The Simpson’s – A little Piece of America – Sociology Essay
The idea of the American home has evolved throughout the hundreds of years of our countries existence. Very often, Americans try to portray their idea of home through television show families. There is one family that quickly comes to mind when the American home is discussed, The Simpson’s.
The Simpson’s, even though it is only an animated cartoon show, it is still one of the best representations of what the current standard is for the American home. Some people may believe that the show may be just a figment of creator Matt Greening’s wild imagination. However if it wasn’t, if he has really tried to create the middle-class American home and family through The Simpson’s, then he succeeded with flying colors.
The show originally premiered as 30-second fillers for the Emmy Award winning series The Tracy Ullman Show. With the feedback, FOX decided to make it a full time show. The first episode debuted on January 14, 1990. Matt Groening conjured the characters names by naming them after his immediate family, with the exception of Bart, which is an anagram for Brat. (Brief History, 1, 1998) The show consists of five main characters: Homer, the unintelligent father, Marge, the caring mother, Bart, the oldest child who is always making trouble, Lisa, the middle child who is the smartest in the family, and Maggie, who doesn’t speak but is able to communicate by using her pacifier. The Simpson’s live in a regular suburb plainly called Springfield, and no it is not a coincidence that there is a Springfield in every state of the United States of America. This past year, the series surpassed The Flintstones as the longest running animated television series. This is just one of many credits that The Simpson’s have won. The series also received national recognition by receiving the 1990, 1991, 1995 and 1997 Emmy Awards for Outstanding Animated Program. (Brief History, 1, 1998)
The real reason for Matt Greening’s creation of The Simpson’s is not exactly known. However, it is somewhat easy to tell why Americans took to the show so easily. Throughout the 90’s, Americans have become very supportive of their freedoms. Freedom of the Press and Speech are very popular items that Americans like to test to make sure that they are still free. Because of this, The Simpson’s has been able to use real life issues throughout their show. Even though The Simpson’s is a cartoon, it should not be taken as strictly a children’s show. The show covers heavily debated issues, such as sex, abortion, gays and lesbians, and racism. A personal example can summarize how people felt about the human body and sex in the 50’s and 60’s. I was at a swim meet in high school and after the swim meet a lot of the time me and my fellow teammates do not want to walk to the crowded locker rooms and change so we do what we call “deck changes.” After I performed this common act I went into the stands and found my father. He told me that he could have never done what I just did. He said that it was not acceptable and that he would be very out of line for doing it. I told him that I had a towel on and asked what the problem was. He simply laughed and I figured out that the times had changed and that it just wasn’t acceptable to change in public. This shows how people used to feel about the body. People were conservative, but with the times people have changed. This conservative attitude carried over into the other “real” topics that the show covers. Along with serious matters, the show pushes the limits with its many political jokes. Throughout the time when President Clinton was in trouble for the Monica Lewinsky scandal, the show would also make it sown fair share of jokes knocking our current President. In the past, political figures were not made fun of in TV shows; in the 90’s it is different. Different because the public accepted it; people find it extremely amusing to see the nations political figures being made fun of as regular people. It shows that Americans were loosening up their relations between political people, and being able to look at them as regular people too, which is very evident in politics today. Politicians try to connect to people on a friendly level and show people that they are humans as well.
There are many reasons as to why The Simpson’s portrays the American home. Normally on sitcom shows, a character is faced with a problem and does not know how to fix it. The character then gets a 30-minute lesson on what they need to do to fix their problem. And finally at the end of the episode the character is happy and so it everyone else on the show. This is a nice way to keep many viewers happy but unfortunately it is not how the real world exits. Problems exist for years, they are not always solved right away and it is ridiculous for a TV show to portray that to its viewers, especially when the viewers are normally influential children. Children need to be taught that everything is not solved right away and that it may take a long time for some problems to be fixed. The Simpson’s does a good job of not ending all of their episodes with all the characters being happy. They show that problems and real life issues are not solved right away and that it can take a lot of hard work to get yourself out of a problem.
