I Didn't Do It: How The Simpsons Affects Kids

The Simpsons is one of Americas most popular television shows. It ranks

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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 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. (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?

Teacher: "Yes"

Bart: "What about a robot with a human brain?"

Teacher: "I don't know! Is a little blind faith too much to ask for?"

(Pepoon)

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 of blasphemy?"

Homer: "Don't worry Lisa, if I'm wrong, I'll repent on my death bed."

(Meyer)

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 is 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 offensive, 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 again!" (Meyer)

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?"

Bart: [Grunts]

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." (Groening, 26)

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. (Dyer, D3)

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.

WORKS CITED

"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, 1990

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 Nov, 1991

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: D3

"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, 1990

"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.