The Simpsons started as a series of shorts on the Tracy Ullman show in 1987. It was one of the first animations on prime time American television. Creator, Matt Groening constructed a revolutionary show which would later be aired in 70 different countries around the world and viewed by 15 million in the U. S on weekends alone. One reason for the success of The Simpsons is the way it deals with serious issues as well as humorous. For example, in the episode I am going to analyze, the main theme is about sexual harassment and femininity which are regarded as serious topics in real life.
It also gets away with talking about subjects that could be considered as taboo because it is a cartoon. Such things as sex, adultery, or even the private lives of politicians or celebrities. Bart Simpson is the trouble maker of the family. He is always up to mischief and playing practical jokes on the people around him. Grafitying, prank calling Moe’s Tavern, watching the Itchy and Scratchy, idolizing Krusty the Clown and skateboarding are just a few of his hobbies. He also has a collection of phrases such as “Ay Curamba”, “Eat My Shorts”, and “Don’t Have A Cow Man”.
From the credits screen of the program we see Bart having detention in a classroom which already gives viewers who have not seen the series before a little information on his character. From the start of The Simpsons you get the impression that Bart is the main character but as the many different series went on and progressed through the nineties, Homer became spotlighted and in my opinion became the main character. I think the main reason he became increasingly popular was because of the increase in his stupidity and irresponsibility.
Homer’s obvious description would be; lazing around, watching television a lot, eating too much, and drinking a lot of beer (occasionally in Moe’s Tavern). Viewers will also have an immediate understanding of his character at the intro when they see him being careless by dropping some sort of nuclear object. Marge is the person that barely holds the family together. She is a compulsive cleaner and shows the typical traits of an ordinary American housewife. She is shown to be shopping in the credits screen which is a typical attribute of a housewife. Lisa is the odd one out in the family.
She is in second grade and probably the most intelligent person in all of Springfield. She has the vocabulary of an intellectual woman, and she plays the saxophone like a professional. This is shown at the credits screen when she trails off into her own tune on the saxophone seeing as her knowledge for music is far greater than the other children. Maggie is quite mysterious in her way, she is always seen sucking on a dummy and falling over all the time. The credits screen at the beginning of each episode show a brief characteristic of each member of the family and certain other characters in the cartoon.
The perfect satire of an American family shows them all returning from their job, school or errand to their abode not to see each other, but to watch T. V. This categorizes Americans and portrays them as being ‘couch potatoes’. Other main characters include Moe (owner of ‘Moe’s Tavern’), Barney (a regular drunkard at Moe’s, and friend to Homer), Apu (proprietor of the ‘Kwik-E-Mart’), Principal Skinner of Bart and Lisa’s school. There are a whole lot more including Millhouse (Bart’s ‘Dopey’ friend) and Chief Wiggum (the extremely gullible and unintelligent police officer) – the list goes on.
Springfield is a community where everybody is associated with each other on good or bad terms. The episode I am going to analyze is ‘Homer Badman’ in which Homer is accused of sexually harassing someone and subsequently the scandal is dragged on and becomes deeply exaggerated. This episode is poking fun at quite a few things, but mainly feminism and the media. The episode starts with Homer inviting Marge to the ‘Candy Industry Trade’ and the children must therefore be looked after by a baby sitter, Ashley Grant, a feminist.
A good example of a satire is directed at masculinity when Ashley pulls out a violent video game and tells Bart he may play if he does homework, he is instantly hypnotized and accepts the task. This shows that many males are addicted to violence and shows that Bart even agrees to do the least likely activity you would associate with him just to play a video game which contains violence. A rather humorous satire is demonstrated when Homer and Marge arrive at the industry, a man calls Homer over and advertises the ‘Wax Lips’ candy which has “1000 uses”.
Homer is skeptical and asks what the uses are and the man states one but is unable to continue and pretends to walk down an imaginary staircase. This was a small satire on advertising because it shows people will say anything to make customers buy their products. This bears a striking resemblance to reality where people do whatever they can to sell their product but normally after it is bought and the customer asks for feedback or has any difficulties with the certain product, the person who sold it will not care because he/she has made their money.
In real life it is not dissimilar, a good example would be Nike trainers that are sold worldwide and the amount of advertising it receives. The advertising normally influences the customer who then goes on to influence many with the product. When Homer and Marge escape the ‘Candy Industry Trade’ another satire is shown by a huge candy explosion illustrating how an action movie would use these type of scenes. The sound of the explosion is made to sound very realistic which normally wouldn’t be expected from a cartoon.
