The Simpsons: How Do They Affect Kids Essay, Research Paper
Birth and Success of an ‘Alternative’ Cartoon “The Simpsons” is one of North America’s most popular television shows, ranking as the number one television program for viewers under eighteen years of age. However, the ideals that “The Simpsons” portrays are not always beneficial and sometimes not even in good taste. Thus, it seems inevitable that “The Simpsons” affects children. Matt Groening, the creator, took up drawing in 1977 to escape from his troubles. At the time, Groening was working for the L.A. Reader, a free weekly newspaper. He began working on Life in Hell, a humorous comic strip consisting of people with rabbit ears. The L.A. Reader picked up a copy of his comic strip and liked what they saw. Life in Hell gradually became a common cartoon in many free weeklies and college newspapers all over the country; it developed a cult status. Life in Hell drew the attention of James L. Brooks, producer of works such as “Taxi”, “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”, and “Terms of Endearment”. Brooks originally wanted Groening to make an animated pilot of Life in Hell, but Groening chose not to do this because he was afraid of loosing royalties from those papers that printed the strip. Therefore, Groening presented Brooks with an overweight, bald father; a mother with a blue unique haircut; and three annoying, spiky-haired children. Groening intended for them to represent the typical American family “who love each other and drive each other crazy”. Groening named the characters after his own family. His parents were named Homer and Margaret and he had two younger sisters named Lisa and Maggie. Bart, instead, was an anagram for “brat”. Groening chose the last name “Simpson” to sound like the typical American family name. Brooks decided to put the 30 or 60 second animations on between sketches on “The Tracy Ullman Show”, which aired on the Fox network. The cast members, Dan Castellaneta and Julie Kavner, did the voices of Homer and Marge; Yeardley Smith did the voice of Lisa; and in the end, Nancy Cartwright did the voice of Bart. Sam Simon, Tracy Ullman’s producer, along with Brooks and Groening wanted to make the Simpson family their own show. However, the Fox network was looking for material to appeal to a younger audience and the only show they had that drew a young audience was “Married With Children”. To Fox’s pleasure, “The Simpsons” saved the network from a predictable failure. On December 17, 1989, “The Simpsons” got its break. The Christmas special, “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” was aired. In the episode, Bart got a tattoo, much to Marge’s dislike. She quickly spent all of the family’s Christmas money to remove Bart’s tattoo with a laser. At the same time, Homer, still on his morning coffee break at 4:00 in the afternoon, learned that he would not receive a Christmas bonus. When he learns that Marge is relying on the money for Christmas, he decides that he will do the Christmas shopping for the year. He quickly buys Marge panty hose, Bart paper, Lisa crayons, and Maggie a dog toy. When Homer realizes that he is not doing very well, he gets a second job as a mall Santa to earn extra money. On the way home from work, he steals a Christmas tree. The next day at the mall, Bart sits on Homer’s lap and pulls down his beard. Homer responds by choking Bart and making him help make Christmas better. On Christmas Eve, Homer receives his check, $13.70 for over 40 hours of work. Homer takes Bart to the dog track as a final chance for Christmas money. They discovered a gem in the third race, Santa’s Little Helper. How could this dog lose on Christmas Eve? The odds were 99 to 1, they were going to be rich. Homer put all of his money on Santa’s Little Helper, and to his horror, he never even finished the race. As Homer and Bart were scouring the parking lot for winning tickets into the night, they saw the track manager throw out a dog. It was not just any dog, it was Santa’s Little Helper. When Bart and Homer came home to their worried family, they had a good Christmas after all. Now they had a dog. “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” was not the typical Christmas story. It dealt with body art, sleeping in the work place, sibling rivalry, stealing a Christmas tree, a misbehaved son, and gambling. Although it was unorthodox, it was very successful. The Fox network decided to broadcast it again on Christmas Eve. Nevertheless, this is an example of an episode that portrays ideals, such as gambling and stealing, which may not be beneficial to a younger audience. In about a month, “The Simpsons” made its debut as a weekly show; “Bart the Genius” was the first regular episode. In the middle of a feared assessment test, Bart switches his test with the completed one of Nelson Prince, the class nerd. Bart and his parents are called into