“The Simpsons” began 12 years ago on the Tracy Ullman show in 5 ,minute episodes between commercials and the show and to this day is still going as strong as ever. It manages to keep its audience by using laugh-out-loud humour together with ample dose’s of satire, parody and a comment on American society today. “The Simpsons” has reshaped the sitcom forever and imprinted itself onto a generation of viewers with its surprisingly realistic view of, and mockery of the American way of life and the American Dream.
“The Simpsons” includes many characters, all representing a certain aspect of society. Homer Simpson, the father of the family who shares his name with the Greek philosopher Plato and whose surname means simpleton. On the surface homer looks to be entirely stupid, lazy, badly motivated, un-caring, and un-loving. But when you look deeper into the character you see that he actually cares for his family very much and will do almost anything to protect them.
Marge is the mother of the Simpson family, and is also the traditional housewife. She is almost supposed to be the perfect, innocent, do-gooder of the family, like someone out of “The Waltons”. She is a sort of parody of the so-called “typical” American Wife, and could be seen in reference to the “American Dream” Bart is the eldest and only son in the family, and is a bit like an American Dennis the Menace. He is always up too mischief and trying to be the centre of attention (usually succeeding), and occasionally pulls off really amazing practical jokes, like in the episode where he realised that two megaphones put together doubled the loudness of the sound, and subsequently put 10 or so megaphones together so when he spoke through them it sent a shock-wave through town, breaking every piece of glass and giving everybody a loud ringing in their ears.
In another episode it was April fools day and Homer kept getting jokes on Bart, and avoiding his sons attempts. This got Bart annoyed and drove him to shake up a can of Homers favourite drink (Duff Beer) for the entire day. Homer opens the can just as Bart jumps round door shouting “April fo-” but is cut short by the resulting mushroom cloud that puts Homer into Hospital. But in other episodes Bart can be very considerate towards his family. In one episode he and his sister Lisa are playing against each other in an Ice hockey match and it comes down to a penalty shoot-out between the two of them.
But Bart, against the will of the crowd and their father, throws down his stick and skates over to his sister to hug her and end the match with a tie. Bart isn’t very bright at school, and doesn’t seem to care. Lisa is another idealistic character, and is almost the exact opposite of Bart. She is vastly intelligent, charitable and caring. She has adult views on many aspects of life. At school she finds the work she is given very easy, but the teachers refuse to give her the challenge she thinks that she needs in a school system unable to cope with her intelligence.
Maggie is a 6 month old baby girl communicating only through the odd “suck-suck” on her dummy (albeit quite effectively). She never speaks, cries, changes her facial expression and has had more experiences from her life than the normal adult. The characters in “The Simpsons” are very believable because none are truly perfect, all have imperfections. The imperfections the characters have bring the American dream down to more attainable standards than it is made out to be. In the past family sitcoms portrayed people as they never could be. They would have families whose children succeeded in school, social handicaps were overcome and disagreements were mild and easily settled.
Sitcoms like this portrayed a sort of dream world. The Simpson family is plagued with arguments, financial trouble, a dead end job and one child failing school with school failing the other. This portrays a much more grim, yet more realistic view on today’s world. “The Simpsons” is watchable by nearly all age groups because the humor within it works on so many levels. The easy to pick up slapstick visual humor is great for young children, while the more hidden gags and social comment make adults laugh. “The Simpsons” contains many types of humour, including parodies where a scene from film or television is recreated, satire which is like sarcasm, slapstick where a visual joke is played out and the occasional straight forward Question-Answer joke.
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