The Simpsons:  So Close, Yet so Far

Published:  December 20, 2003

The animated television program The Simpsons is wildly popular. The show is highly original, features humor that is often savagely clever, and even exhibits a charming kind of whimsy, as well, not often seen on television. The program also captures, interestingly and wonderfully, the amusing behaviors of small children. This writer counts himself a fan.

However, all is not well in Springfield (the fictional location where the Simpsons family resides), as the show provides a firm and continuing helping hand in the vulgarization of America, especially with regard to children. Other animated programs that appear to fill this same pernicious role include South Park and Family Guy. This week, I listened to a portion of a National Public Radio Fresh Air interview with Matt Groening, the creator of The Simpsons. He asserted the show operates on several levels, each of which is appropriate for a certain class of viewer. However, having watched many episodes, this writer has identified several salient problems with this heralded and seemingly innocuous cartoon program:

  1. Humor presumably intended for the adult viewing stratum is completely comprehensible to the huge segment of children watching the program. For example, in the episode entitled Marge in Chains, recently aired in the Eastern time zone, the "Apu" character refers to Marge Simpson, who has apparently committed some sort of transgression, stating:
  2. "We're putting that bitch on ice!"

    This remark, and the language and sentiment it expresses, is disgusting, vulgar, malevolent, and undesirable for any stratum of viewer. For children, however, who can clearly identify the language, and probably comprehend it, depending on their age, this remark is absolutely unacceptable.

    Were the network censors asleep?  Are they corrupt?

  3. There are language and concepts used on the show which are clearly adult in nature, to which children should not be exposed. For example, this writer has counted at least two episodes in which the word "shemale" was used; the Homer character used the word on at least one of those occasions. Fielding a question like "Mommy, what's a shemale?" is not a situation parents should have to find themselves in, especially if the child learned of the word from a television cartoon.

    Note:  "shemale" is a porn industry term for a transsexual.

  4. The Itchy & Scratchy component of the program is utterly gruesome. The images of decapitation, evisceration, and other macabre' scenes which characterize this "cartoon-within-a-cartoon" are absolutely unsuitable for children--and everyone else.
  5. The language used on the show by the child character Bart, and the adult character Homer (and other characters) is absolutely and obviously unacceptable for children. For example, these characters often voice the nearly-ubiquitous word "sucks." He "sucks," she "sucks," that "sucks,' you "suck," etc. Since the denotative meaning of this word in its context of popular culture originates, presumably, from the sexual act of fellatio, we can reasonably accuse The Simpsons of hewing generally to the same emergent pornographic standard increasingly characteristic of cable television news programs (see below, Stop the Sexualization of Television News, dated November 07, 2003).

This writer urges The Simpsons to refrain from content inappropriate to children when producing new program episodes. It is further urged to edit such content from every existing episode, including episodes already packaged for sale on videotape and DVD. Do these recommendations seem extreme or impractical? In fact, the real limits of extreme reside in the backdoor manner in which our entire culture, and world culture by proxy, is morally imploding from within, slowly but steadily. This social devolution is egged on by programs like The Simpsons, a "childrens" program doing substantial injury to children.


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