‘The Simpsons’ is a comedy cartoon, created originally over ten years ago. The cartoon idea for adults lampoons everything Americans hold dear, and is now more popular worldwide than ever before. It focuses mainly on one family, the Simpsons of Springfield. They are dysfunctional in the extreme, a family of unwitting victims who have no idea why life keeps knocking them around. The Simpson family has five members: Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and baby Maggie. Each character has their own bizarrely normal, stereotypical unique personality. Homer works in the local nuclear plant, a safety inspector who sleeps on the job.
As the stereotypical American man, he is lazy, overweight and careless, and is usually to be found sprawled on the sofa, drinking Duff beer, eating unhealthy food and watching his soul mate – the television. Despite being the patriarch of the Simpson family, it is unlikely that he has ever done an honest days’ work in his entire life. His response to practically any crisis is to mutter unintelligibly and slap himself on the forehead. This is not your standard cartoon hero. Marge is his blue-haired wife and the ever-patient model mother.
The stereotypical housewife role played by Marge sees her waiting upon the every need of her family, rarely complaining. This role is also slightly sexist, as Marge is the homely wife and mother who cooks, cleans and keeps the house tidy daily, while the bread winning husband works. Bart, the eldest Simpson child, is cheeky, mischievous and rude. He isn’t a bright student, his grades are low, but most of the time he doesn’t seem to care. Life for Bart is one long holiday, he takes it as it comes, and it is quite clear that Homers’ lazy ways were hereditary for Bart. Lisa is younger than Bart is, but much wiser.
She is presented as the swotty, goody-two-shoes all-rounder schoolgirl, and at first glance seems a stereotype. Yet fans of the show know that she breaks free of her stereotype mould on a regular basis, by busting her father for stealing cable, going vegetarian, fighting for animal rights and creating her very own feminist doll. “Lisa is the moral conscience of the show’s creators, and wages a one-girl revolution against cartoonland patriarchy. ” (Christopher Borrelli, Blade magazine, March 2001. ) Last but by no means least is Maggie, the youngest of the mad Simpson clan.
As are all the other characters, she is timeless, and will always be a baby. Despite her seemingly small and inconsequential role, Maggie plays a much larger, deeper part than most people first think. Animation used in ‘The Simpsons’ is bold, colourful and clear. The mainly primary colours used are bright and cheery, which appeals to and attracts a younger audience. Children tend to like bright colours, and the clear, simple drawings make it easy for young children to see and understand the slapstick humour, as they will not understand the dialogue.
Colour if occasionally used in unusual circumstances, such as Marge’s bright blue, tall hair, and the yellow colour of everyone’s skin (except Apu’s). This can be amusing for the younger audience. The clarity of the simple drawings is a relief, as they don’t go into great detail, yet the picture is not too vague. The starting sequence of the cartoon is interesting and intriguing, yet another unusual aspect of ‘The Simpsons’. The opening montage that begins every Simpsons episode shows frenetic scenes where we see family members Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie careening toward home, a collection of accidents waiting to happen.
They bolt out of doorways, and screech around corners, averting potential disaster at every turn. It’s a miracle that any of them make it alive, but every week they somehow manage to emerge from the chaos, just in time for the start of the show. In the few minutes it lasts, it tells the audience a startling amount about each family member and their typical day. The introduction to the sequence has “The Simpsons” being sung in angelic voices while the text floats up out of clouds. This suggests that the Simpson family is the perfect, heavenly family, whereas ironically they aren’t.
Following this, Bart is shown scribbling his lines on the blackboard while in after school detention. Each episode has a different line being written by Bart, which is usually witty and comical. Part of the excitement of watching the show is tuning in to see what Bart will write this time. Likewise, the end of the sequence presents the whole family running inside the house, racing to get to the television set. Again, each episode shows something different happening to the couch as they attempt to sit down; for example it once turned into a rollercoaster.
A deeper analysis of this shows maybe a slight shallowness to the family. As they all return from their daily activities, instead of sitting down and chatting, or maybe doing homework, they all gather round the television set, thus proving that television plays an important, maybe too important, role in their lives. Critics and fans alike acclaim ‘The Simpsons’ as one of television’s truest and most hilarious portraits of the American family. It is totally unlike any other cartoon ever created. Cartoons previous to ‘The Simpsons’ all targeted children and the thought of it appealing to adults wasn’t even considered before.
Its fresh approach to cartooning has gone down a storm, and as a result the show appeals to literally all ages. It is acknowledged and accepted by all members of society, and even the more obscure storylines rarely cause upset – everybody can relate to it in one way or another. “The Simpsons may be hip and ironic but unlike, say South Park or Ren & Stimpy, it has never been cynical. ” (Slate magazine, April 1999. ) ‘The Simpsons’ is definitely ironic, but by no means cynical, as this quote states. Cynicism puts a negative spin on things, but ‘The Simpsons’ is upbeat, friendly and cheerful.
The characters in ‘The Simpsons’ are not just simply characters. They are deeper than that, and they stretch further than the personalities allocated to them. Gender roles are strongly presented in the show. There are very few female characters, the only ones being Marge, Lisa, Maggie, Mrs Krabappel and the male characters’ inconsequential wives. But the few female characters are intelligent and meaningful, ones to take note of, unlike many of the male characters who are often stupid and thoughtless, for example Lenny and Stu, Homers’ drinking buddies from Moes’ Bar.
Marge is clever and thoughtful, but often she gives in to Homer and Bart’s stupidity because she isn’t very strong. Her sexist housewife role is rarely played in this day and age by the typical woman, who today works as hard or harder than the husband does. Marge is a mom who has learned to disguise her intelligence so as not to embarrass her huffily insecure husband. This simple quote: “Dad works, Mom doesn’t,” (Demon magazine 1998) proves what I have just said. Lisa, on the other hand, is extremely intelligent for her age of eight.
As I have already stated, she shows amazing capabilities in all areas, especially morals and ethics. She is not afraid to stand up for what she believes is right, even if she is standing alone. None of the male characters have ever, or would ever do anything like this. Lisa is described as the mouthpiece of the show, whose personal knowledge, beliefs and ideas let the writers bring up issues both social and moral and present them in an inspiring way. She strongly believes in feminism and equal rights, as Christopher Borrelli of Blade magazine once said: “Lisa could be the first cartoon intellectual.
Has there been a more visible or accessible feminist in the past twenty years then Lisa Simpson? ” Lisa, Marge and Maggie all play a part in the main family of the show, and contribute strongly to one of the most unusual and unique family scenarios ever presented in a cartoon. What’s especially admirable about ‘The Simpsons’ is the way satiric asides are tucked into every corner. The show keeps outdoing itself with wry sarcasm, topical themes and superb scripting which puts other comedies to shame.
It continues to emphasise that there’s a big world out there which television barely touches upon, and being the most realistically surreal cartoon series ever is continually striving to be funnier, tighter and more precise with it’s sarcasm. To achieve this, the show uses many different techniques of humour, which attract many different age groups. The nature of the humour used is mainly adult, but not in an inappropriate or crude way. ‘The Simpsons’ remains one of the funniest, freshest comedies on television. One of the largest used techniques must be stereotyping.