[Marxism] A Marxist analysis of the Simpsons

DCQ deeseekyou at comcast.net
Wed Feb 21 00:46:49 MST 2007


While I enjoyed the analysis generally, I do take issue with your final 
analysis, in which you essentially claim that the Simpson's time has 
passed because it expressed the anxieties of a period of defeat--a 
period which is now over.

A few things:

First, I don't agree that the rise in struggle has played a role in 
killing the Simpsons. The writers don't "have" to relate to real, 
topical events and scream "It's relevant!" They do this because it is 
simpler than doing something more subtle and complex. That's riskier, 
and for a major cash-cow like the SImpsons, risk is not something a 
corporation handles well, or takes lightly. "The bigger your market, 
the less you handle controversy." It is the pressures of capitalism 
that killed the satirical edge of the Simpsons, not the end of the 
period of defeats.

Secondly, I don't see that the period of defeats is necessarily--or at 
least conclusively--over. Where are the victories? You mention Seattle, 
but that was 7+ years ago. In this one respect, what I think killed the 
Simpsons was precisely the continuing defeat, or at least the lack of a 
clear shift toward victories for our side. There are signs, fits and 
starts, of a revival, but no clear, actual revival. Big demonstrations, 
with long periods of inactivity in between. In this environment, the 
pure money-making success of the Simpsons was enough to drown it in 
celebrity nonsense. The pressures of capitalism were greater on the 
writers and creators than the pressures of popular sentiment. I still 
think that we might liberate, not only ourselves, but the Simpsons as 
well in a revival of serious popular and working class struggle. :)

In that sense, it's easy to see why the creative minds behind the 
Simpsons opted to put so much energy into Futurama, a startlingly 
brilliant show. If the Simpsons speaks to the alienation of a defeated 
working class (and its children), the Futurama speaks to those children 
who have now grown up and live in a completely alien world (or, at 
least, our world populated by aliens), working dead-end jobs like 
"delivery boy"--despite the huge leaps in technological progress. The 
fact that the Fox corporate heads hated the show so much that they 
intentionally torpedoed it speaks to how much they feared both a frank 
discussion of these issues, and what people like Groening and David X. 
Cohen could do if given the freedom.

And as for Family Guy, I think it's far more than fart jokes and 
shallow satire. The show is simply damn funny. It is also a successor 
to the Simpsons--not only because the Griffins could be considered 
copyright violations of the Simpsons, but because they deal with the 
same issues in a world where the working class seems to have been 
completely absorbed and subsumed by ruling class ideology (see the 
episode where Peter knocks out the town's TV satellite dish for an 
example). Whereas the Simpsons always had a soft, mushy center where 
family and love could always end a show on a happy note, Family Guy 
spits on such sentimentality. It deals much more openly and harshly 
with the realities of, say, gender oppression--through the character of 
Meg, continually derided as ugly, and therefore inadequate, unlovable, 
and forgettable. And if you want to see a downright revolutionary 
cartoon, take a gander at the nuclear holocaust episode. The show is 
far more sophisticated and thoughtful than, say, the nihilistic mania 
of Southpark's Parker and Stone.


On Feb 19, 2007, at 2:16 PM, Doug Nesbitt wrote:
> If I wanted the fart jokes, cheap pop culture references and 
> tokenistic,
> shallow political satire that the Simpsons now spews, then I'd watch a 
> show
> that does it much better, like Family Guy.
> Cheers,
> Doug Nesbitt
> Ottawa, Canada

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