You know, I’d say one of the reasons writers hate the “I have an idea for a story” thing is that ideas are the easy part. As in, when you’re a writer, you sit in a dentist’s chair and go from thinking about Trollhunters and Guillermo Del Toro voicing Doctor Muelas to thinking about the Simpsons line “Why do you turn my office into a house of lies?” to thinking, “Huh. Pop culture dentists. That’s a thing, right?” The difference is that writers actually write the things down.
Despite the fact that pop culture is familiar with the idea that everyone needs a job, it strikes me that dentist doesn’t usually make the list. Most pop culture dentists are dentists for plot purposes—someone on the show or in the movie needs to see a dentist. If the main character is a dentist, the point is generally that they’re a sadist. Probably played by Steve Martin or else an escaped Nazi or something. When a character is seeing a dentist, that dentist is probably boring and proof that their relationship will end.
Which is why I appreciate characters like Doctor Muelas, frankly; okay, so he’s a minor character. But as with so many other characters from the series, it’s clear he has a rich inner life, and we could learn quite a lot about him if the show ever chose to focus on him. And, okay, we don’t know why he’s a dentist, because we don’t know that much about him, but he’s not in it for the sadism. The show does speak positively about oral hygiene, and while Toby ends up at one point in Ludicrous Comedy Headgear, it’s only for one episode.
Because it’s important to note that I don’t want my kids to grow up fearing dentists. I’d like them to have better teeth than I do, let’s be real, and if the only dentists they see are Baron Larry demanding to know if it’s safe, well, yeah. I feel as though this is a place where phobias are feeding the media which is feeding the phobias. Yeah, okay, it’s a bit weird to have someone poking around in your mouth, but on the other hand, you know, the first dentist I had as a child was a genuinely sweet man who cared about people’s pain levels. I was even pleased to learn a while ago that he’s still alive and in good health.
I suppose it’s also worth noting that the “why do you turn my office into a house of lies?” line comes because it’s so important to Homer that his children have a dental plan. Sure, it’s because Lisa turns out to need braces, which of course is never a thing other than in that single episode, but still. The point is that even characters who fear dentists often go see them, and if that’s in part because confronting your fears can be either the root of horror or comedy gold, well, that’s the human condition. As is sitting in a dentist’s chair, wishing you had a dentist singing “Cielito Lindo” at you.