The Simpsons is one of Americas most popular television shows.
It ranks as the number one television program for viewers under
eighteen years of age. However, the ideals that The Simpsons conveys
are not always wholesome, sometimes not even in good taste. It is
inevitable that The Simpsons is affecting children.
Matt Groening took up drawing to escape from his troubles in
1977. At the time, Groening was working for the L.A. Reader, a free
weekly newspaper. He began working on Life in Hell, a humorous comic
strip consisting of people with rabbit ears. The L.A. Reader picked up
a copy of his comic strip and liked what they saw. Life in Hell
gradually became a common comic strip in many free weeklies and
college newspapers across the country. It even developed a cult
status. (Varhola, 1)
Life in Hell drew the attention of James L. Brooks, producer
of works such as Taxi, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and Terms of
Endearment. Brooks originally wanted Groening to make an animated
pilot of Life in Hell. Groening chose not to do so in fear of loosing
royalties from papers that printed the strip. Groening presented
Brooks with an overweight, balding father, a mother with a blue
beehive hairdo, and three obnoxious spiky haired children. Groening
intended for them to represent the typical American family “who love
each other and drive each other crazy”. Groening named the characters
after his own family. His parents were named Homer and Margaret and
he had two younger sisters named Lisa and Maggie. Bart was an anagram
for “brat”. Groening chose the last name “Simpson” to sound like the
typical American family name. (Varhola, 2)
Brooks decided to put the 30 or 60 second animations on
between skits on The Tracy Ullman Show on the unsuccessful Fox
network. Cast members Dan Castellaneta and Julie Kavner did the
voices of Homer and Marge. Yeardley Smith (later to star in Herman’s
Head) did the voice of Lisa. Nancy Cartwright did the voice of Bart.
Cartwright previously supplied the voices for many cartoons, including
Galaxy High, Fantastic Max, Richie Rich, Snorks, Pound Puppies, My
Little Pony, and Glo-Friends. Tracy Ullman later added Cartwright to
her cast. (Dale and Trich, 11)
Brooks, Groening, and Sam Simon, Tracy Ullman’s producer,
wanted to turn the Simpson family into their own show. The Fox
network was looking for material to appeal to younger viewers. The
only show they had that drew a young audience was Married With
Children. To Fox’s pleasure, The Simpsons saved the network from near
failure. (Varhola, 3)
On December 17, 1989, The Simpsons got their break. The
Christmas special, “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” aired. (Dale
and Trich, 19) In the episode, Bart got a tattoo, much to Marge’s
dislike. She quickly spent all of the family’s Christmas money to
remove Bart’s tattoo with a laser. At the same time, Homer, still on
his morning coffee break at 4:00 in the afternoon, learns that he will
not receive a Christmas bonus. When he learns that Marge is relying
on the money for Christmas, he decides that he will do the Christmas
shopping for the year. He quickly buys Marge panty hose, Bart paper,
Lisa crayons, and Maggie a dog toy. When he realizes that he is not
doing very well, he gets a second job as a mall Santa for the extra
money. On the way home from work, he steals a Christmas tree. The
next day at the mall, Bart sits on his Dad’s lap and pulls down his
beard. Homer responds by choking Bart and making him help make
Christmas better. On Christmas Eve, Homer receives his check, $13.70
for over 40 hours work. Homer takes Bart to the dog track as a final
chance for Christmas money. They discovered a gem in the third race,
Santa’s Little Helper. How could this dog lose on Christmas Eve? The
odds were 99 to 1, they were going to be rich. Homer put all of his
money on Santa’s Little Helper, and to his horror, he never even
finished. As Homer and Bart were scouring the parking lot for winning
tickets into the night, they saw the track manager throw out a dog.
It was not just any dog, it was Santa’s Little Helper. When Bart and
Homer came home to their worried family, they had a good Christmas
after all. Now they had a dog. (Pond)
“Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” was not the typical
Christmas story. It dealt with body art, sleeping in the work place,
sibling rivalry, stealing a Christmas tree, a misbehaved son, and
gambling. Although it was unorthodox, it was very successful. The Fox
network decided to air it again on Christmas Eve. (Dale and Trich,19)
In a little over a month, The Simpsons made it’s debut as a
weekly show, “Bart the Genius” was the first regular episode. In the
middle of a feared assessment test, Bart switches his test with the
completed one of Nelson Prince, Class Nerd. Bart and his parents are
called into Principal Seymour Skinner’s office where they are told
that Bart has a 216 IQ. (Homer thought is was 912.) Skinner requests
that Bart attends The Enriched Learning Center for Children.
Suddenly, Homer takes a liking to his son. They joke together, play
ball together, embarrass Marge at an opera together. (“Toreador, oh
don’t spit on the floor. Use the cuspidor. That’s what it’s for.”
