“Marge, cartoons don’t have any deep meaning. They’re just stupid drawings that give you a cheap laugh,” explains Homer Simpson with his rear end exposed above his trousers. And yet, the animated sitcom “The Simpsons” has been on the air for 14 years and has achieved a rare combination of cult status and mainstream popularity. Even though its straight-forward bluntness drew much heat at first, time has given the show critical acclaim as it has proved to be unlike other cartoons.
Matt Groening’s yellow creations are not ‘just an animation’, and this is shown by the diversity of its audience, having both child and adult spectators with concerns outside the realm of cartoons. It seems most have joined the millions in the worldwide Simpsonian community, not being able to get enough of the dysfunctional family: Homer, the patriarch and idiot; Marge, his long-distressed, amusingly boring wife with the blue, gravity defying hair; the mischievous 10-year-old Bart; world-weary swot, Lisa; and of course, baby Maggie, who never talks.
This animated household has crossed the plain from existing as nothing more than a TV show to being imbedded in the very fibers that make up modern day society. But how can an impertinent cartoon manage to stay on top of prime-time television for an unprecedented length of time the way that “The Simpsons” has? Firstly, that opinion about the show must be corrected- “The Simpsons” is not is not as irrelevant as it may seem.
Unlike most other cartoons, in every episode there is a problem issue for this unpractical family and they must battle through life in that ‘tell-it-like-it-is’, comical attitude that the series is based on. Let’s start from the opening sequence, a scene that we have witnessed a thousand times before: the clouds part and the words ‘The Simpsons’ approaches our screen in yellow letters, along with a heavenly theme tune.
We, the consumers, are led into a misconception of the family being Walton-like at this moment, but that soon disappears and the truth is revealed as the characters are introduced: Bart in a detention, frantically writing ever-changing lines on the blackboard, rashly departing as soon as the bell rings; Homer, the dim-witted safety officer at a nuclear power plant, carelessly drops the dangerous substance he is holding as soon as the bell rings, too; Marge and the ignored baby Maggie at the supermarket; Lisa’s individuality being displayed as she improvises on her saxophone, against the wishes of the conductor.
This is a representation of a real family; the flaws and clashing personalities are plain and evidently lead to problem situations. Lisa Simpson once said, “A man who envies our family is a man who needs help. ” This feeling is something that many viewers can relate to. The Simpsons have the power to manipulate our emotions as they are real. But, what is substantial here is that through all of the turmoil within the household, the family finds their love for one another again by the end of the episode.
The clichi??d Simpson characters’ disputes are something that the mass of viewers can relate to, even if only slightly, However, that alone would not be enough for the show to be successful on screen; it would be ‘too deep’ for a cartoon. So, a spectrum of different genres of humour is added that effectively pleases a wide range of ages: There are the exaggerated stereotypes.
Take Homer, for instance- the pot-bellied idiot with no hair, whose behaviour has been based on that of a ‘typical’ working-class, married man whose daily routine consists of not much more than eating (hence his “mmm…!” catchphrases), drinking duff, TV and sleeping incessantly. On the occasion that he has unused time, Homer will partake in an energy-consuming activity such as strangling his son, Bart, or showing his wife adoration: “[Marge] you work yourself stupid for this family. If anyone deserves to be wrapped up in seaweed and buried in mud, it’s you. ” Not only is Homer inarticulate, but his stupidity appears to bear no boundaries: “All right, let’s not panic. I’ll make the money back by selling one of my livers. I can get by with one.
” One couldn’t speak differently about his nai?? ve selfishness, either: “Oh my God! Space aliens! Don’t eat me, I have a wife and kids! Eat them! ” Contrary to the typical expectancy of cheaply animated cartoons such as “The Simpsons”, even the outrageously childish slapstick really is quite entertaining! And then there is the use of satire, the humour intended for the mature audience. It seems that the times before cartoons unhinged themselves and acquired a delicious, forbidden naughtiness beneath the form have been forgotten since the arrival of “The Simpsons”.