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Family Values through Satire in The Simpsons

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Introduction

How the world would have been without satire? A world where everyone should be serious and without having a little bit of irony in what they are saying? Believe me or not, no one would like to live in a world like that because even though satire appears in different types and tries to show something, for example bringing serious issue to people’s faces but in such a way that it does not bother anyone. However, satire brings happiness in our lives even if it is used in serious situations, this can always make people smile.

Satire was made popular starting in 1989 alongside with The Simpsons. “The Simpsons offered a critical view of mainstream social and cultural norms” (Todd 63). The Simpsons got to be the most popular cartoon in America, but not everyone was agreeing to its reputation. Some people started criticizing different characters such as Apu because they thought it rose satire in racial context and felt like the producer made fun of those that were Indian. This cartoon used characters in a satirical way, developing them in such a funny manner, therefore, to present serious political issues about America, and also representing how people get along and how families behave. Despite of this, few people have that kind of opinion about The Simpsons while others are having it as their favorite cartoon because it takes real situations and turn them into funny scenarios. These scenarios are a positive element in The Simpsons series because they are used in a humorous way so it could raise important family issues, it’s presence does not affect people in a bad way because the truth is not stated in their faces but rather ironized and people have a good laugh about it and in the end they could understand the message that the series is trying to transmit to the viewers. Together with this “The abundance of episodic material, teeming with rich dialogue and resplendent visuals…” (Todd 64) causes people to be interested in their series and wanting to analyze the meaning of their episodes.

Humor can raise important family issues (sursele from Bryant)

Before getting in depth and analyzing some important scenes where humor is raising important family issues, it is appealing to look at the meaning of television and what effect it has on its audience. What is shown on television is most of the time shaping people’s conceptions and making them believe in something or at least have an opinion about the subject. “The meaning of television content is located in a complex process of interaction between text and reader, but the larger meaning of television is located in the production of popular culture and perpetuation of dominant social forces”. (Alexander 273) Therefore, television is one of many sources of people from where they could gather information, but everyone understands it in their own way. “Television is one of the major players in the socialization process” (Nancy and Michael 333)

Usually people avoid situations where they need to deal with important social issues. In other words, with the help of cartoons like The Simpsons that appear on the television humor comes around the corner and bring this kind of people closer to the truth by stating in a funny manner what they have been avoiding. If it gets people to laugh that does not mean the subject it’s not serious, thus “television contributes to people’s conceptions about families and family life, through the theoretical perspective of cultivation analysis” (Nancy and Michael 333)

Hence, comedy has a role and that is to make the world better because it invites more analytical thought and action from all people. The Simpsons “is a show that does in fact give hope and joy and, yes, inspiration to millions. But mostly, as my wife reminds me, it’s funny” states David Feltmate in his article. (223-224) This cartoon is funny because it mainly states true facts and then people can very easily relate to it. Therefore, satire “is a powerful, if understudied, tool for communicating ideas about religious rights and roles in society”. (Feltmate 240)

Much more, Feltmate states in his article “simple jokes are composed from complex stocks of knowledge” (227), so with the familiarity that the producers of the cartoon had, they formed many scenes with complex meanings. The episode “There’s something about marrying” has numerous scenes that can have deeper meaning then what is shown on the television. The first scene that revolves around familial issues is the part when Homer is choking his son because he told him “Dad you should go on a diet”. The doorbell rings, and then Homer tells his daughter to take his place. After Homer left, Lisa starts choking Bart instead of him. This is funny at the first sight, but after thinking about it for a while, is it suitable? “An element of surprise often lies behind the laugh of incongruity” (Fink 47) Affirming this, that element of surprise in this scene is that of not being normal. Who would choke their child and after putting their daughter to continue what he was doing? Exactly. No one besides those that are abusive towards their child.

There are other scenes where family members are being mean to each other. People have this portrait of the perfect family where the members should unconditionally love each other. And then there is Patty saying that If Marge does not show up at the ceremony, she does not have a non-identical sister anymore and then Marge is amused when she finds out that her sister’s fiancé is a man instead of a woman saying, “Patty is getting something she didn’t register for”. However, this is happening because Marge cannot get over the fact that her sister is lesbian. “But in comedy, any harm done to a principal character- someone we get to know well enough to be emotionally invested in him or her- can be only temporary and nonfatal”. (Fink 50) People laugh about all these issues because in the end everything is going to be fine, but they should also learn the broader meaning of the scene’s message. To summarize, from these funny episodes that The Simpsons are presenting, the society has the role to see what the moral point is that they are trying to show and what is this significance symbolizing for them.

