The Simpsons has a long legacy of holding a mirror up to societies issues and poking fun at them. Before South Park began shredding modern culture with its own scathing commentary we turned to Americas favourite dysfunctional family for societal analysis.
Being of sound Nerd-mind it is a subject which I think about often. And because the comment of “if you don’t like it anymore then just don’t watch it” (Our recent Star Wars piece brought them out in droves) is the product of a devoid mind – I felt as if I had to get my thoughts down on screen.
Do you remember where you were when you first saw The Simpsons?
I’ll never forget my first experience of The Simpsons. Let me recount it for you in the most tedious fashion : I couldn’t have been more than 9 years old. My parents were visiting some friends of theirs in some far-flung countryside town about 3 hours drive from where we lived and I was dragged along for the ride. We had been there all afternoon and i was losing the will to live. As we were leaving, the man of the house looked at his watch and reached for the TV remote with some urgency. Sky Television (or BSB) was a relatively new thing and a luxury that few households could afford at the time which would explain why i became so transfixed on the screen…
The clouds parted and we zoomed through the P and over the fictional town of Springfield. Having had no previous exposure to the show aside from preliminary advertising, playground tales and seeing Bart Simpson on a t-shirt once – I was enthralled. The animation was so slick. The music was theatrical without the pomposity and brashness of the cartoons i was used to watching. This seemed different. A style all of its own. I couldn’t tell if this was the intro to the cartoon or the cartoon itself. So much was happening. Every frame seemed so deliberate and contained so much that i was hypnotised from the offset. With each character introduced i had more questions. Why was there a man in a radiation suit? Why does that woman have blue hair? What significance does the glowing thing have?
I can’t recall (a good 28 years later) what the couch gag was for the episode in question aside from finding it terribly funny. The man of the household informed me with much glee that “it changes every episode”. My parents (who had been trying to push me out the door for the last minute and a half) could see that my trance-like state had been broken and resumed communication. During that time I had been rooted to the spot drinking in all that the television was supplying. From then on I was hooked to the show, as many of us were. From that initial viewing I felt like the show was not just entertaining but that it “got me” on another level. It was MY sense of humour.
It was this first meeting that many fans hold on to. For me at least its a deeply personal experience but one that fans of the show seem to have in common. Not quite – “Do you remember where you were when you first saw The Simpsons?” and more – “The Simpsons! YES!”. A general nostalgic fondness.
And lo the masses did rejoice at this newfound animated comedy for many years to come.
That was until Season 10.
Sure the show has had its golden era, but now we’re left with this shambling corpse known universally as “Zombie Simpsons“. It bears a striking resemblance to the show we know and love but it isn’t The Simpsons.
For the most part we’re all in agreement that the shows quality has suffered greatly over the years. There have been a few blips here or there but by and large the decline began in or around Season 10. Scholars could pinpoint the exact moment (I’m led to believe its the Armin Tamzarian / ‘The Principal and the Pauper’ episode) when the show began to decompose, but to be less clinical I would state that it was in or around that season that the show really began to shit the bed.
As this Sol Harris chart indicates :
‘The Problem with Apu’
It seems that in this time of outrage culture and professional victimhood, competitive offence-taking has become an olympic-standard past time. After 2017’s ‘The Problem With Apu‘ (which should really have been renamed ‘Hari Kondabolu and the hunt for Hank Azaria‘) questions were raised as to the current cultural significance of the show along with some commentary on the shows stereotyping.
It could well have been called ‘The Problem with <insert any Simpsons character name here>‘ as every character within the show is a mutated stereotype of sorts. Without exception. Where does this offence-taking culture draw the line? By representation? I’m Northern Irish – where’s my representation on television ??? Some dodgy accents on Sons Of Anarchy ???? Is that it ???
Oh no wait – television is for entertainment and I don’t care about representation.
Judging by Kondabolu’s standup material on Youtube the comedian seems to base much of his act on race and stereotyping (and a hatred for the actor Matthew McConaughey), which to me is a little unsettling especially as his routine could be perceived as being much more offensive than the television show in question.
For him to state that Apu is a negative stereotype is a completely unfounded claim. Apu is a hard-working local business man with strong principles. He is a helpful, kind and friendly part of the community. He studied, took and passed the American citizenship test. Apu holds a doctorate. He is regarded as a Springfield sex symbol. He is a volunteer firefighter. A vocal sensation. Vegan. Friend of Sir Paul Mcartney, a great bowler, a hopeless romantic, a great cook. A human being of the highest moral order. He’s perfectly cromulent.
In the documentary the resentment Kondabolu feels for the character stems directly from instances of bullying the comedian received and lands at the feet of Hank Azaria as a result. But of course its not Kondabolu’s fault! Or the bully’s fault. Nor is it the bully’s upbringing to blame. Not the shows creator or writers (who by all accounts are not diversive enough despite talent and ability). By some stretch of the imagination it is the voice actor who must carry the weight of his resentment.
Would this resentment be present if Apu was voiced by an Indian voice actor? Bart is voiced by a woman thus depriving a 10 year-old animated-boy of a job, yet no one cries foul. Dan Castellaneta isn’t really Scottish OR a janitor yet he voices Groundskeeper Willie. Santa’s Little Helper was voiced by a human thus depriving a canine etc etc…. We await the well-produced but thinly veiled documentaries on those characters with bated breath.
Aside from the show calling it a day – I put it to you : How would YOU “fix” ‘The Simpsons’?
A great breakdown of the Zombie Simpsons theory can be found at :
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