The heart of this episode is found when Homer drives Ashley home in his car, you can tell that Ashley feels pressured and is reluctant at the least to be alone with a man. When Ashley eventually reaches her destination, Homer reaches for her backside for the sweet that was left attached to her jeans. Due to Ashley’s femininity she takes this as a sexual attack of some sort, the episode reaches a high temperature from this point onwards. The public start harassing Homer for the fake or misunderstood accusations made by Ashley Grant.
When visiting Homer at his house, he immediately assumes they are from the candy convention but realizes otherwise. After hearing their chants, he comes out to prove his innocence when a gust of wind blows his gown off revealing his naked body to the crowd which gives the impression that Homer is a streaker. They then track Homer wherever he is and try to bring shame to him which of course brings the attention to the media who then come into play. Homer’s life becomes ruined by the protesters and is looking for the help of the Lord when “God… frey Jones” of the T. V show, ‘Rockbottom’ rings Homer at that precise moment claiming that they will help his problems in an interview.
The exaggeration of this satire is huge because after the innocence proclaimed by Homer, the interview is edited (horribly) to make Homer look guilty, they replaced the word candy with “Can” which associates with the backside of a person in American, and splices almost of all his words (if the bad quality didn’t show how this interview was edited the clock besides Homer’s head did, which kept on changing to and fro in a moderate speed).
The interview, although evidently fake was believed by everyone which was a big exaggeration to hype the whole incident up. This part of the cartoon would be more humorous to adults or older viewers because younger viewers probably wouldn’t know much about how the media works, but the animators did make it appeal to both by making Homer sound weird which would make it more humorous or funny for the younger watchers.
This mounted up to the whole media being on Homer’s case, helicopters took pictures of him naked in shower curtains claiming they gave him “Sexual powers”, a short film was recreated to show Homer recklessly driving a helpless girl which of course was deeply exaggerated and even a 24 hour live coverage of The Simpsons’ household is shown to the public to disgrace him even further. All these examples show how the media want to portray Homer as crook and will do almost anything to achieve it.
Homer’s friends Moe and Barney charge through the crowd of people and claim to be his “Only friends” only to announce they were to be auctioning “The real dirt” on Homer Simpson. This shows that even your closest friends can deceive you just to gain a foothold in the public eye. There is a farce on the Sally Jesse Raphael show when a group of young women weep and share their emotions on national T. V about their troubled past with Homer when it is just an act to gain more ratings and publicity.
The voice of Sally Jesse Raphael sounds very life like and ‘professional’ and again sounds more like a real life television show unlike a cartoon. It also sounds serious but it’s basically a very humorous farce on that particular chat show. This may cause the viewer to think a number of things, perhaps a younger viewer would sympathize with the young women, but older viewers would know that it is all pre meditated and simply propaganda.
When Homer asks for a hug from Lisa and Bart they hesitate which makes Homer question their belief in him, after they reassure him he leaves them and they run to the T. V to give it a hug and a kiss. This is a satire on the amount of kids who base all their knowledge from watching too much T. V and spending too much time with it. Homer’s last resort is public access television. He proclaims his innocence and two calls are made but one wrong number and the other a meaningless advertising call (the two phone calls sounded very realistic once again, you can see that The Simpsons was made to perfection seeing as every sound effect is purposely life like).
This is satirical on Public Access T. V because its evidence that hardly anyone watches it and it is very dull. Homer, now hopeless gets paid a visit from Willie who claims he filmed him and Ashley in the car and also states that he films couples late at night and stereotypes his Scottish countrymen by saying they all do the same and somewhat portrays them as perverts. He also has a clip of the mayor committing adultery which shows that many people with high authority don’t always show their true loyalty when in private.
In the end Homer is proven innocent, Rock Bottom apologize briefly along with a couple of hundred other issues. This shows that when the media get their facts wrong, they are averse to apologize or do it briefly so it will not affect their ratings. Homer finds he has learnt nothing from his experience and gives T. V a hug telling it, “Let’s never fight again”. The Simpsons can appeal to any type of audience as it contains many different degrees of comedy. Older and younger viewers can all empathize with the cartoon.
Mainly older viewers relate to or find the satirical scenes entertaining such as the man advertising the wax lips, or even the short reconstruction propaganda film of Homer in the car with Ashley. There are countless others which make it so funny. The younger generation may find the more simplistic parts of the cartoon more comical such as the candy trade explosion where Homer is lifted high above his feet, which is also satirical on action films. The quantity and range of comedy and satirical scenes are immense and all are very witty which is why The Simpsons attracts a huge audience because of its mass appeal.