The Problem With The Simpsons

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As of this writing, the most recent episode of The Simpsons is “No Good Read Goes Unpunished”, in which they briefly offered a response to comedian Hari Kondabolu’s documentary The Problem With Apu.  The documentary used the Apu character as a jump-off point to discuss the marginalization and the extremely reductive view of South Asians in popular media, particularly drawing on his experience as an Indian-American forced to reckon with a greater population who didn’t view his cultural heritage beyond Apu behind the checkout counter at the Kwik-E-Mart saying “thank you, come again”.

In “No Good Read Goes Unpunished”, the B-plot involves Marge rediscovering a beloved book from her childhood called The Princess in the Garden, only to realize how racist and imperialistic it was in an attempt to read it to Lisa.  Marge later attempts to make edits to the book in order for it to fit current-day sensibilities, or in Marge’s words, “It takes a lot of work to take the spirit and character out of a book, but now it’s as inoffensive as a Sunday in Cincinnati”.  Lisa quickly recognizes that Marge’s changes to the story sanitize the whole plot and calls it out, leaving a frustrated Marge to ask what she’s supposed to do.  Lisa breaks the fourth wall and replies:

Something that started decades ago, and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?

As she says this, the camera pans down to a portrait of Apu with the caption “don’t have a cow!”.  Marge responds by saying “Some things will be dealt with at a later date,” with Lisa quipping “If at all” as they both stare directly in the camera.

A lot of the response The Simpsons has gotten to this has been negative.

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The Problem With The Simpsons

Who is Al Capp?

Joan-Baez_14

So comedian Roseanne Barr has rebooted her popular sitcom series from the 1990s.  As a comedian who courted a lot of controversy in her heyday as a sitcom star, the premiere of her reboot has followed that same pattern.  The controversy for this reboot is in regards to the Roseanne Conner character and Roseanne Barr herself being outspoken supporters of the always incendiary President Trump.

The politics of both Roseannes has come as a surprise for longtime viewers of the ’90s sitcom, considering that it had more of a left leaning slant at the time.  It directly challenged the patriarchal “father knows best” mentality that was a staple among sitcoms by framing the housewife as the glue that holds the family together.    Roseanne was a show that prided itself in tackling working-class issues from a Woody Guthrie-esque point of view yet also wasn’t afraid of tackling issues related to racism, women’s rights, and LGBT+ rights.  Outside of the show, Roseanne Barr once upon a time ran for president under the Green Party.  So what happened here?

And who is Al Capp and what’s Roseanne gotta do with him?

Continue reading “Who is Al Capp?”

Who is Al Capp?

Ralph Wiggum 2020

I wrote this last year in response to suggestions that Oprah should run for president in 2020. I’m ashamed that folks are still clamoring for President Oprah one year later.

Cartoon Essays

ralph-for-prez

Back in 2008, there was a Simpsons episode called “E Pluribus Wiggum” that poked fun at the presidential primaries.  In the episode, Springfield pushed up its primaries before New Hampshire so the candidates in both parties and the press descended onto the town.  Disillusioned by the phoniness and cynicism of the presidential candidates, the citizens of Springfield elected a write-in candidate, Chief Wiggum’s eight-year-old son Ralph, as a mass protest vote.  In response, both the Democratic and Republican parties badgered Ralph in order to convince him to run for president in their party.

The absurdity of the situation is obvious, right?  Both of America’s major political parties seeking to pick not just a second grader, but this second grader as their presidential candidate is obviously ridiculous to everyone, right?

I have to pose this as a question because it feels like a lot of what would have been considered over-the-top…

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Ralph Wiggum 2020

Suburbia Malaise: George Jetson vs. Harold Smith

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harold smith

The premiere of Hanna-Barbera’s sitcom The Jetsons in 1962 introduced America to your average nuclear family of the distant future.  This served as Hanna-Barbera’s counterpoint to their other animated sitcom The Flintstones, which premiered two years prior.  Just as The Flintstones did with its prehistoric setting, The Jetsons used its Space Age setting to make social commentary about the rise of consumerism in the immediate post-World War II economy.

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Suburbia Malaise: George Jetson vs. Harold Smith

“Helloooooooo Nurse!”

Just reblogging this old post in light of the Harvey Weinstein/Bill O’Reilly/etc. sexual harassment scandals.

Cartoon Essays

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I’ve written a lot of posts on this blog related to feminist issues or portrayals of women in media.  I’m not a scholar or an expert on this subject, but I try my best to do it justice.  But I have blind spots.  This isn’t an excuse I’m making; it’s self-awareness.  As a male, my upbringing and conditioning was totally different from girls and women and because of that, there are so many activities or points of view that I either take for granted or don’t even give a thought that girls and women can’t think or act the same way about.  In the city I went to college to, I constantly walked everywhere by myself.  I did so assured that the passersby wouldn’t catcall or harass me, or that someone who smiled at or said hello to me wasn’t trying to proposition me.  And that is just one example.

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“Helloooooooo Nurse!”

Johnny Bravo and the Pitfalls of Satire

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One of my earliest blog posts was an essay defending Johnny Bravo from a feminist perspective.  In my defense of it, I mentioned in passing that one of the ways that the series still falls short of truly being a feminist show was that it potentially diminishes how detestable his behavior towards women is.

This post is partially a response to that one.  I grossly undercut how pernicious the show’s treatment of Johnny’s behavior towards women is.

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Johnny Bravo and the Pitfalls of Satire

Jebediah Springfield: The Symbol vs. the Person

I just watched a video by Lindsay Ellis that I think makes a better argument in favor of rose-tinted historical revisionism than this Simpsons episode in question does. I still stand by the points I made, again I re-emphasize examining who is rewriting history and why they’re rewriting it, but the video essay provides some good food for thought.

I’d also like to mention that digging past historical revisionism isn’t always a disillusioning experience.  Learning the history behind “This Land Is Your Land” made me positively reassess my view of what I grew up thinking was just another banal patriotic anthem.

Cartoon Essays

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The plot of the classic episode of The Simpsons “Lisa the Iconoclast” had Lisa Simpson researching Jebediah Springfield and discovering that her hometown’s beloved founder was in reality a massive fraud.  It turns out that Jebediah Springfield’s real identity was Hans Sprungfeld, a bloodthirsty pirate who once attacked George Washington.  This man who was credited with founding his town on the quote “a noble spirit embiggens the smallest man” in reality hated the people who would inhabit his town.

Lisa being Lisa, she does her best to spread the world about Jebediah Springfield’s true identity and predictably, everybody she informs (except Homer) reacts with hostility and denies her revelations.  Even Marge, who is usually in Lisa’s corner when she gets caught up in issues like this, flatly refused to hear a thing about the beloved Jebediah Springfield being a pirate.  The episode ends with Lisa getting the whole town’s attention…

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Jebediah Springfield: The Symbol vs. the Person