Almost every character is a stereotype, and grossly exaggerated in many ways, small personality traits taken and blown out of all proportion in every way. Examples of stereotypes are Willie the Groundskeeper, the stereotype of a Scotsman, with his flaming ginger hair, fierce temper and tartan clothes, the traditional Scottish attire. Principal Skinner is another stereotype, of an odd school principal who still lives with his mother, and has a secret affair with Mrs Krabappel. Patty and Selma, twins, are Marge’s older, ugly sisters.
They are the stereotypes of desperate, single women who, in their thirties, prove that they will do anything for a man. In the ‘Cartridge Family’ episode, Marge finds them trapping a television repairman in their flat, in the hopes of finding love. Other widely used techniques used in the show include irony, satire and sarcasm. Irony is frequently used in dialogue, and many jokes have an ironic twist to them. For example, when Homer asked for the deadliest gun, the shopkeeper replied, “Aisle six, next to the sympathy cards. ” (‘The Cartridge Family’ twentieth century fox videos 1999. ) This is ironic because it is a juxtaposition that jars.
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The two things, the deadliest gun and the sympathy cards contrast with each other and shouldn’t really be put together, but they are which is ironic. The writers are linking together death and sympathy, because guns kill people and the cards sympathise with deaths. It suggests to the audience a sense of irony because joking about death can be seen as slightly sick. Visual irony is also used, such as when Homer is waiting for his gun. He complains bitterly about having to wait five long, tortuous days for a gun, and wonders how he is possibly going to last five days without shooting anything?
During his waiting period, he sits outside on a chair to pass the time. The sun sets and rises five times, and each day a set of tempting targets dance past him. One day it is shooting targets, another day it is rabbits, then ducks, then Patty and Selma and finally Ned Flanders (complete with annoying sayings). This creates visual irony because Homer really wants to shoot something, and lots of targets pass him. Satire is also used, but in a quieter, subtler way. The soccer match is satirised as the ball is passed monotonously between three players for a long time.
This is America’s send up on Britain’s national sport, suggesting it is boring and lacks excitement of any kind. It also manages to make a parody of the soccer riots that occurred in Britain in the seventies and eighties. The British riots happened because of team loyalty and tension between supporters, but the parody of the riots shown on The Cartridge Family episode began because they were fighting to get out of the stadium, to get away from the boring game. It implies that all soccer fans must be maniac hooligans, and although the riots in Britain were dangerous and often tragic, the parody of them makes them seem humorous.
Sarcasm is so casually used it is almost overlooked, weaved into the dialogue with ease. A sardonic streak occasionally mixes with the sarcasm, but usually it is just good clean fun. Homer uses sarcasm in a childish way, often mimicking a child’s voice. The Cartridge Family episode uses visual puns, for example the flashing sign saying ‘Sleepeazy’ over a motel flickers, and the only letters left spell out ‘Sleazy’. It says a lot about television when characters from a cartoon are the most real people on television.
“Far from representing all that is dysfunctional about family life, the Simpsons are exactly the sort of warm-hearted, two-parent family any lonely broken-homes upper-class Wasp has been yearning for. ” (Demon magazine 1998. ) The dysfunctional ‘family from hell’ work in the show, and because of this it is easy for the script writers to present the humour. And present the humour they do, in more ways than one. The unusual medium of cartoon makes it a lot easier for the humour to be presented, because of the fantastical and unrealistic situations.
Movements are exaggerated, as are facial expressions, such things that cannot be justified by real actors. Several different levels of humour appear in the show, to cater for the wide audience span they have acquired. The childish, slapstick humour of Homer strangling Bart, and Ned Flanders cheery yet annoying phrases and sayings. These appeal to the younger part of the audience, because they don’t fully understand the adult humour. The older audience can appreciate the subtle humour, the mature yet hilariously witty one-liners, the carefully prepared irony and the gentle satire.
Viewers seem to love the unattractive Simpsons because they are so flawed. Most television families are perfect, and the Simpson family present a welcome break from the monotony. It is remarkable that such crudely drawn characters – and inhabiting a family so roundly dysfunctional – have struck such a chord. Most people describe the family as dysfunctional, but there are many aspects which suggests they are also ideal and maybe just plain average. As an idealistic family, they love and protect one another, go to church every Sunday and sing around the piano.
They participate in family events together. Despite all that the family go through, Homer and Marge are still married against the odds and statistics; two in three USA marriages end in divorce. Bart and Lisa obey their parents most of the time, very rarely going against their will. Lisa is a loving daughter and sister, she is helpful, loving and a model straight A student. But despite these plentiful signs, the Simpson family are also very normal and average. They have 2. 4 children – the national average. Homer is overweight, as are one in three of all Americans.