Truth is not stated in their faces but rather ironized, therefore it does not bother anyone

This is the section where it is all about people that are easily getting irritated when something that is true is stated in their faces, but when the truth it’s ironized, nothing bothers them anymore. The satirical cartoon based on a complex family with different personalities is sharing their experience to their American audience and make it feel relatable. “The show increases public awareness of environmental issues and serves to educate the television audience while at the same time entertaining them.” (Todd 29) Because of the cartoon’s context of representing mostly familial and political problems in a funny way, they keep engaging and having a connection with their audience showing them how they truly are as a society. “By pointing out the humorous fallacies in human action, the series offers a significant look at the life of the typical American family, and in this way has a profound impact on the attitudes and beliefs of the television audience. “(Todd 29)

Therefore, with much more concrete evidence and wanting to demonstrate that The Simpsons raise important family problems and are making people feel related to what is happening in the series that leads people to listening to true facts and not having a bad impact on them, all of this in one episode called “There’s something about marrying”. This episode tackles many issues all at once but only few are essential.

Starting with Springfield losing tourists, the mayor wanted to listen to “crazy ideas” to bring them back.” Different voices in the crowd respond with “stronger beer,” “gladiator fights,” “poetry slam,” and “giant rats.” It is a theater of the absurd in an animated sitcom.” (Fink 47) Lisa, having the best idea of them all, proposed legalizing same-sex marriage. It is impressive to see that a kid is much more open minded than the older generations. “In fact, nearly every character in town, with a few exceptions such as Lisa, is a fool.” (Fink 48)

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The mayor accepted it because he thought that this idea would bring a lot of money. Homer was not very fond of this idea, but it is ironic how he was staring at himself in the mirror thinking about how his babies looked if he married himself. In the episode, he heard that he could earn 200 bucks by marrying one couple and the outcome of this was he turning into a clergy person, doing the opposite of his way of thinking but in the promoting love and family as important pieces in life.

This main issue revolves around Marge’s sister that has found a fiancé who is a woman. Marge keeps joking about it, but it seems like she does not approve her sister’s decision. Even when Marge tells her children about her sister’s fiancé, Lisa raises an important statement and that was “I thought you said aunt Patty was waiting for the right man”. “Right man” are harsh words used to show that the encountering of a familial issue where a family is formed only by a woman and a man. Jumping right to the scene where Patty and her fiancé are getting married, after finding out that Veronica, her fiancé, is a man, she is not planning on marrying him anymore because she states “Hell no! I like girls!”. The important point that is presented on this particular scene is the audience at the ceremony that starts clapping after what Patty shouted and how Marge and the rest accepted how Patty truly feels. “This is somewhat representative in upholding the tradition of satirizing contemporary culture”. (Fink 44) Even if it is a contemporary culture issue or an issue from some years ago, it is hard for people to understand some of them. In this way that The Simpsons presents the problems to their audience it is outstanding because the truth is ironized, thus people enjoy listening and seeing what is going to happen without being bothered by the issue presented. “Comedy provides a catharsis, or relief, from their stress. The writers of The Simpsons provide ample situations that allow viewers to laugh through their discomfort.” (Fink 51)

This way of ironizing can bring people closer to the truth

This imagery that The Simpsons created opened a door to social arguments and because of this their visuals became essential to people interested in their theories. “Contemporary analysis of the social and cultural context of human communication must account for the increased mediation of rhetorical messages” (Todd 67) And because of this analysis, people are encountering many symbols and it is very helpful to have them nowadays. “Visual media are capable of symbolic expression because they are rooted in a particularly rich context of social, cultural and political influences.” (Todd 68). What people are seeing is enforced in their minds without even realizing. “Visual images persuade because they give meaning to personal experience by connecting thematic elements of shared social experience to individual perception.” (Todd 68)

Generally, people are denying the truth, not wanting to know about it or not caring about the subject, but with this humorous way that The Simpsons approached people, they can be brought closer to the truth that they are trying to avoid without even realizing. “Thus, The Simpsons uses satire not only to undermine the pretensions to cultural significance of various texts from both “high” and “low” culture, it includes itself as part of that mockery, potentially undercutting the cultural critique in which the program seems to be engaged” (Alberti 20)

