Where Does "The Simpsons" Draw its Inspiration and How Does This Aperate?

Where Does “The Simpsons” Draw its Inspiration and How Does This Aperate? Essay Sample

“The Simpsons” has become one of the most popular cartoons of all time. Its creator Matt Groening could never have fathomed Bart, who he based around himself would become such a household name. Matt took animation back to its roots, creating simple 2D non-humanistic forms.

The influences of “The Simpsons” are very clear to anyone who watches the programme. The first is The Flintstones, this is apparent due to the “family unit”. The Flintstones was the first cartoon sitcom, it dealt with the same family every week and follows a sitcom format, having storylines run for one week but never running over one programme. It was the first cartoon to have longer episodes, lasting up to half an hour whereas most of the time only lasted a few minutes. This type of cartoon created higher expectations from viewers and inspired spoofs such as “The Jetson’s”. The Flintstones are the ancestors of The Jetson’s, while Fred and his family are very primitive; George Jetson and his family are very futuristic. This shows the gradual progression of man.

“The Simpsons” is based on two cartoons, “The Flintstones” and “The Jetsons”, while one is set in the Stone Age the other is set in the future. “The Simpson’s” is set in between the two, in the present day. It makes references to the two cartoons of which it is indebted to by its name. The “Flintstones” name is comprised of “flint”; a rock used to make arrowheads etc by cavemen and “stone” which is traditionally related to cavemen. The “Jetson’s” combines a common suffix to surnames “son” with “jet”, a vehicle to be used in the future to transport people into space. Also the “son” could be representative of being the son of “The Flintstones”; only because of this cartoon was it invented.

American Sitcoms such as The Brady Bunch, Bewitched, The Cosby Show and Friends are all a large influence of “The Simpsons”. This is evident by the same characters every week and self contained episodes. There is one major difference between “The Simpsons” and sitcoms though, no member of the Simpson family is perfect, and none of them have perfect lives or even strive to. This is a complete opposite to the families in the sitcoms who are all stereotypically perfect social units, everyone fits perfectly into society and has there own role as part of the family. Even Friends, which was created later, has roles set out for each character which makes them a perfect member of society.

The Cosby Show is the one of the only sitcoms to break any stereotypes due to the perfect family being black and not white but the family is still stereotypically perfect, never having any problems, having the perfect children who may get up to some mischief but everything always works out in the end and never arguing, completely unlike any family in America and yet Americans love to watch them on TV even though they can see that no family is actually like this in real life.

The breakthrough sitcom in my opinion was Roseanne, the first sitcom to show a real family, however dysfunctional they may be. Unlike all other popular sitcoms Roseanne depictures normal people, the main character is fat whereas in all other sitcoms everyone is skinny, she has children to different fathers, all of whom are naughty and cause trouble, often suffering the consequences.

Roseanne was the first sitcom to feature a dysfunctional family, quite obviously “The Simpsons” has used this as a major influence, with Home the lazy and rather stupid father and Marge, the mother who does everything while her husband spends his life lazing around doing nothing. Dan Arnold’s character is very much like that of Homer showing that he was also based on the couch potato culture.

Tom and Jerry can also be said to be an influence for “The Simpsons”. This is due to the characters Itchy and Scratchy, of the Itchy and Scratchy Show, who are a parody of the violence seen in “Tom and Jerry”. Itchy and Scratchy cartoons are seemingly very satirical but when thought about the violence contained within them is only slightly more aggressive than that in “Tom and Jerry” cartoons. When the “Tom and Jerry” cartoons were made there was no questioning any of the violence they contained but in modern society is it sensible to expose children to such violence which found in any other context would be considered to be too severe?

Also the plots of both “Tom and Jerry” and “The Simpsons” is very simple, at the beginning of the cartoon a dilemma is established and by the end a resolution has been found, always with good conquering evil. I suppose in a way this bodes well for the “Tom and Jerry” cartoons as they at least have some form of morals, however twisted the way in which they are portrayed.

