Remember when I wrote a post eons ago about how much I hated the Simpsons? Well over the past year I’ve watched more and more episodes, not only from the golden era but also from the first couple of series and some of the newer episodes and I’ve realised I may have spoken rashly…
In my original post I said how the Simpsons was overrated, how the character’s were unfunny and bland, how the animation was originally very poor and how much I loathed Homer Simpson. Well I can honestly say that I was wrong on most of these points. Firstly, the characters. This show has such a wide range of funny, interesting, likable characters, certainly more than 100. Not only are they memorable, but because the Simpsons is such a long running show you can usually find an episode that looks at, if not outright focuses on, each and every one of them. I don’t think I know of a show where the supporting characters are so culturally recognizable and wide-ranging as the Simpsons. Granted this could well be because the show’s been going for a good 20 or so years and they’ve all had time to soak into the public conscience but even so, it’s pretty impressive. I still maintain that maybe the supporting characters are more interesting than some of the family members. Bart irritates me and to be honest the character most likely to make me laugh out of all of all five of them is Maggie, and that’s saying something when the funniest of your main characters is the one that never talks. Secondly, the animation. Originally the Simpsons wasn’t a very strong show. The animation was very doughy, the eyes were all over the place and it was very reminiscent of play-do. The jokes were also pretty weak. It was almost like a sketch show in the sense that it went from one daily situation to another, for example jumping from breakfast to tucking the kids in at night. There was a lot of build-up and very little pay-off, Matt Groening himself admits to it, even poking fun of it in one of the tribute shows. This changed after the second series. The animation was sharpened and the humour reached an all time high, very fast paced and far stronger than it had been. I stand by the fact that the first few series were pretty poor but then again they were just starting out and were on a budget, what were you to expect?
I’ve heard a lot of people talking about the satirical side of the Simpsons and to be fair I do see their point, although I would argue that it isn’t the main focus. The main focus of this show is story. It’s not a show like South Park where the majority of the episodes do have some sort of satirical message and the story is built around it, with the Simpsons the story is the important part and the satire is generally fixed around the story rather than the other way round. I definitely think that there are stronger shows satire wise. Whilst watching episodes of this show I was actually surprised how much the story hooked me in. Unlike many other people, I actually like the way the show often starts with a story not necessarily relevant to the main plot. I guess in a way it’s like how Tarantino films seem very much to be a snapshot of life, events will be referenced that the audience has no knowledge of and there will often be in-jokes between characters. I also talked about how I didn’t think the Simpson’s deserved a movie, in hindsight it probably did, if only because it’s been running for ages and it’s a very influential show, but maybe they should’ve saved it for wrapping everything up. They could’ve ended the series with a feature film instead of releasing it whilst the show was still running and I still stand by the fact that Family Guy deserves a film just as much and hopefully they’ll be smarter and save it for the final hurrah.
I guess the main point that I stand by entirely is with regards to Homer Simpson. I still hate him. I mean am I the only one who see’s this? When Homer does something such as neglect his children or forget his anniversary, it always seemed to me to be a little too cruel, there was always an element of selfishness with the character that just rubbed me the wrong way and there still is. Homer is very different to a character like Stan Smith from American Dad or Peter Griffin from Family Guy because when they do similar things to Homer it’s very easy to attribute it to either stupidity or the fact that they have the best intentions but are too blinded by arrogance or selfishness to know that it’s far from the best possible option. You can tell Peter and Stan love their families and want to do the best for them but that they don’t necessarily know how. Homer doesn’t have that, it’s far more a case of Homer does something bad and he goes out of his way to make up for it simply for his own convenience. He’s almost like a sociopath in the sense that he doesn’t understand the feelings of others, or at the very least doesn’t consider them. There are far more loving moments with Stan and Peter with their families than there is with Homer and his children and when shows like Family Guy and American Dad show these moments you can tell that there is genuinely love there because we’ve seen evidence of it before. Homer doesn’t have that as much or indeed as strongly. I stand by what I said before. He’s selfish, greedy and violent, which isn’t to say that Stan and Peter aren’t but when they do it it’s funny, when Homer does it it’s damning of his character and I really don’t like him.
So yeah, I’ve learned a lot about the Simpsons over the past year. Sure I hate Homer but when the show does something right, it really does something right. The animation was great, the stories were great, the characters were great, it was a good show. In more recent times though? Yeah I think it might have lost it a bit and maybe it should bow out before the horse flogging gets irritating, but there was definitely a time when the Simpsons was one of the most influential and probably one of the best shows running. It’s not as bad as I said it was but Homer Simpson is an ass.