‘The Simpsons’ is an incredibly popular cartoon and also the longest running comedy series in American television history. This is due largely to its ability to entertain people of all ages, with its variety of humour and its true to life design, although it is often exaggerated. The program itself centres around a stereotyped American household living in Springfield (the most common town name in the United States) and their everyday lives, conflicts and arguments. Although a cartoon, ‘The Simpsons’ is provided a lot more as sitcom.
Each show has a main plot with a couple of smaller ones in the background. Despite its strong comedy style it disguises this with its easy cartoon appearance, particularly the yellow skin of the characters. The household portrayed are based upon the developer, Matt Groening’s own family, just substituting himself for Bart (an anagram of brat.) The show has actually been criticised by many who suggest that its real to life design gives a bad impression of the American public.
This even reached the then president George Bush, pointing out the program in his 1992 speech when he said, “The nation requires to be more like the Waltons than the Simpsons.”
‘ The Simpsons’ Opening Titles
As we enjoy ‘The Simpsons’, we firstly hear the angelic singing of ‘The Simpsons’ accompanied by soft music. Fluffy white clouds part to reveal an ideal blue sky and ‘The Simpsons’ composing moves toward the screen in a practically divine way. This is perhaps to offer the misleading impression that ‘The Simpsons’ are yet another best television household.
Next we meet Bart for the first time. He is in school detention, writing lines on a blackboard. These lines change each episode, making it topical and also drawing people into the show, because they want to see what Bart is going to write. In this particular episode he is writing, “I will not sell land in Florida”, a reference to the scandal involving former president Bill Clinton selling land in Florida and is an example of one of the jokes only adults may appreciate. He has almost finished writing and is looking rather grumpy when we first see him, then the bell goes for him to leave and his face changes to a grin as he races out of the classroom. He anticipates the bell, showing that this is a routine for him. The music here has altered dramatically compared to the opening and is now more upbeat and almost funny in its own right.
The next character we are introduced to is Homer, the father, a large, over-weight man. From what we see of him, he acts very much like his son. He is wearing protective clothing and handling a radioactive substance, but as the sound goes for his shift to end he drops what he is doing and is out of the door, just like his son Bart has. This is despite the fact that he has not finished what he is doing and is handling this dangerous material. We can see in the background that there is a “caution” sign next to a nuclear symbol, but even this does not stop him from simply taking off his mask and leaving. Although they are not the focus of this scene, we also see Homer’s boss Mr Burns and his assistant, Smithers in the background. From their small appearance, we already get the impression that they are watching over the employees to make sure that noone is messing about or perhaps they are there to fire someone.
Marge & Maggie
The next of the family we meet is the mother, Marge. She is in the supermarket at the checkout with baby Maggie. While she is reading a magazine called “Mom”, Marge does not notice that Maggie is picked up and passed over the scanner with the rest of the food. Ironically “Mom” is probably about how to be the ‘perfect’ mother. Although I’m sure she tries to be, from what we see, Marge is anything but the perfect mother. When Marge does finally notice that Maggie is nowhere to be seen she looks about and seems worried. Luckily Maggie comes out of hiding in the brown paper bag she was put in and Marge sighs with relief before leaving the supermarket with Maggie in her trolley. From what we have seen of ‘the Simpson’ family so far, it seems that they are fairly careless.
When we first encounter Lisa, she is playing the saxophone in the school band. The band is playing ‘The Simpsons’ theme rather out of tune. We know that she is playing after school because we’ve already heard the bell go earlier in the opening, this suggest, that unlike Bart, Lisa enjoys school. As the band continues to play ‘the Simpsons’ theme, Lisa breaks off and plays a small saxophone solo. Because of this, the teacher sends her out, but as she leaves she continues playing. I think Matt Groening might be trying to show his feelings about when teachers seem to punish children for being unique and individual. Lisa is easily the best member of the band, but because she is acting differently to the other children, she is punished. This is also a good way for Matt Greoning to show that Lisa is different from the rest of her family, because unlike the others who have so far only shown their careless sides. Lisa does care about her music and feels it inside her so much to break off and perform this solo.
Ending On The Couch
The whole family is rushing home to watch TV by the final part of the opening and all just to get the best place on the sofa. We see ‘the Simpsons’ house, Homer drives in and parks his car outside the garage. Bart jumps on his skateboard over Homers car, almost landing on Homer. Lisa comes round the corner into the drive on her bike and also nearly hits Homer, this time he shouts his catchphrase “D’oh!” Next Marge and Maggie come up the drive in her car and the camera view point changes to that of the front of the car as they chases Homer forward.
Next we see the inside of ‘the Simpsons’ house for the first time. Everything seems to be focused around the television and their houses, which like them, seems very unsafe and careless. This suggests that their lives revolve around watching TV and that this is the only time that they all spend together. Each episode, how they scramble onto the sofa changes, just like Bart’s lines and this is another part that people always like to watch for to see what they do this time. This is fairly ironic, seeing as people are watching TV just to see how they are going to watch TV.
The music here builds up to the final moment when they watch TV, the music all dies down for the moment when they are getting to their places on the sofa. At the start of the opening credits the music was like heaven, but now it is more like hell, loud and furious. This could be a possible link to Matt Greoning’s first comic strip ‘Life In Hell’ which was later the influence for ‘the Simpsons’ At the end of the opening credits for ‘The Simpsons’ you are definitely left knowing that this is not just another idea family. No, this is ‘the Simpsons’
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