When Matt Groening and James L. Brooks created The Simpsons, a cartoon, family, they had no idea that it would become as big as it has now. There are many reasons the show has become very popular with the American public. Dumb and simple humor makes in enjoyable for people on all levels, and for the more sophisticated audience, there is some political satire in the show. It all started 1987, when Groening and Brooks created short cartoons for the Tracey Ullman show.
If you were to compare these shorts to today’s show, there is a major difference in the quality of the show and the plots. This is due to better technology, more money, and a change in the things that can be said on television. (Groening) The show features five main characters. As stated by the show’s title, they are the Simpson family. The father, Homer, has had a very eventful life. Even though he is not very smart, he has led a life that is envied by many in Springfield. His job is the Nuclear Safety Inspector at the Springfield Power Plant.
He has met presidents Gerry Ford, George Bush, and Bill Clinton, been an astronaut, and met bands such as the Who, the Smashing Pumpkins, U2, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and REM, been a professional baseball mascot and numerous other jobs. His wife Marge has not led as an exciting life as Homer. She spends most of her time taking care of their three children, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie, and playing second fiddle in many of Homer’s adventures. Bart has become a 1990’s version of Dennis the Menace. He carries a slingshot in his back pocket and likes to cause havoc for his teachers and his father.
Lisa is the brightest of the children. She has straight A’s in the second grade, plays first chair saxophone, but is more like her mother, not getting involved in many adventures. Maggie is the baby and is mostly there to complete the family. (Holtz) The first full length episode was on December 17, 1989. This was the Christmas special entitled “Simpsons’ Roasting on an Open Fire. ” The plot of this episode is that Bart gets a tattoo and Marge has to spend the family’s Christmas money getting it removed.
She planned on having Homer’s Christmas bonus to buy presents with but he finds out that bonuses won’t be given out that year. They end up finding a dog names Santa’s Little Helper, and make him their Christmas present. Groening and Brooks created 12 more episodes that year to make it the Simpsons’ first season. (Kytasaari) The show was such a success that the FOX network brought them back the next fall. During the October of 1990, the first Simpsons Halloween special was created. This has since become on of the highlights of the year.
In this first special, the Simpsons read horror stories to each other, with the members of the family playing roles of people in the story. The Raven, by Edgar Allen Poe was portrayed as one of the horror stories. For the uneducated watcher, they would have just thought of it as a story, but in all actuality, it was classic literature coming to life. (Kytasaari) Many other pieces of literature have been used in the Simpsons as basis for an episode. In the episode, “Das Bus,” the kids portray Lord of the Flies when their school bus drives off a bridge and they get stranded on an island.
Milhouse, Bart’s friend, is the Piggy of this episode. They even use his glasses to start a fire like they did in the actual book. During another three-part episode, classic American tall-tales are reenacted. These are Johnny Appleseed, in which Lisa portrays Connie Appleseed, Paul Bunyan, in which Homer acts as Paul Bunyan, and the adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, in which Bart and Nelson Muntz play Tom and Huck. During this past season, there was another three-part episode in which Groening uses Homer’s Odyssey, Joan of Arc, and Hamlet.
Homer plays Odysseus in the Odyssey, Lisa plays Joan of Arc, and Bart plays Hamlet. All the other characters had supporting roles. The Simpsons even acted out Bible stories during their tenth season. During this episode, Milhouse played Moses, Homer is King Soloman, and Bart is David and he must defeat Nelson who is Goliath. They wake up after they have these dreams and discover that the apocalypse is occurring. (Kytasaari) Christianity is not the only religion that the Simpsons get involved in.
During the episode, “She of Little Faith”, Lisa becomes a Buddhist when she thinks her church is becoming corrupted. In other episodes, Homer decides to stop going to church and while he is sleeping, his house starts on fire. He is rescued by the Springfield Fire Company which includes Krusty the Clown whom is Jewish, Apu who is Hindu, and members from his church who are Christian. Religion is a very tough subject to talk about because people are offended very easily. Their take on religion it very little to the political satire that they include in their show. (Groening)
During the presidential election of 1996, the Halloween episode has aliens abducting Bill Clinton and Bob Dole and they end up running the United States. A political shot is taken at Ross Perot as he loses to the aliens who abducted the Democrat and Republican candidates. (Groening) Another shot is taken at the politicians in Washington during the episode, “Mr. Lisa goes to Washington. ” Lisa writes an essay and is sent to the national levels in Washington D. C. While in Washington she overhears her Congressman talking to a lobbyist and accepting a bribe from this lobbyist.