They live in a suburban detached house, they don’t eat particularly healthy food and their lives revolve around television. As M. S. Mason said, “The opening credits find the family rushing home from the day’s activities to leap on the couch together and watch TV – the only television family to gather in front of the tube on a regular basis. ” (M. S. Mason, “Why we still love ‘The Simpsons'”. ) Contradictorily, the Simpson family are definitely dysfunctional. Homer drinks heavily when he frequents Moe’s Bar. He dislikes taking responsibility for anything; his job, his children, his home, his wife.
He eats incessantly, and cannot seem to stop. He is always cramming unhealthy fast food into his mouth. Grandpa, Abe Simpson (Homers’ father) has been thoughtlessly shoved in a home for the elderly, and nobody in the family likes him much. No one visits him unless they want something. Nevertheless, the Simpsons are a normal family who make mistakes, do things wrong and definitely aren’t perfect. Despite the comic affluence’s of ‘The Simpsons’, it successfully manages to portray social and moral issues over a widely varied array of topics. The messages presented are subtle, yet noticeable.
Issues are discreetly shown to the public, yet there is no doubt that awareness is raised from this in the audiences’ mind. To the younger audience, it is presented almost subliminally. ‘The Cartridge Family’ episode focuses on Homer’s possession of a gun he bought to protect his family during the football riots. Marge is upset about the gun, and when she realises the only way to take Homer’s gun would be to pry it from his lifeless hand, she moves herself and the children into a nearby motel. The moral gun issue is about the dangers, excitement and morbid addiction guns can bring.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) promotes a somewhat trigger happy notion, which encourages Homer further. The usage of the offending gun shown in the episode is careless, dangerous and above all unnecessary, and the shop owners’ portrayal of American lax gun laws accentuates that. These important issues are subtly raised in the show, and the topical, moral story lurches back and forth across the line between witty satire and heavy-handed preaching. Although both sides of the gun debate are mocked, this episode brings about awareness and stirs up thoughts in peoples’ heads that they would maybe not have thought about otherwise.
Not only does it preach about guns, but about crime in general, such as Snake, Springfield’s’ local criminal and petty thief. One issue leads to another, as Homer’s continual misuse of his firearm leaves Marge with no choice but to offer him an ultimatum: either the gun leaves the house, or she does. Marge takes all three children to stay at the ‘Sleazy’ motel, recommended by Patty and Selma, who claim to have woken up there once and had the number on a matchbox. The motel really is disgustingly sleazy, the stereotypical American motel.
Prostitutes approach Bart and a dead body can be seen floating in the pool when Bart asks if he can go for a swim. The general seedy nature of the motel is mocked satirically, yet it is also a social issue, a hidden warning about motels in America. Also to be found at the motel is Mayor Quimby, complete with blonde bimbo hanging from his arm. He is looking for a room at the motel, and disturbs Marge in her room. As he leaves he manages to shout “Vote Quimby! ” before leaving. This shows how corrupt the government politicians can be, as we assume Mayor Quimby is married and he is constantly having marital affairs.
He only seems to care about staying Mayor, and always manages to shout for people to vote Quimby. A smaller yet still important issue raised is that of the Simpson family breakdown, which occurred after Homer’s idiocy surrounding the gun. Divorce in America is not uncommon, and thousands of children go through it every year. This issue can really connect with some children who are suffering as a result of divorce or separation, and can give them a tiny insight into the way ‘grown-ups’ work and how to deal with similar situations.
Back in December 1989, when the show first debuted on ‘The Tracy Ullman Show,’ nobody thought an adult cartoon would take the first the nation and then the world by storm. But it went against the odds and proved everybody wrong. The programme has varied quality-wise through the years, yet it still offers up brilliantly subversive takes on American culture and our imperfect human nature. For all it’s satire, ‘The Simpsons’ holds a message of redemption and forgiveness, of the importance of family and community despite all its imperfections.
Though the show is ‘only’ a cartoon, ‘The Simpsons’ has it’s own satirical take on life, and even after eleven years of comic wit and animated genius it remains the worlds’ most popular and well-loved animation. It still holds the prime-time slot in America, and it is unlikely that there are many people who do not know who the Simpsons are. In the beginning, the show set out to be different. It didn’t just want to be thirty minutes of wise crack jokes, but more of a sitcom. Eleven years later and this has well and truly been achieved.
The way that it works on several levels is amazing, something which not many other programmes have accomplished. The refreshingly normal family works in a cartoon, and I think that if it was used with real actors it wouldn’t work as well. In my opinion, the cartoon is brilliant. I watch it when it is on, and I can always find something to relate to and find amusing. As Demon magazine stated in 1998, “The Simpsons is not just Americas’ longest running prime-time cartoon show; it’s a way of life. ” (Demon magazine 1998). Frances Duffy 10J Frances Duffy 10J – GCSE Media Coursework.