What we can all learn from "The Simpsons"

alison gordon's picture

I went to the cinemas to see the movie version of The Simpsons with my father (a Homer fan, the oldest person in the theatre by a few years at least). My mother and partner (not fans of the show) couldn't understand why we'd pay $10 each to see something we could watch on TV for free, and even then, why do we bother to watch the stupid thing at all?

After a quick demographic assessment of the audience, I noticed that there was a great mix of age groups, genders and nationalities - which led me to ask myself on the way home in the car - what is it about The Simpsons that speaks to such a wide audience?

After so many years of being on air, they have to be doing something right - and I believe its success lies in its use of seemingly stupid humour to engage in very interesting social and political commentary.

Like the TV version, throughout the movie there were constant references to the fallacies of government and political leadership. Granted, kids of a young age may not have understood these subtle criticisms, but the big kids knew exactly what was being implied when an adviser to the US President asks him to review and pick one of five solutions to a national crisis to which "President Schwarzenegger" replies "I was elected to lead not read!"

Perhaps I am wrong, but I think all of us could identify with at least one Simpsons character in some way if we looked closely. Who hasn't looked at a juicy hamburger, or whatever indulgence you like, and thought "mmmm, hamburger"? Who hasn't experienced the temptations of their inner child like Bart does? Who hasn't nagged their partners and kids but supported them all unconditionally as Marge does? We have all known school bullies like Nelson Munce and nerds like Martin Prince - and I personally know a trusty corner store owner like Apu!

Is The Simpsons merely a comic reflection of reality? Perhaps they are just trying to get us to laugh at ourselves. If you haven't watched an episode yet, try it out - and see what it says about you!


Although not half as funny

Although not half as funny as it used to be, and long over taken in the popular culture stakes by South Park, the Simpsons is one of the most successful programmes of all time. Far from being 'stupid' it's written by a huge stable of very talented and highly paid writers and appeals to such a wide range of people because it's expressly designed to. There's the slapstick for the kids, there's the social commentary for the adults and there's the spin off products to keep the money rolling in.

As first envisaged Bart was supposed to be the main character but Homer has always been the main man, it's perhaps less that people laugh at him for his stupidity, more that people agree with him as only a cartoon character is allowed to express the politically incorrect thoughts we all have but dare not express in polite company these days.

It wasn't just your mother and partner who couldn't understand why you'd pay to watch something at the cinema which you could watch for free, doesn't Homer say exactly the same thing in the movie?

Yes, he does say exactly

Yes, he does say exactly that, right at the beginning I believe.

I suppose it is just another way, as you say, of offering social commentary on the odd habits of human beings that are somehow only acceptable when a cartoon character points them out. We forget there are real people writing these lines, not Homer himself!