Bart sings along with the opera Carmen.) Soon at Bart’s old school,
Springfield Elementary School, Bart’s graffiti is roped off and
tagged, “The Principal. By Bart Simpson. IQ 216.” Bart’s friends no
longer like him, they refer to him as Poindexter. The kids at his
new school trick him into giving up his lunch. In fact, Bart is
miserable. Then, after turning himself green in an uneducated science
experiment, Bart reveals to his new principal that he cheated on the
test. That night, as Homer is helping Bart clean himself off, Bart
tells Homer the same. Homer instantly transforms into a murderous
rampage again. The episode ends with Bart locking himself in his room
and Homer trying to knock down the door so he can tear Bart into
Soon, Simpsons merchandise was all over America. Every kid
wanted an “Underachiever and Proud of It, Man” or an “I’m Bart
Simpson, Who the Hell Are You?” shirt. Hats could be seen everywhere
that had Bart dressed like a devil saying “Go For It, Dude!” or with
Homer, his arms open, lunging forward saying “Why You Little.” The
most popular shirt was a family picture with Homer choking Bart.
During the first week of school in 1990, two thirds of the sixth
graders in America wore Simpsons paraphernalia. (Dale and Trich, 43)
As the popularity of The Simpsons grew, so did parents’ fears.
To their horror, Bart Simpson became a role model. “Aye Carumba!” was
a popular expression among kids. Almost anything a child did wrong
was attributed to “last Sunday’s Simpsons.” (Dale and Trich, 45)
Bad ideas continued to be broadcast into kids’ minds. In the
third episode, a baby-sitter robbed the Simpson household of most of
it’s belongings. In the fourth episode, Homer caused a nuclear
accident, got fired, and attempted suicide. Bart stole the head off
of the statue of Jebidiah Springfield, Springfield’s founder in the
sixth episode. In the eighth episode, Bart took a picture of Homer
with an exotic dancer and distributed them to the entire town. Marge
had an affair in the ninth episode. Homer stole cable, and almost
everything else imaginable in the fifteenth episode. (Groening, 37)
The Simpsons is often viewed as one of the biggest threats to
Christianity. The Simpson family goes to church on a regular basis,
but Bart and Homer loath it. A typical Sunday School conversation is
as follows: Child: “Will my dog, Fluffy go to heaven?”
Sunday School Teacher: “No”
Other Child: “How about my cat?”
Teacher: “No, Heaven is only for people.”
Bart: “What if my leg gets gangrene and has to be amputated? Will it
be waiting for me in heaven?
Bart: “What about a robot with a human brain?”
Teacher: “I don’t know! Is a little blind faith too much to ask
The pastor, Reverend Lovejoy is a hypocrite. In “22 Short
Films About Springfield” he leads his dog to the Flanders’ yard to go
to the bathroom. He praises the dog until Ned Flanders comes outside.
He then acts angry and threatens the dog with hell. When Ned leaves,
he praises the dog again. (Swartzwelder) In one episode, Homer quits
going to church and falls in love with life. He claims to have his
own religion so he doesn’t have to go to work on holidays, such as the
Feast of Maximum Occupancy. In a conversation with Lisa: Lisa: “Dad,
I don’t understand, why have you dedicated yourself to living a life
Homer: “Don’t worry Lisa, if I’m wrong, I’ll repent on my death bed.”
The Simpsons is not just an enemy of Christianity, though. In
one episode, where Krusty the Clown is reunited with his father, a
rabbi, almost the entire episode is spent making fun of Judaism. Lisa
asks Bart, “Do you know what a rabbi’s most valued possession is?”
Bart replied, “I dunno, those stupid little hats.” Hinduism is
constantly joked with by using East Indian, Kwik-E-Mart clerk, Apu
Mahasapeemapitalon. Apu is once asked if he is Hindu. He replied,
“By the thousand arms of Bishna, I swear it is a lie.” Once Homer was
in the Kwik-E-Mart: Homer: “Hey Apu. No offense, but when they were
handing out religions, you must have been on the can.”
Apu: “Mr. Simpson, please take your jerky and get out and come
The average child can acquire a plethora of foul words from
one episode. In “Flaming Moe’s”, Bart is “jinxed”, meaning he can’t
talk until somebody says his name.
Homer: “What is it boy?”
Homer: “Us anything the matter, my son? Talk to me young man.”
Bart: Takes a pencil and writes ‘Say my name.
Homer: “Say your name? Why should I do that, my lad?”
Bart: “Because I’m jinxed damnit!”
Homer: Punches Bart in the arm.
Bart: “Ow! What was that for!”
Homer: You spoke while you were jinxed, so I get to punch you in the
arm! Sorry, it’s the law!” (Cohen)
Homer Simpson definitely has the worst influence on children.
Once, Homer overheard Ralph Wiggum say the he would do anything for
Lisa. In the next scene, Ralph is coating the Simpson’s roof in tar.
Ralph calls out, “Mr. Simpson, the tar fumes are making me dizzy.”
