Milhouse Mussolini Van Houten is a recurring character in the animated television series The Simpsons, voiced by Pamela Hayden, and created by Matt Groening who named the character after President Richard Nixon‘s middle name. Later in the series, it is revealed about Milhouse that both his middle name and his maternal family name is “Mussolini“.
Milhouse is Bart Simpson’s best friend in Mrs. Krabappel’s fourth grade class at Springfield Elementary School, and is insecure, gullible, and less popular than Bart. Milhouse is often led into trouble by Bart, who takes advantage of his friend’s naïveté, and he is also a regular target for school bullies Nelson Muntz and his friends Jimbo Jones, Dolph Starbeam and Kearney Zzyzwicz. He also has a crush on Bart’s sister, Lisa, which is used as a plot element in many episodes. Milhouse and his family members are among the few residents in Springfield with visible, in fact rather thick, eyebrows.
Milhouse is of Italian, Greek, Danish and Dutch descent, based on comments and characters introduced throughout the series. He shares the same physical features as both his parents, and his father’s primary personality features (which include disappointment, insecurity, and generally depressed demeanor). He has none of his mother’s confidence, except when specific storylines demand it. Milhouse is constantly bullied by Nelson Muntz, Jimbo Jones, Dolph Starbeam, and Kearney Zzyzwicz, to the point that when Bart questions Milhouse by saying “Milhouse! I thought you had a three o’clock wedgie with Nelson”, in the episode “Little Orphan Millie“, Milhouse simply responds “I had to reschedule”. They do often inflict violence upon the geeky Milhouse, who wears thick eyeglasses, without which he cannot see.
Although not disliked and having a moderate number of friends among other kids from school aside from Bart himself, Milhouse has made a career of getting victimized, although his overall true antagonists are the schoolyard bullies of Springfield Elementary (Nelson, Jimbo, Dolph, and Kearney). In “Sideshow Bob Roberts“, Jimbo, Dolph, and Kearney wrapped Milhouse in bumper stickers and placed him in a shopping cart. After Jimbo claimed that “the mummy‘s ready for his mystical journey!”, the bullies pushed the cart with Milhouse down a very steep hill. He is harmed frequently, and on some occasions is injured by dangerous hazards, e.g., being run over by a train, falling down a waterfall, receiving electrical shocks, having his head polished to bone, and having his teeth knocked out by a hockey puck. As a lead character he always survives and recovers, often with no further mention of any injuries. He frequently visited a female psychiatrist until even she could not deal with his constant calling and blocked his number.
On one occasion, Bart got Milhouse placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted List even though they are friends, and tried to lure Milhouse into a cactus. Milhouse is not always subservient to Bart; in “Bart Sells His Soul“, Milhouse toyed with Bart’s anxiety after Bart sold his soul for $5, and Milhouse demanded $50 to return it. On another occasion, Bart introduced Milhouse to his girlfriend and had to explain why he and Milhouse are friends, but could not come up with a good answer and admitted it was due to geographical convenience. Bart did admit in “Little Orphan Millie” that he loves Milhouse.
Homer also sometimes makes fun of Milhouse (once referring to Milhouse in the boy’s presence as “that little wiener”). In “Burns, Baby Burns“, Larry, Mr. Burns‘ son, brings Homer to eat at his house. Mr. Burns was angry and he asks Homer if his son “brings home nitwits and make you talk to them”, to which Homer answers “Oh, all the time! Have you ever heard of this kid Milhouse? He’s a little wiener who…”, before being interrupted by Burns. In an attempt to purposefully enrage his father, Bart once stated that he felt “a little attracted to Milhouse”, sending Homer into a rage. Bart and Milhouse appear to be the same height, but in the episode “Radioactive Man“, it is revealed that Milhouse is at least 1 in (25 mm) taller than Bart.
Milhouse is frequently the butt of a variety of jokes, such as being beaten up by Nelson for delivering a love note from Lisa (which Nelson thought was from Milhouse himself), having the door slammed in his face while playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey, having his possible budding homosexuality given away by his school counselor to Homer and Marge by accidentally picking up the wrong folder while discussing Bart, making him a wanted fugitive (see above), inadvertently inheriting Bart’s dismal permanent record at school through a side deal arranged between Bart, Edna Krabappel and Principal Skinner, which will disqualify Milhouse from “all but the hottest and noisiest jobs”.
He is fluent in Italian (“The Last of the Red Hat Mamas“) due to visiting his maternal grandmother in Tuscany for two weeks every year. She hates the English language and would beat him whenever he spoke English, thus he was forced to learn Italian. He also began bed-wetting that summer. He helps Lisa learn Italian, but there is no reference to his Italian background or language skills in any other episode. Milhouse’s personality drastically changes when speaking Italian, becoming a suave, confident ladies’ man popular with Springfield’s Italian community in the episode.
The show’s opening sequence, and various scenes of band practice suggests that Milhouse plays a brass or woodwind instrument, possibly clarinet or trumpet, but all the Springfield Elementary band members, besides Lisa, are very poor musicians.