She starts to lose faith in democracy and writes a new essay on how corrupt America is. After this essay is written, that congressman is impeached and Lisa is shown how the American government actually does work and is not as corrupted as she thinks. These little plotlines are funny to the average viewer, but if one watches closely, they can see how Groening and Brooks take their political shots. (Groening) In “The Trouble with Trillions” episode, Homer gets audited by the FBI for lying on his tax return. His punishment is he acts as a spy to get people to confess crimes. Mr.
Burns, Homer’s boss, is suspected to have stolen a trillion dollar bill that was supposed to be given to Europe. Of course, the trillion dollar bill is imaginary, but Homer’s mission is to get Mr. Burns to confess he took the trillion dollar bill. The way in which Groening portrays the FBI and then after Homer and Mr. Burns escape to Cuba to see Fidel Castro with the trillion dollar bill involves much political satire. (Kytasaari) Another episode where Groening takes a shot at politicians is in “Two Bad Neighbors. ” In this episode, George Bush and his wife move across the street to the Simpsons.
Homer and George do not get along at first, and the tension between them becomes even strong when George spanks Bart for acting like Dennis the Menace did to Mr. Wilson. George Bush is portrayed as a grouchy old man in this episode. He is the exact opposite of Homer. The last scene in this episode has Gerry Ford moving into the house the Bushes just moved out of. Groening makes Ford seem just like Homer when he has him ask Homer if he would like to go watch football and have beer and nachos. (Groening) During “Homer vs. the 18th Amendment,” Prohibition hits Springfield.
The town is sent to a state like in the 1920’s when alcohol was not allowed. Homer becomes known as the Beer Barron as he bootlegs beer out of his basement. This episode shows how people will find a way around a law such as Prohibition if they do not support it and the police do not enforce it. (Kytasaari) The episode entitled, “The Cartridge Family,” pokes fun at the NRA. The town of Springfield erupts into a riot after a soccer match so Homer buys a gun to protect his family. Marge does not agree with this and especially with the way Homer uses his gun.
He uses it to turn the TV on, to open his beer can, and to turn lights out. The members of the NRA are portrayed as gun-crazy people in the beginning of the episode, but at the end Groening, as he does in many episodes, sets everything straight and mentions gun safety and that the NRA supports safe use of firearms. (Groening) The most controversial Simpsons episode of all time is “Homer’s Phobia. ” In this episode, the family befriends a homosexual and when Homer discovers he is gay he refuses to let Bart spend any more time with him.
In an attempt to keep Bart straight, Homer takes Bart to a steel mill to see what a real American hard-worker is like. What Homer doesn’t foresee happening is the steel mill being homosexual. This is Groening taking his shot at the steel union. John, the homosexual who befriended the Simpsons, saves Homer’s life and this how he wins the respect of Homer and all of his friends who tried to help keep Bart straight. Even though there was much protest to this episode, it still aired at its normal time. (Holtz) With almost 300 episodes, it is tough to pick out the greatest Simpsons episode of all time.
The one that had the whole country watching was the “Who Shot Mr. Burns” episodes. In the season finale, Mr. Burns gets shot after he tries to take away sunlight from Springfield. At the end, all we hear is a gun shot and Mr. Burns falls to the ground. Simpsons’ fans waited 3 months and pondered answers. The just happened to occur around the same time as the OJ Simpson trial so in the first episode of the new season, the police just happen to find Simpson DNA on the gun that shot Mr. Burns. Homer gets arrested, but the person who actually shot Mr.
Burns was the baby Maggie Simpson. Mr. Burns tried to take candy from Maggie and during the struggle; his gun fell into the baby’s lap and fired into his chest. (Holtz) There are many reasons for educated people to find the Simpsons comical, but the reason most people find the show funny is the antics of Homer. People find it funny that a person can be as slow-witted as him, but still lead a successful life as he does. He has been an astronaut, a food critic, a boxer, a member of a barbershop quartet, a grease collector, a safety inspector, and many other jobs.
The Simpsons was rated the 7th best television show of all-time. With the 300th episode coming up this next season and according to Groening, 3 more seasons in the works, the Simpsons does not appear to be slowing down. It became the longest running cartoon series on its 167th episode when it passed the Flintstones. Their success is mostly due to their strong fan-base and their ability to keep coming up with new material to please this fan base and attract new watchers. (The Simpsons)