictional (or at least were at the time).
- In "The Simpsons Guy", a crossover with Family Guy:Brian: I guess we're in a town called Springfield.
Stewie: Springfield, eh? What state?
Brian: I can't imagine we're allowed to know or say.
- In the same episode, they miss the punchline of a Kool-Aid Man joke because Kool-Aid Man is in the wrong Springfield.
- In "Bart Star", a crossover with King of the Hill, Hank Hill claims that Springfield is 2000 miles away from his own hometown of Arlen, Texas. The problem is that Arlen is also an example of this trope, but Google Maps notes that it's 2052.4 miles by highway from Springfield, Oregon to Garland, Texas (where KotH creator Mike Judge once lived, and a strong candidate for Arlen's inspiration).
- Season 23 premiere "The Falcon and the D'ohman" suggests that Springfield is deliberately hard to find:Wayne: I needed somewhere to lie low. Your town appears on no maps or charts.
Homer: Yeah, they couldn't find a Google Maps photo without me naked or urinating.
Marge: And when there was a mapmaker's convention here, they all got Lou Gehrig's Disease.
Homer: Not the one you're thinking of – there was another one.
- In "Sideshow Bob Roberts", Lisa discovers that Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper, who were all killed on "The Day The Music Died", are among the dead people who allegedly voted for Sideshow Bob. Holly and the Big Bopper were both buried in Texas, whereas Valens was buried in California, neither of which borders one another.
- "A Tale of Two Springfields" sees the town being split into two area codes - 636 and 939. Due to where they are, Springfield is somewhere on the border between Missouri and Puerto Rico.
- In "Treehouse Of Horror XIII", Billy the Kid, Frank and Jesse James, the Sundance Kid (but not Butch Cassidynote ) and Kaiser Wilhelm II are buried in Springfield. William "Billy the Kid" Bonney is buried in Fort Summer, New Mexico, Frank James is buried in Independence, Missouri, and his brother Jesse is in St. Joseph, Missouri, and Wilhelm II is buried at Huis Doorn in Doorn, Netherlands, while the Sundance Kid was buried at the San Vicente cemetery in Bolivia, though he was never definitively identified after the shootout.
Still other episodes go to great lengths to turn Springfield's location into The Un-Reveal:
- "The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular" claims that Springfield is "the entertainment capital of this state".
- In "When You Dish Upon a Star", Homer is talking with Alec Baldwin about why he moved to Springfield:Alec: Most people don't even know where Springfield is.
Homer: Heh, yeah. To tell you the truth, I'm not even sure!
- In "Bart's Comet", when the eponymous comet is heading toward Springfield:Congressman #1: Then it is unanimous. We are going to approve the bill to evacuate the town of Springfield in the great state of –
Congressman #2: Wait a second, I want to tack on a rider to that bill.
- In "Sunday, Cruddy Sunday", Marge is giving her street address over the phone when she's interrupted:742 Evergreen Terrace, Springfield, oh, hiya, Maude! Come on in!
- In "Burns, Baby, Burns", a man spots Mr. Burns on a moving train and realizes that Burns is his father, so he talks to the train's conductor:Larry: Hey, Casey Jones, where's this train headed?
Larry: Yeah, yeah. What state?
Conductor: (muffled by the train whistle) -aska.
- From "E Pluribus Wiggum":Reporter #1: We're going to Springfield!
Reporter #2: Which one?
Reporter #1: The one the Simpsons live in!
- A similar exchange in "Radioactive Man":Get me two plane tickets to the state that Springfield is in!
- In "The Changing of the Guardian":Marge: The kids could end up wards of the state!
Marge: No, our state.
- In "The Bart of War", when Bart and Milhouse are watching South Park:Milhouse: You know what I've always wondered: what state is South Park in?
Milhouse: Woah, just like us... sometimes.
- "The Seven Beer Itch" has British newcomer Lily play Decision Darts on a map of the US to decide where she'll go. The dart she threw gets blown off course from the map and hits a tourist pamphlet about Springfield instead.
- In "Brush With Greatness", when Marge sends Ringo Starr one of her portraits of him, she addresses the package as "Springfield, U.S.A.".
And it's not just Springfield that gets this treatment, either:
- In "I Am Furious (Yellow)", the creator of the cartoon Danger Dog visits Springfield Elementary, and the children are given the chance to ask questions. Several hands go up. The first question is, "What state is Danger Dog set in?" "Michigan." All but one hand immediately goes down again.
- In "The Old Man and the Key", the Simpsons are trying to get to Branson, Missouri in pursuit of Bart and Grampa, but accidentally wind up in Bronson, where everyone bears a resemblance to Charles Bronson. The only clue to where Bronson is that a #10 bus goes from there to Branson.
Of course, examples can be found beyond the show:
- Lisa's YouTube ad for Homer's "Mr. Plow" service lists the location as "Springfield, Our State".
- In The Simpsons: Tapped Out, during the 2021 event "Love and War", the beginning of the premium questline "Happy Happy Boy Boy" has Lisa state that her Libido (who originally appeared in the episode "Diatribe of a Mad Housewife") shouldn't be freed until they've turned sixteen, adding, "Fourteen if we actually live in Kentucky."