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 hey 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 o 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 ace, Santa’s Little Helper.
How could this dog loose 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 friend no longer like him, they refer to him as Poindexter. The kids at his new school trick him into giving up his lunch.
In frank, 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 pieces. (Vitti) 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.