Principal Seymour Skinner’s office where they are told that Bart has a 216 IQ. (Homer thought is was 912.) Skinner requests that Bart attends The Enriched Learning Center for Children. Suddenly, Homer takes a liking to his son. They joke together, play ball together, and embarrass Marge at an opera together as Bart sang along with the opera Carmen yelling, “Toreador, oh don’t spit on the floor. Use the cuspidor. That’s what it’s for.” Soon, at Springfield Elementary School, Bart’s old school, Bart’s graffiti is roped off and labelled, “The Principal. By Bart Simpson. IQ 216.” Bart’s friends no longer liked him, they refered to him as Poindexter. The kids at his new school tricked him into giving up his lunch. As a result, Bart is miserable. Then, after turning himself green in an uneducated science experiment, Bart reveals to his new principal that he cheated on the test. That night, as Homer is helping Bart with cleaning himself off, Bart tells Homer the same thing. Homer instantly transforms into a murderous rampage again. The episode ends with Bart locking himself in his room and Homer trying to knock down the door so he can tear Bart into pieces. Thus, the episode also portrays content that may not be suitable for a younger audience. Soon, Simpsons merchandise was all over America. Every kid wanted an “Underachiever and Proud of It, Man” or an “I’m Bart Simpson, Who the Hell Are You?” shirt. Hats could be seen everywhere that had Bart dressed like a devil saying “Go For It, Dude!” or with Homer, his arms open, lunging forward saying “Why You Little.” The most popular shirt was a family picture with Homer choking Bart. During the first week of school in 1990, two thirds of the sixth graders in America wore Simpsons paraphernalia. As the popularity of “The Simpsons” grew, so did parents’ fears. To their horror, Bart Simpson became a model for their children. “Aye Carumba!” was a popular expression among kids. Almost anything a child did wrong was attributed to “last Sunday’s Simpsons” episode. Questionable content continued to be directed towards a younger audience. In the third episode, a baby-sitter robbed the Simpson household of most of its belongings. In the fourth episode, Homer caused a nuclear accident, got fired, and attempted suicide. Bart stole the head off of the statue of Jebidiah Springfield, Springfield’s founder in the sixth episode. In the eighth episode, Bart took a picture of Homer with an exotic dancer and distributed them to the entire town. Marge had an affair in the ninth episode. Homer stole cable, and almost everything else imaginable in the fifteenth episode.”The Simpsons” Vs Religion “The Simpsons” is often viewed as one of the biggest menaces to Christianity. The Simpson family goes to church on a regular basis, but Bart and Homer hate it. A typical Sunday School conversation is as follows:
Child: “Will my dog, Fluffy go to heaven?”Sunday School Teacher: “No” Other Child: “How about my cat?”Teacher: “No, Heaven is only for people.”Bart: “What if my leg gets gangrene and has to be amputated? Will it be waiting for me in heaven?”Teacher: “Yes”Bart: “What about a robot with a human brain?”Teacher: “I don’t know! Is a little blind faith too much to ask for?”(The Simpsons’ English Episode QuickList) The pastor, Reverend Lovejoy is a hypocrite. In “22 Short Films About Springfield” he leads his dog to the Flanders’ yard to go to the bathroom. He praises the dog until Ned Flanders comes outside. He then acts angry and threatens the dog with hell. When Ned leaves, he praises the dog again. In one episode, Homer stops going to church and falls in love with life. He claims to have his own religion so he doesn’t have to go to work on holidays, such as the Feast of Maximum Occupancy. In a conversation with Lisa: Lisa: “Dad, I don’t understand, why have you dedicated yourself to living a life of blasphemy?”Homer: “Don’t worry Lisa, if I’m wrong, I’ll repent on my death bed.” (The Simpsons’ English Episode QuickList) However, “The Simpsons” is not just an enemy of Christianity. In one episode, where Krusty the Clown is reunited with his father, a rabbi, almost the entire episode is spent making fun of Judaism. Lisa asks Bart, “Do you know what a rabbi’s most valued possession is?” Bart replied, “I dunno, those stupid little hats.” Hinduism is constantly joked with by using East Indian, Kwik-E-Mart clerk, Apu Mahasapeemapitalon. Apu is once asked if he is Hindu. He replied, “By the thousand arms of Bishna, I swear it is a lie.” Once Homer was in the Kwik-E-Mart: Homer: “Hey Apu. No offense, but when they were handing out religions, you must have been on the can.” Apu: “Mr. Simpson, please take your jerky and get out and come again!”All of these disparaging remarks on many types of religion may be detrimental to impressionable minds by making children believe that all religion is full of hypocrisy and has little value. “The Simpsons” and Their Language The average child can acquire a ‘plethora’ of foul words from one episode. In “Flaming Moe’s”, Bart is ‘jinxed’, meaning he can’t talk until somebody says his name. Homer: “What is it boy?”Bart: [Grunts]Homer: “Is anything the matter, my son? Talk to me young man.”Bart: [Takes a pencil and writes 'Say my name'.]Homer: “Say your name? Why should I do that, my lad?”Bart: “Because I’m jinxed damn it!”Homer: [Punches Bart in the arm.]Bart: “Ow! What was that for!”Homer: “You spoke while you were jinxed, so I get to punch you in the arm! Sorry, it’s the law!”