In one episode called “Make Room for Lisa”, the audience saw a scene where Lisa yelled at her dad saying, “If you think something it’s true that doesn’t mean it is for everyone”. This statement is the representation of how people work. Everyone draws their own conclusion and can have their own opinion about a subject. For example, Pelling in his article is saying that “I could have replied that it’s satire as good as The Simpsons that provides my greatest comfort when humanity appears to have lost the plot”. (2)

Another example of being different is shown in the Simpsons family. Each one of the members is different in their own way but in the end, they love and support each other. “This cartoon features a family more genuine in its loves, hates and imperfections than most sitcom broods”. (Keveney 2)

Many of the differences in their family were in the episode “Lisa’s Birthday” because Lisa herself states them by saying” we love each other but we’re different people”. “A clueless adult who eats too much and doesn’t work enough “while “other characters are wonderfully developed”. (Keveney 3) Homer, in this episode seems like he does not know anything about his daughter but at the same time he is desperate to do anything, so Lisa will not be mad at him and wants to be seen by his children as a good father. This sounds like too much for Homer, right? It is known that usually Marge and Lisa “are morally and intellectually superior to the men in the Simpson family” (Keveney 3) However, having these difference does not stop them from being a family and that is what people appreciate about The Simpsons. “Despite these condemnations about the Simpson family’s imperfections and dysfunctional nature, their shortcomings and general realism are what actually make this family so reflective of the American family and actually radical in the wake of television families of the past.” (Van Allen)

To sum up what it has been said in this section, ironizing can really bring people a little bit closer to the truth. In this case, the truth about being a family even though the members are completely different and not getting along in the first place. “When studied as a family unit, the Simpsons pull the traits of each character into a coherent whole that families across the country can appreciate and believe in.” (Van Allen)

Conclusion

The Simpsons uses satire in a way that benefits everyone in many forms if they are watching the cartoon. It represents important values like familial ones, in such a humorous way that its presence does not disturb anyone because the truth it’s ironized. While everyone laughs about what is happening in the series, subconsciously people earn a point of view about the subject they are dealing with, but everyone has their own right to comprehend it in their own style.

People get closer to the truth, because the cartoon invites people to think about it when they are watching. Thus, the satire that they are using is a powerful tool in communicating ideas and finding the true meaning of their symbols. Moreover, because of satire, people are not irritated about the subject they are presenting on the television since it feels relatable. While many would think that satire is not useful, this irony can be used as an influential weapon to create connections with people and always be thoughtful about an idea.

Works cited

  1. Alberti, John. Leaving Springfield: The Simpsons and the Possibility of Oppositional Culture. Vancouver, B.C.: Langara College, 2008. Print.
  2. Alexander,Alison. The Meaning of Television in the American Family. Television and The American Family: New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2001.
  3. Feltmate, D. ‘It’s Funny Because It’s True? The Simpsons, Satire, and the Significance of Religious Humor in Popular Culture.’ Journal of the American Academy of Religion 1 (2013). Print.
  4. Fink, Edward J. “Writing the Simpsons: A Case Study of Comic Theory.” Journal of Film and Video, vol. 65, no. 1-2, 2013, pp. 43–55. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/10.5406/jfilmvideo.65.1-2.0043.
  5. Keveney, Bill. “Cartoon champs ‘The Simpsons”. Las Vegas Review- Journal. ProQuest. 14 Jan. 2000. Web. 03 Jan. 2019.
  6. Pelling, Rowan. ‘Great Satire Lifts the Spirits When Humanity Loses the Plot. That’s Why I for One Welcome Our New Insect Overlords….’ The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. ProQuest .12 Nov. 2016. Web. 03 Jan. 2019.
  7. Signorielli, Nancy. Morgan, Michael.Television and the Family: The Cultivation Perspective. Television and The American Family: New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2001.
  8. Todd, Anne Marie. Prime-Time Subversion: The Environmental Rhetoric of The Simpsons. Studies in Environmental Rhetoric and Popular Culture: Praeger Publishers, 2002.
  9. Van Allen, Eliezer. The Simpsons Archive: Awards & Honours. Web. 03 Jan. 2019

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Family Values through Satire in The Simpsons. (2022, Jun 29). Edubirdie. Retrieved August 14, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/family-values-through-satire-in-the-simpsons/
“Family Values through Satire in The Simpsons.” Edubirdie, 29 Jun. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/family-values-through-satire-in-the-simpsons/
Family Values through Satire in The Simpsons. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/family-values-through-satire-in-the-simpsons/> [Accessed 14 Aug. 2022].
Family Values through Satire in The Simpsons [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jun 29 [cited 2022 Aug 14]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/family-values-through-satire-in-the-simpsons/
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