Introduction: For my research investigative, I will be comparing the representation between two popular American sitcoms Family Guy and the Simpson’s. Both are animated situation comedies, using a conventional nuclear family to portray the typical American family and their lifestyle. Using media textbooks extracted from theorists such as Roland Barthes and Vladamir Propp, I will investigate how they both use the same narrative structure to create their sitcom. I will also use the internet to develop the ideas of the sitcoms and use this to define the narrative patterns between the two sitcoms.
The Simpsons: The Simpsons was first created by Matt Groening and was broadcasted on the 19th December 1987. This became the first animated comedy sitcom, catering to the whole family. The characters confirm the idea of a nuclear family living a typical American lifestyle; however the family coherently faces a dilemma which is always solved at the end of the episode. The episodes are normally self-contained narratives involving equilibrium, disequilibrium and a resolution.
For example, the protagonist Homer Simpson will begin the day getting ready for work and faces a dilemma at work, in most cases the whole family will attempt to solve together, rather than Homer attempting to figure out on his own. The idea of the families involvement to solve the problem reflects the opening sequence where the family sits down together to watch television. The idea of togetherness with the family effects how the audience will perceive stereotypical families on T. V. The setting also reflects how the audience sees the ideological family.
Springfield is a fictional state based in America consisting of a close knit community and many other characters appear on the episodes. The family appear to look like a conventional family; however they have their individual personalities. Homer: – A Safety inspector at a power plant, he expresses a careless personality and dominates a crude, ill-mannered, and lazy characteristic, always providing for his family and heavily devotes his life to them. Marge: – a typical American housewife and mother, her strong moral values and patient manner are put down by her troubled children and her gawk husband.
Bart: – A troubled 10 year old often bullying Lisa his sister and lack of respect for the authorities and the community, Bart is one of the most prominent characters. Lisa: an 8 year old strong-headed activist who due to her intelligence sees herself as a misfit with the Simpsons family. Her personality does reflect Marge, however her liberal belief differ from Marge’s democratic beliefs. To sum up their family, the baby Maggie only communicates through her pacifier and the pets ‘Santa’s little helper’ and ‘Snowball IV’ reinstates their family friendly ideology and “safe” atmosphere.
Most of the episodes are based in Springfield, the home of the family, and the opening sequence shows the camera zooming into the state of Springfield, depicting a bird’s eye view of the local school, the donut shop (which is significant on Homer’s characteristics), the town hall and the supermarket all are significant towards their regularity and familiar location. The bold yellow headline and blue sky signify the opening sequence of the sitcom. The soft yellow, blue and white colours reinforce the idea that the sitcom is family friendly also considering the baby-type font used.
This can be known as a memorable hallmark. Their gag names and catchphrases have developed neologism; creating their own catchphrases which often audiences can acknowledge them from have made them common. Even though they are animated characters which can develop, the producers have chosen not to and have stayed the same, although the new technology which has developed over the past decade can transform them. They have recently updated the opening sequence, revealing more characters that appear more often in the episodes.
This idea keeps the audience interested in character development and the change of characters over time. One idea that hasn’t changed since the beginning of the Simpsons is the theme song which is recognised as the Simpsons theme tune all over the world. The orchestral soundtrack is lively and upbeat, which proves the entertainment aspect of the sitcom. The Simpsons had been provided to humour families during prime time, capturing audiences with its exciting linear narrative and realism in each episode.
However The Simpsons had been criticized frequently for their lack of quality in the episodes and Bart Simpson’s rebellious nature having an effect on boys and acting as a role model towards the younger male audience. Family Guy Family guy consists of the Griffins, a dysfunctional family set in a fictional town of Quahog, Rhode Island America. This is also a situational comedy; however the content contains satirical adult humour, amusing American culture. It’s mostly recognised for its cutthroat gags on disability, sexual behaviour and cutaway scenes.
The Griffin family is constantly compared to the Simpsons, consisting of similar family values and characteristics. Peter Griffin: – male protagonist; an overweight safety inspector at a toy factory, recognised in America as a stereotypical blue collar worker. He is often known for his inappropriate nature, reminding the audience of an immature child. Lois Griffin: – Mother and wife of the Griffin family, a typical housewife, grew up in a wealthy family, and married Peter Griffin. She teaches piano for an extra income. However she spends most of her time caring for her family.
Chris Griffin: – The teenage son of Peter and Lois, he appears to have taken Peters gene’s and deals with typical adolescent inconveniences; girls, acne and school. Meg Griffin: – A self-conscious teenage girl who struggles to be accepted in not only school but also at home. She is regularly at the hind end of Peter’s jokes. Stewie Griffin: – A one year old toddler who frequently is misguided about his sexuality. His evil nature is often taken out on his mother, who he repeatedly masters a plan to kill. His sophisticated speech and maturity juxtaposes typical toddler’s description.
Brian Griffin is the speaking pet dog, following an anamorphic behaviour. He has a refined speech and often corrects Peter’s immature behaviour. Despite the fact that Brian is a dog, he enjoys human activities and dates women regularly. Brian appears regularly in episodes, and on occasion appears in special episodes with Stewie, travelling in an epic adventure as Dog and toddler. During the episodes the storyline is always cut off on a tangent, and a new storyline is created. This may be seen as difficult for audiences to follow the plot; however it is always based on two centered narratives.
The storyline also follows equilibrium, disequilibrium and a resolution, however on one episode where Stewie kills Lois the plot continued onto another episode, finally resolving the problem. Most of the episodes are set within Quahog, and some specials reside in Stewie and Brian going to a different country such as England and Germany. The opening sequence depicts the conventional family setting; Lois and Peter are placed on the piano, happily playing in unison. The other family members appear after, joining together symbolises the family values enforced in the typical idea of a conventional family.
Family guy appears to share the same family values as the Simpsons, however the content and the audience is clearly different. The simpsons share family values and humour the typical American culture, however their humour is directed towards adults and children, using satirical wittiness and frequently punning on American products such as Mad TV or the actual TV production company that shows the Simpsons, Fox. Whereas family guy is shown during the late night schedule and the content uses extreme vulgar adult content, profanity, violence and nudity.
In a sense, family guy’s title does mislead the audience into thinking that the program will be based on the same values the Simpsons produces. This is where they differ in style and content. Following my research, I have decided to challenge the conventional representation of families in sitcoms. I will create a DVD poster of a brand new situational comedy based on a family which appear to be a dysfunctional family which struggle to follow the conventional structure of a beginning scene, a dilemma then a resolution.
They share the conventional ideology that families are appeared to be shown. I will use Adobe Photoshop to create my poster and Macromedia Flash to create the characters. Stereotypically, the male protagonist is portrayed as reliant on the other family members to “bail” him out. However in my production, I will portray the male protagonist as independent and smart and place the “male characteristics” on another character, for e. g. the son.