Culture Representations in “The Simpsons”

Over the long weekend I got to spend some time in Florida visiting my brother who’s a student at UTampa. For most of the weekend, he was working on a lengthy analysis of an article called “Marge Simpson, Blue-Haired Housewife: Defining the Domesticity on The Simpsons”. I took a look at the article and started noticing several media, culture and technology relevant themes that I thought would be worth sharing.

“The Simpsons” is a popular show that’s basically been immersed in our culture. Whether or not you watch it (I don’t), you know who the Simpsons are. The author of this article, Jessamyn Neuhaus, argues that The Simpsons satirizes family sitcoms as we know them. She draws special attention to Marge Simpson as a character that reveals the fictionality of the televised housewife. Neuhaus believes the show questions the function of the nuclear family in American society and society in general, and also embraces the crucial role of female domesticity.

Neuhaus discusses how the “father knows best” mental model is essentially flipped on it’s back; Homer Simpson is completely insensitive to the needs of his family. He’s rude, lazy, clumsy, unintelligent and greedy and this is evident in just about every episode of the show. Then there’s the “housewife” mental model that is also some-what flipped on its back. Marge successfully plays the role of the housewife, fixing problems, keeping the house together and keeping the family together. Marge Simpson is “the putty that just barely holds the Simpson family together week after week,” (Nauhaus 15). But her appearance is what defies the norm. She has blue hair, a raspy voice and no problem speaking her mind. I believe the “housewife” role still exists to some extent, but it has a different voice, a different face, and an active stance. But Neuhaus’ overall takeaway point is its essentiality.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this article is Neuhaus’ discussion of the way The Simpsons satirizes the troubling aspects of American society. The teachers discourage creative thinking. Police officers, elected officials and court officers are corrupt and incompetent. And citizens accept this without protest. This is definitely an exaggerated representation of our reality, but do you ever wonder how far off it really is?

This discussion ties into our course studies because it allows us to further question the way that different aspects of our culture are represented in print, televised or online media outlets and our societal response to it. In one of our readings from a few weeks ago “Going Viral in the Nineteenth Century”, the article discusses the joke boom in newspapers and how that affects consumers of journalism. The article talks about the “it’s so true!” reaction to comedic satire on relevant and relatable issues, drawing comedic attention to what’s really going on and how wrong it is. I believe that this bids relevance to Neuhaus’ argument because while watching The Simpsons or shows of a similar dynamic (Family Guy, South Park, etc.), viewers tend to find themselves laughing in total agreement, despite the sometimes-tasteless delivery.

Can anyone relate to these reactions? I’ve watched my fair share of Family Guy and South Park, so I think that’s why I found this topic interesting to analyze. Do you find these cartoon satirical shows relevant to figures, realities and problems in our society? Or do you find these shows ridiculous and don’t even waste your time engaging?

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