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One of the most popular sitcoms to date has got to be The Simpsons. It was first aired in 1991 with all of its characters being yellow (besides Asians and some celebrities). The original intent of this was to trick viewers into believing that the tint of their TV was off so they would attempt to adjust it to no avail. People soon realised this and saw the funny side of it, which helped the Simpsons’ infamous career as a sitcom. A sitcom is a situation comedy. It centres on a family and usually has the same setting each week.
Sitcoms have been around since the 1950s and have always been popular. They are normally 20-30 minutes and are showed when everyone has come home from work or school (6 o’clock onwards), so people can watch it as a family. Each episode starts off with an orientation to the situation, which leads to a complication that threatens the status quo. The complication is soon resolved and the characters re-evaluate their relationship before moving onto the reorientation where order is restored.
The opening sequence for The Simpsons has only ever been changed once, besides the schoolboard and the Simpsons arriving at home each episode. These two scenes change every episode and encourage viewers to be there when The Simpsons starts. It also shows the nuclear power plant, which is often ridiculed for its radiation pollution, and Bart and Lisa’s school which is detested by children of most ages. These represent the Simpsons’ policy of ‘taking the piss’ out of everything wrong with the world. It then briefly shows each Simpson’s personality.
Bart in detention then quickly skateboarding home. Homer working in a dangerous situation then walking out with plutonium down his shirt. Marge, in the mundanity of her normal house-wife life, puts Maggie on the store conveyor belt. And lastly Lisa in the middle of music practice starts her own music, showing she’s a cut above the rest. What the audience should realise at this point is that the Simpsons are mocking them as they are rushing home to watch TV, which is what the audience are doing at that moment.
All this is cleverly done in about a minute. The Simpsons follows the traditional narrative structure quite closely, as it always has an orientation, a complication to drive the plot, a solution to the complication, a quick re-evaluation of everyone’s relationship and a reorientation where everything returns to normal. In the episode ‘Simpson roasting over an open fire’ the orientation starts with Marge writing her letter and we realise that it is Christmas in Springfield which should be a classic example of any family’s relationship.
The complication then arises when Homer doesn’t get his Christmas bonus and Marge uses up the ‘money in the jar’ getting rid of Bart’s tattoo, so Homer has no money to buy Christmas presents for anyone. This is soon solved when Homer brings back the dog he bet on at the racetrack and everyone loves the dog or ‘Santa’s little helper’. Everyone classically loves everyone else in the evaluation of their relationship and then everything returns to normal.
The episode does also have the classic ‘Christmas miracle’ that usually leads to a “happily ever after” despite what Bart has to say about it. Homer fits the role of stereotypical dad quite well as he goes to great lengths to make everyone happy for Christmas with almost no thought for his pride or dignity. He even takes up a second job as a low-paid Santa in dim hope of getting presents for everyone. However, he doesn’t tell his family that he is in this situation to save their respect for him (which is also stereotypical of most males).
This goes against most other things we have seen him do over other episodes when he is acting stupid or careless towards his family and shows him in a new light. Marge starts off straight away being stereotypical when she is writing letters to friends and family. And when Bart gets a tattoo she acts very motherly in paying highly to get it removed straight away. Although one of Bart’s reasons for getting a tattoo was to show he loved his mum, he mainly wanted to be cool, which would stereotype him as teenage prankster, which he fits perfectly.
It’s because of this that he finds out that his dad is Santa, at which point he becomes a stereotypical 10-year-old boy whose hero is his dad and shows his affection for his dad: “you must really love us to sink so low”. For the small part that Lisa was in the episode she fit the stereotype of “girls are smarter than boys” quite well, as she always does. She does not, however, fit any other stereotype, like doing what her parents want as she is very independent and is smart enough to make her own decisions even at her age.
For example, she is the only family member that is vegetarian. And lastly, I guess that Maggie was all the stereotypical baby she could be, as she did nothing but get carried around and stay quite. As a whole, the Simpsons are stereotyped like any other family in the same situation would be in another sitcom, except they go about solving their problems differently. It really is a classic situation and even though the ending result is stereotypical, although not exactly predictable (i. e. the dog), the Simpsons make the whole thing enjoyable to watch.
The Simpsons are highly stereotyped as ‘family in need of help and get Christmas miracle at the last minute’ and the ending is pure evidence of this, although nothing like a miracle would ever normally happen. Despite all the stereotypical ending, Matt Groening still managed to add his own touch in the form of Bart chiming in wise cracks after every line of the carol, which would limit the Simpson’s stereotypicalism (is that a word? ) ever so slightly, even though it happens a lot through the entire episode.