A second reason brings the location of Springfield into play. Many people may not be aware of it, but there is a Springfield in every state. By making the town Springfield Groening is trying to say, “this family could be any of yours out there watching.” He is explaining that this family may not seem to be exactly like yours and that this house may not look exactly like yours, but it is similar in ways that you may not have noticed. To begin with, the house is yet somewhat simple but contains everything that most American houses have. The main room that is used is the TV room, which is not a surprise because that is where most Americans live a majority of their life. In that room, viewers will most likely find Homer, Bart or Lisa. Homer will normally be cradling a beer and some chips watching football or Bart and Lisa could be rooting on their favorite cartoon show, “The Itchy and Scratchy Show.” A very fitting quote that explains how many American feel about TV comes from Homer, he says “Television – teacher, mother, secret lover.” It is very sad that Americans think of the TV as their teacher and mother, children especially, but it is true. One person that never seems to appear in this room, unless delivering food, is Marge. The kitchen consumes Marge’s life. As much as Americans would like to believe that we have gotten past the 50’s view of the wife in the kitchen way of living, it is not true. In most families the wife or mother will do the cooking while the husband or father watches TV. It is not fair, but Americans have not passed by this way of life. Matt Groening has realized this and continues to keep this image in his show.
Although the entire Simpson’s family is the main character, Homer can be looked at as the shows true star. Through his time on the show he has written a book full of unforgettable lines that are hysterical but also demonstrate many issues that are true to the American family and home. For example, Homer says in one episode “If you really want something in life you have to work for it. Now quiet, they’re about to announce the lottery numbers.” (Homer Simpson’s, 1, 1996) This is a very funny line, but very true. It truly shows the attitude of most Americans, they don’t want to have to work for everything, and they want it laid out for them on a silver platter. Another quote is “To alcohol! The cause of – and solution to – all of life’s problems!” (Homer Simpson’s, 1, 1996) Americans run into so many problems because they love to drink, and what better way to forget the problems than drown them away in alcohol. Two topics that are heavily disputed in many episodes of the Simpson’s are female rights and religion. Homer goes on to explain to Lisa in one episode this: “Lisa, if the Bible has taught us nothing else – and it hasn’t – it’s that girls should stick to girls sports, such as hot oil wrestling and foxy boxing and such and such.” (Homer Simpson’s, 1, 1996) This quote deals with many issues. The first line that Homer says shows the attitude of Americans towards religion. It is not saying that the Bible has taught people nothing, but it is trying to show the decline in the popularity of the importance of religion. People do not attend their religious events as much as the past and that is what is being stressed. The second line portrays what many Americans believe what the second job of the female should be. The first is cooking and cleaning, the second is “foxy boxing.” This sport may or may not exist, but if it did, it would definitely be one of the most popular sports in America. These quotes are merely a few examples of what Homer and the rest of the supporting cast have to say about some of the heavily debated American issues.
Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie, may not look and talk like all Americans do, but they certainly act and think like Americans do. They may only be cartoon characters, but they may also be the best example of what the home actually is and what goes on inside the walls of most American households. The Simpson’s has a very sarcastic way of portraying the American home and family, and sometimes it may be ugly and somewhat hard to swallow, but it is a very true and fair interpretation of the average American home and family.
“A lot of people praise The Simpson’s because it appears to be closer to what we know of as being a social reality than Happy Days etc. People like it because families are dysfunctional and things do go wrong … We’re sick of the treacle solutions.”
– Dr Ann Waldron Neumann, former tutor in media studies at Latrobe University (The Simpson’s, 1, 1998)
Dalgarno, Rose. “The Simpson’s,” interview by Shoot Magazine (February 1998)
Nelms, Daniel A. “Homer Simpson Home Page.” 12 January 1996.
Paakkinen, Jouni. “A Brief History of The Simpson’s.” Fox 61 Website. 23 December 1999.