Homer, relaxing in a hammock replies, nonchalantly, “Yeah, they’ll do
that.” Homer fits the genera of the parent who pressures his kid to
do well in sports. In one episode, after Bart scored a winning goal,
Homer congratulated him, “Okay Bart, you won the hockey game. Now,
just as I promised, here’s your turtle, alive and unhurt.” Homer got
angry at Marge once for spending lots of money to vaccinate Maggie
against diseases she doesn’t have. His advice on how to get out of
jury duty is “to tell them that you’re prejudiced against all races.”
His self proclaimed, best advice is, “Sometimes the only way you can
feel good about yourself is to make other people look stupid.”
Personally, I believe that The Simpsons affects children, but
not necessarily in a bad way. Children never hurt themselves
mimicking The Three Stooges, nor do they with The Simpsons. Almost
every episode ends with a family that loves each other. Some episodes
have answered the question of them affecting children on their own.
Once, Marge began to protest Itchy and Scratchy cartoons. Itchy is a
psychopathic mouse who’s only purpose is to kill and torture Scratchy,
a cat. Nearing the end of the episode, Marge realizes that Itchy and
Scratchy is not hurting anyone. They take a satirical view to the
situation when a group of mothers try to stop Michaelangelo’s David
from visiting the Springfield Museum of Art by means that it is
pornographic. (Koger and Wolodarsky)
Unlike many sitcoms, The Simpsons is more like everyday life.
Homer works in a power plant. In many other sitcoms, the father works
a popular job, such as an accountant, or with a television studio.
The Simpson family is not a wealthy family living in a $300,000 house.
Many children can relate to this. (Rebeck, 622)
In some cases, The Simpsons is educational. Karen Brecze
credits Homer Simpson with saving her 8-year-old son, Alex’s life.
Bence, of Auburn, Washington, says the boy was choking on an orange
when his 10-year-old brother, Chris, used the Heimlich maneuver, which
he learned from “Homer at the Bat”, where Homer is choking on a
doughnut. Unlike Alex, Homer doesn’t receive help and coughs up the
doughnut as his co-workers look at the Heimlich maneuver poster.
The Simpsons affects kids, just as anything around them will.
Perhaps people fear The Simpsons because they can see a little of The
Simpsons in themselves. We all have inner child’s trying to get out
that behave just like Bart. We all do “pull a Homer” sometimes. It
just happens. The show doesn’t make us do it. It just happens. If
this world did not have The Simpsons children would behave in the same
manner, they just might laugh quite as much.
“22 Short Films About Springfield.” The Simpsons. By: John
Swartzwelder, Dir: Jim Reardon, Prof: James L. Brooks. Fox. WHNS,
Greenville. 12 May, 1996.
“Bart the Genius.” The Simpsons. By: John Vitti, Dir: David
Silverman, Prod: James L. Brooks. Fox. WHNS, Greenville. 14 Jan,
Dale, Steve, and Shane Tritsh. Simpson Mania. Lincolnwood:
Publications International, Ltd., 1991.
“Flaming Moe’s.” The Simpsons. By: Robert Cohen, Dir: Rich Moore
and Alan Smart, Prod: James L. Brooks. Fox. WHNS, Greenville. 21
Groening, Matt. The Simpsons Uncensored Family Album. New York:
Harper Perennial, 1994.
“Homer at the Bat.” The Simpsons. By: John Swartzwelder, Dir: Jim
Reardon, Prod: James L. Brooks. Fox. WHNS, Greenville. 20 Feb, 1992
“Homer the Heretic.” The Simpsons. By: George Meyer, Dir: Jim
Reardon, Prod: James L. Brooks. Fox. WHNS, Greenville. 8 Oct., 1992
“Homer’s Odyssey.” The Simpsons. By: Jay Choker and Wallaby
Wolodarsky, Dir: Wesley Archer, Prod: James L. Brooks. Fox. WHNS,
Greenville. 21 Jan, 1990
“Homer Simpson Saves the Day.” San Francisco Chronicle 21 May, 1992:
“Homer VCR. Lisa and the Eighth Commandment.” The Simpsons. By:
Steve Pepsin, Dir: Rich Moore, Prod: James L. Brooks. Fox. WHNS,
Greenville. 7 Feb, 1991
“Itchy & Scratchy & Marge.” The Simpsons. By: John Swartzwelder, Dir:
Jim Reardon, Prod: James L. Brooks. Fox. WHNS, Greenville. 20 Dec,
“Like Father, Like Clown.” The Simpsons. By: Jay Choker and Wallaby
Wolodarsky, Dir: Jefferson Lynch with Brad Bird, Prod. James L.
Brooks. Fox. WHNS, Greenville. 24 Oct., 1991
Rebeck, Victoria. “Recognizing Ourselves in the Simpsons” The
Christian Century 27 June, 1990.
Varhola, Aaron. “The Simpsons” Dies. 1994.