The Simpsons as the American Family of the 1990’s Meet the Simpsons Over time, the definition of what exactly “family” means has changed with time. Usually, what constitutes making up a family is relative to a specific culture, but as always, there are exceptions to the rule. Ever since the golden age of television had sprung upon American culture, television has tried to mimic the “ideal” American family through it’s programming. Even as early as the 1950’s, television producers made programming that would represent what exactly the ideal American family was. Take for example the show “Leave It to Beaver”. While I am not going to go in detail about each character, I am going to summarize the family structure and the role of the member.
There was a father figure, his job, or responsibility rather, was to financially support the family, while being an exemplary father to his children. The mother on the other hand, was solely responsible for being a typical housewife, while not neglecting the rearing of her children. The children did not have any real responsibility, but they respected their parents and attempted to stay out of trouble. Television shows for the most part in this early era of programming followed among these lines. There has always been at least one show each decade that followed the evolution of American life.
In the 1960’s, there was the “Andy Griffith Show”. In the 1970’s, there was a different spin on family life with the show “All in the Family”, which did not have the typical white collar father, and its emphasis was not on raising the children, rather it was after the children had grown up. While in the 1980’s there was a split in the television programming representation of American families. There were still shows that represented the “ideal” American family, such as “Different Strokes” and “Family Ties” as well as “The Cosby Show”, but there was also a more realistic representation of American life in “Married With Children”. However, it is not in a drama that American family life is best represented in the 1990’s.
Instead, it is in the animated series, “The Simpsons”. “The Simpsons” follows suit with the other dramas that reflected the decade in which they aired. According to the U.S. consensus for March 1998, the majority of households in America are married couples (U.S. Consensus pp. 1, 3,4,6).
The Simpson’s meet this. Also according to the consensus, the average married couple has approximately 2.6 children per household (U.S. Consensus, Household Characteristics p.1). Since there cannot be six-tenths of a child, I will round up to three children, in which the Simpson family has: Bart, Lisa and Maggie. Also, the average American is a blue-collar worker. The father figure, Homer, meets this factor with his job at the nuclear power plant within his hometown of Springfield.
So according to the statistics, the Simpson family could be considered an average American family. In the next part of the essay, I will look at each individual character of the Simpson family, and try to relate how that individual could be considered a typical American. I attempt to avoid using stereotypes, but nothing is full proof. I will look at some of the character’s traits and try to relate how that is a parody of an American. First, I will begin with discussing the character of Homer Simpson. As you might know, Homer is the father figure of the household, whose responsibilities include financially supporting the household, since he is the household’s primary source of income.
He has his flaws like any person would, but somehow he and his family tend to work it out. Some of his mishaps are very similar to those that most of us have had to face. For example, he leaves the keys in his door to the house quite often (Hall, “The Homer File” p. 2). Another example, would be the time when he attempted to un-jam a toaster by shoving a knife in and out of it (Hall, “The Homer File” p.2). Homer also expresses concerns over his obesity as well as being a bad father (Hall, “The Homer File” p. 3).
He also has a problem with his cursing, as well as his consumption of alcohol (Hall, “The Homer File” p. 3). Now, do any of these sound familiar to you? Leaving keys in doors are a common thing for most Americans. Whether it is going to or from the car, or even leaving keys in the vehicle lock, is something that everyone has done from time to time. To have Homer do it, well, it is a chance for everyone to laugh at themselves.
While trying to unclog a toaster with a knife is relatively uncommon, it still does happen. Why personal experience and common sense would dictate for a person to do otherwise, people still nonetheless do it. A new craze that has swept Americans is the craze to be physically fit, and since Homer would represent the typical American, this is a concern that has crossed his mind. Every father that I know, strives to be the best father he can be, and always worries if he is living up to the expectations they have of themselves in their adventure in parenting. Ever since movies and television began introducing curse words in their daily programming and shows, foul language has been something that plagues American speech.
