Keep in mind this was The Simpsons at its best, Season Five's The Last Temptation of Homer. Season Five was a solid time for the series, before the creative team stretched themselves too hard trying to match the more random, manic, and less character-driven formulas that might work for such shows as South Park and occasionally Family Guy, but a recipe that often falls flat on The Simpsons. Yet conversely, the show had also been around long enough to produce episodes more confident and sophisticated than some of the very early Season One shows that, despite many golden moments of their own, had yet to really establish that classic Simpsons rhythm. Most fans agree Seasons 3-6 were probably the series at its absolute best.
It is in this perfect era we meet Mindy Simmons. She's some kind of engineer who's been brought in to put the Affirmative in the nuclear power plant's fledgling Action. Homer is immediately drawn to her, and she to him (no, this is not why I idolize her: even with my established quirky taste in men, I draw the line at Homey).
Why The Simpsons remains such a cultural milestone long after its run its course and is now not...very...shall I say...good, is because of the way the writers handle this dilemma. Obviously, Homer can't really err from Marge. That would take things too far. So equally obviously, Mindy can't be a permanent character. She's a one-off. So it would be easy to make her a one-dimensional floozy, good for a couple cheap laughs on account of that flooziness.
Yet what the writers do instead, which is what helps make Mindy such a fantastic character despite her one-episode appearance, is make her just as conflicted as Homer, and just as ultimately kind-hearted, too. She doesn't want to be a homewrecker. However, as I believe showrunner Al Jean said in this episode's commentary, "these two characters just can't control their libidos around each other." In a hilarious sequence in the plant's tiny elevator, she and Homer are smashed nose-to-nose in the cramped space of the box. Instead of smirking and flirting, Mindy unknowingly imitates Homer, whispering to herself with eyes closed, "Think unsexy thoughts, think unsexy thoughts." Then she smiles the same awkward, loopy grin as Homer.
Now we get to the real, mean and dirty reason I wish I could be just like her: she makes being the female equivalent of Homer attractive and charming. Like Homer, she loves hogging down donuts like a pig ("I dunno. Pigs tend to chew. I'd say he eats more like a duck"--sorry, wrong episode, but still a classic line). She enjoys sneaking in a nap before lunch. She gets excited about the prospect of free shower curtains in a hotel room. She yells "get bent" at someone criticizing their nuclear panel at a convention. She makes that same beloved gargling noise in the back of her throat when she thinks about the words "double glaze".
She is Homer, as a foxy redhead.
Does that mean she also has his lack of intelligence? Well, that's difficult to gauge. We never really see her working at her job, though Smithers mentions as an afterthought that she has some sort of relevant degree. She's probably more competent than Homer, but we can't know that for certain: after all, Homer works at the plant. Competence is apparently not high on Burns's list of desired qualities for employees (competence might foster independent thinking).
If Mindy is as stupid as Homer, would that make me want to be her any less? Well... "Short answer 'yes' with an 'if', long answer 'no', with a 'but'." Yeah, I'd like to emulate somebody intelligent, wouldn't we all? Least that's what my ego dictates. However, there is that small, petty, corpulent little gal called my id, who dances around in a devil costume shaking maracas, singing, "I am evil Laura! I am evil Laura!" This primitive imp wouldn't mind getting away with all that Homer gets away with, while possessing little to no intelligence. What man or woman wouldn't, at their evil, primitive core? And what man or woman wouldn't want to get away with all that Homer gets away with while being ridiculously attractive, unlike the real Homer?
So, Mindy is basically a win-win character. She's not only wish-fulfillment for fanboys, but for fangirls, too. And that's the sort of all-encompassing thinking The Simpsons writers at their best were terrific at.
Oh, but have I mentioned the absolute best reason Mindy's amazing? She has the piggish habits of Homer, has a good heart, is a smokin' hot babe, and she has the voice of Michelle Pfeiffer. Yowza.
Let's break this down:
Admit it. We all want to be Mindy Simmons.
P.S. If you can get a copy of the DVD for The Last Temptation of Homer, listen to the commentary. Al Jean had it bad for Pfeiffer, and it's adorable to hear. Apparently, according to Jean, she's super, super gorgeous. One disappointing fact, though: that gargling sound? Broccoli and water. She didn't want to eat sweets. The hell? I love you dearly, Michelle, but I'd still rather be Mindy if that's what it takes to look like you and not her.