South Park has only been possible due to “The Simpsons” popularity. It has taken animation even further backwards, using even simpler animation techniques than “The Simpsons”. Also it is aimed at a much older audience, an exclusively adult audience; this is evident by the language used and the scenarios, which are shown, and the bawdy jokes. It is quite obviously a cartoon, with the characters moving across the screen, with no movement of their “limbs”, simply a movement of their whole bodies.

Walt Disney was the “father” of animation, without him animation would almost definitely not be as popular as it is today. Walt Disney and his company made every memorable animated film. For this the creators of “The Simpsons” must be grateful, even if only for the fact that he made animation popular to the masses. Without him “The Simpsons” wouldn’t have been nearly as popular as it is now.

Even from his childhood Walt Disney sold his drawings to make himself money. From the beginning of his career Walt was popular with the masses and has made millions from his name alone. He bought the rights to “Winnie the Pooh” and made millions from selling merchandise, which has completely changed the way in which people think of Winnie the Pooh who originally didn’t wear any clothing, let alone a red top.

In reality Walt Disney was not the man that the majority think he was; he took advantage of others ideas and made millions from them. Even now when Walt Disney is mentioned people think of the theme parks and merchandise rather than the films, which he has made.

The creators of “The Simpsons” disliked this and there is clearly a satirical theme when Bart and Lisa visit the Itchy and Scratchy Theme Park, which turns out to be a complete letdown just like most people find the Walt Disney Theme Parks to be when they get the chance to visit.

There has been a huge progression from the first “Mickey Mouse” cartoons which were quite obviously hand-drawn, with jumpy animation to the now free flowing characters which can be seen today. Recent Disney motion pictures don’t look like drawings, changing the reality, which was created at the beginning of Walt’s career.

“The Simpsons” is the complete opposite of this, going right back to the basics of animation, creating non humanistic forms and deliberately showing them as cartoons, not as what could be perceived as a photograph. There is obviously no attempt to make the characters 3 Dimensional and also not much attempt to humanise them as they have yellow bodies and Marge’s blue hair which is clearly not realistic as it’s almost the same size as her body and stays up above her head. Also the colours used in “The Simpsons” are very lurid whereas those in Disney films are a complete opposite.

Matt Groening and the other creators have taken Walt Disney’s idea to a new level, widening the target audience from children to people of any age or culture. As the cartoon has grown in popularity different characters have been introduced, creating diversity and thus increasing the number of viewers to millions. I think that one of the reasons the programme has become so popular is due to the fact that “The Simpsons” still has morals within it, the good always triumph over the evil and the characters always doing the right thing, no matter what the consequences.

The content of “The Simpsons” reflects the breadth of this audience by showing characters of diverse nationalities, differing religions and very different overall characters. From Apu to Flanders, Homer to Mr Burns, every person in society is represented in some way by a character in “The Simpsons”.

Although “The Simpsons” is a grotesque exaggeration of humanity, with all the characters being yellow, the characters personalities being exaggerated so much and the differences so obvious, it is still very affective. Lisa is the perfect child while her brother Bart is portrayed almost as a devil. Homer goes out during most of the cartoons, choosing to spend his time getting drunk rather than spending time with his children while his wife, Marge spends all her time trying to keep the family together and stop everything falling apart around her.

The creators of “The Simpsons” in my opinion had one main aim, to show Americans everything that they are without directly saying that’s what they were doing. In this way every American laughs at all the different characters without realising that in fact they are somewhat like the character that is being ridiculed.

Every different character represents a different aspect of American society. Homer represents couch potato culture, he believes everything that the media tells him and is completely gullible. He represents every American who spends their lives rooted to the TV.

Mr Burns represents the business community and corporate America, he represents every businessperson in America who lives solely to make money and fulfil their greed.