While Homer’s is not as bad as some, he does have his moments. Alcoholism is a disease that is rapidly growing in America. Homer’s fondness for beer would certainly put him in this category. Next, there is Homer’s wife, Marge. Marge epitomizes the term “housewife”. Marge is the foundation of the family, always trying to maintain the household and to rear her children. She is concerned about what her children watch on television (Hall, “The Marge File” p.
2), while passing on family traditions to her children (Hall, “The Marge File” p. 2). She even attempted to work to help supplement the family income, but ended up leaving the job to return to her household, which she felt had a higher priority (Hall, “The Marge File” p. 2). To sum up Marge, she is a character that holds her family together, and she epitomizes that role.
Mothers are usually figures that nurture their children and do everything possible for them. They get involved in their child’s life and raise them the best they can. With the plethora of shows on television now, parents in general take concern in what their children are watching. SO, when Marge takes a stand against her children’s television show that was full of gratuitous violence, she is doing what many other parents do. When Marge passed on the Bouvier quilt to Lisa, she was passing on a tradition that had been passed on to her, and would be hopefully passed down to future generations.
Many families have this as well. Whether it is an antique or a watch or jewelry, It still is a tradition that is passed on from generation to generation. Now I will talk about the children of the Simpson family. Bart is the notorious troublemaker of the trio. He is a rebellious son who acts on impulse and often disobeys both his parents and school faculty (Hal, “The Bart File” pp. 3-8).
While he is often the problem child, his lighter side is shown when he is a “good” brother to his sister. Lisa, on the other hand, is the total antithesis of Bart. Lisa is a straight “A” student who is often on the better side of her teachers and her family. Her intelligence is uncanny, and unmatched by anyone in her household (Cawley p. 1).
Finally, there is Maggie. Since Maggie is an infant, there is little to know about her, since she is always an infant. The youth of today range from disciplined to rebellious, from intelligent to not so intelligent. By having the two older Simpson children represent this, it further defines why the Simpsons are a valid representative of the 1990’s. Unlike the older television shows of past decades, where the children of the family are always perfect in every way, the Simpson family has a more realistic tone to it. Not all kids are perfect and made for television sitcoms, most are not.
However, the Simpson children give the viewer a chance to experience both, which is closer to real life. To sum things up a bit, I will now recap and try to put the pieces together to form the perfect image of families in the 1990’s and why the Simpsons are the closest representation of families in the 1990’s. First, by using statistics, out of families consisting of three to seven or more members, a family consisting of five members is the largest out of the group, which is consistent with the average married couple has approximately three children. Next, every Simpson family member has certain peculiarities that are conducive with mainstream America. Homer is a blue-collar worker that supports his family financially, while having certain traits that common among many American middle aged men.
Marge is a housewife that holds the family together by straightening out any problems that arise and by being a concerned, caring mother. Bart and Lisa are two different examples of the youth of our generation. Bart is the typical rebellious child, while Lisa is the aspiring and more intelligent of the two. Thus, the Simpsons best represent American family life in the 1990’s. Works Cited: Cawley, Donovan; “A Summery of Lisa Simpson”; Http://www.xoom.com/LisaSimpson/summery.html; 2/15/99 Hall, Dave; “The Bart File”; Http://www.snpp.com/guides/bart.file.html; 2/15/99 Hall, Dave; “The Homer File”; Http://www.snpp.com/guides/homer.file.html; 2/15/99 Hall, Dave; “The Marge File”; Http://www.snpp.com/guides/marge.file.html; 2/15/99 U.S.
Bureau of the Census; All Parent/Child Situations, by type, race, and Hispanic Origin of Householder or Reference Person; Http://www.census.gov/population/socdemo/hh-fam/ht abFM-2.txt; 2/15/99 U.S. Bureau of the Census; Households by Type and Characteristics: 1998; Http://www.census.gov/population/socdemo/hh-fam/98 ppla.txt; 2/15/99.