(The Simpsons’ English Episode QuickList) Homer Simpson definitely has the highest and most evident influence on children. Once, Homer overheard Ralph Wiggum say the he would do anything for Lisa. In the next scene, Ralph is coating the Simpson’s roof in asphalt. Ralph calls out, “Mr. Simpson, the asphalt fumes are making me dizzy.” Homer, relaxing in a hammock replies, nonchalantly, “Yeah, they’ll do that.” Also, Homer fits the stereotype of the parent who pressures his kid to do well in sports. In one episode, after Bart scored a winning goal, Homer congratulated him, “Okay Bart, you won the hockey game. Now, just as I promised, here’s your turtle, alive and unhurt.” In another example, Homer got angry at Marge once for spending lots of money to vaccinate Maggie against diseases she didn’t have. Further, Homer’s advice on how to get out of jury duty is “to tell them that you’re prejudiced against all races.” His self proclaimed, best advice is, “Sometimes the only way you can feel good about yourself is to make other people look stupid.” It is evident in all of these examples that the language used in Simpson’s episodes can sometimes be crude, and the message conveyed in this language may be even more detrimental to a younger audience because they may not understand the satire underlying the humor. Conclusion Personally, I believe that “The Simpsons” can have an affect on children, but not necessarily all in a bad way. One also has to take into consideration the fact that almost every episode ends with a portrayal of a family that loves each other. Some episodes, moreover, have answered the question of them affecting children on their own. Once, Marge began to complain about Itchy and Scratchy cartoons. Itchy is a psychopathic mouse who’s only purpose is to kill and torture Scratchy, a cat. Getting to the end of the episode, Marge realizes that Itchy and Scratchy is not hurting anyone. They take a satirical view to the situation when a group of mothers try to stop Michaelangelo’s David from visiting the Springfield Museum of Art on the grounds that it is pornographic. Unlike many sitcoms, “The Simpsons” is more like everyday life. Homer works in a power plant. In many other sitcoms, the father works in a more prestigious job, such as an accountant, or with a television studio. At the same time The Simpson family is not a wealthy family living in a $300,000 house. Many children can pay attention to this. In some cases, The Simpsons is educational. Karen Brecze credits Homer Simpson with saving her 8-year-old son, Alex’s life. Bence, of Auburn, Washington, says the boy was choking on an orange when his 10-year-old brother, Chris, used the Heimlich maneuver, which he learned from “Homer at the Bat”, where Homer is choking on a doughnut. Unlike Alex, Homer doesn’t receive help and coughs up the doughnut as his co-workers look at the Heimlich maneuver poster. The Simpsons affects kids, just as anything around them will. Perhaps people fear The Simpsons because they can see a little of The Simpsons in themselves. We all have an inner child within ourselves trying to get out and behave just like Bart. Also, we all “pull a Homer” sometimes. It just happens. The show doesn’t make us do it. It just happens. If this world did not have “The Simpsons” children would behave in the same manner, they just might not laugh quite as much. BIBLIOGRAPHY Simpsons Plaza: http://www.geocities.com/TelevisionCity/Set/7811/ Simpsons games, seasonal reviews, voting polls, articles. The Official Simpsons Site: http://www.foxworld.com/simpsons2/ The official Foxworld Simpsons site. The Simpsonian Institute: http://www.labyrinth.net.au/ kwyjibo/ The Simpsons’ online encyclopedia, featuring an in-depth look at the show’s creative process and the people who put it together. The Simpsons Archive: http://www.snpp.com/ The Simpsons guides, news and information, FAQs, , guides and other general infos. The Simpsons Directory: www.simpsonsdirectory.com/ General information about the cartoon, with references for characters, FAQ’s and story. “The Simpsons”‘ English Episode QuickList: http://www.wcat.com/simpsons/seq.txt Reviews and excerpts of most of The Simpsons’ episodes. The Simpsons Version 2.0: http://members.spree.com/entertainment/ultrahip/index.html Episode reviews, trivia, news, games and Simpsonesque horoscope.