Barney represents unemployment and the huge percentage of the population in America who are unemployed or part of blue collar America. He represents all the people who work hard for their living, manual labourers etc who have no hope of finding a new job but have lots of unfulfilled potential. They are capable of so much more than anyone gives them credit for but they can’t do anything to prove themselves.

Flanders represents evangelical America, the Religious Rights movement and people who close their eyes to the real world only to leave them with what they want to believe. Their lives and beliefs are restricted.

“The Simpsons” has a very diverse appeal, as anyone who watches it can relate to at least one of the characters. Originally “The Simpsons” was created to be viewed by an American audience but due to its popularity it has grown to become a global product. The aspects of Walt Disney’s marketing, which the creators originally ridiculed such as the Disney memorabilia that have come from all the animations, have now become products of “The Simpsons”.

In the “A Star is Burns” episode alone there are over 20 references to films and American TV programmes, they include “Seinfeld”, “The Guns of Navarone”, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”, “Ben Hur” and many more. To me this shows that the makers of “The Simpsons” try to incorporate the real world into their cartoon. Even darker sides to American culture such as the mob mentality are represented. Also literary culture is represented, in this specific episode by the title “A Star is Burns”, a pun of the Hollywood musical “A Star is Born”. As well as all of this “The Simpsons” makes many references to itself, the sort of “in jokes” that people will only understand if they have seen the programme before, an example of this is Bart’s money making schemes and Kent Brockman and his films.

There are many different types of humour represented in “The Simpsons”. The most popular is satire; in the episode “A Star is Burns” there are many examples of this. The film awards system is portrayed as corrupted when Mr Burns is shown bribing most of the judges of the film contest, the “I’m only on the board because I’m sleeping with the secretary,” comment to me represents how corrupted the industry actually is.

Another type of humour is bathos that is shown in the scene when Homer says to Marge that yes, their visitor is intellectual but does he know the Oscar Meier Wiener song? The build up to the end of the sentence creates a very effective anticlimax.

Incongruity is used in “The Simpsons” when there is a comment made about Eudora Welty, who was a Mississippian author known for her angelic ways. In this episode she is portrayed as a crude belching woman. Also when Barney, the alcoholic is shown at a girls guide meeting.

Irony is used regularly in “The Simpsons”, an example of this is when Bart is watching TV and a program combining “The Flintstones” and “The Jetson’s” comes on. He comments on how pointless the program would be when in fact that is what “The Simpsons” is based on.

Hyperbole is shown when a tumbleweed passes through the house after Homer’s Scooby Doo joke. Trivialisation is represented when Marge writes what she is saying to Homer in the letter that she is writing and when Homer asks if his family are Jewish, then stuffs his face with pork.

There is lots of vulgarity in “The Simpsons”, the constant belching of Homer and Barney and Bart showing a picture of his bottom to a room filled with people are good examples of this. Slapstick is also a very key part of “The Simpsons”, as shown in the film “Man with Football”. Black humour is represented with the rapping rabbis and when McBain says “: Now, my Woody Allen impression: I’m a neurotic nerd who likes to sleep with little girls.”

The biggest pun in this episode is the title “A Star is Burns” and the title of Barneys film “Pukahontas”.

Overall “The Simpson’s” has overcome all its expectations, unlike most other TV programmes it incorporates all aspects of life, including every different nationality and culture. Although it sometimes pokes fun at different people and their beliefs or what they do, it is always done in enough of a light hearted way for the creators to not only get away with it but to highlight the aspects which are problematic and sometimes cause there to be changes.

I think that “The Simpsons” will continue to be one of the most popular cartoons of at least the next decade. Its popularity is well deserved, it has taken a lot of hard work and dedication to make and everyone involved should be proud of what they have done.

It has highlighted all the problems in American society and made them realise exactly what is wrong within it, every episode of “The Simpsons” has a hidden meaning, even if only a few people understand what they are saying, at least the creators feel confident enough to try and tell the world exactly what they think about it.

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