Have The Simpsons evolved as the modern American family?
The Simpsons has been on the air for over 30 years now, with season 31 just about to reach its conclusion.
Undoubtedly, this great piece of American animation has paved the way for countless new shows to come after it, but there is one question that was put to me a few days ago. Are The Simpsons representative of the modern American family?
Without blowing my own trumpet too much, I’m somewhat of an expert in American animation and culture and my friends will often come to me for recommendations and explanations of specific series or episodes. I’m not a snob and I’ll try everything from Courage the Cowardly Dog to Star vs. the Forces of Evil to Paradise P.D to F is for Family, whatever is there, I’ll happily watch it and give my verdict, plus an in depth review.
This question was put to me by a friend in Spain, who believes that The Simpsons holds so many life lessons, he’d much rather abandon all books and discuss language, culture, philosophy and religion with his students using the show. I have to say I agree with him. We are in desperate need of education reform and why not start using acclaimed shows to teach our students things? I mean they waste hours playing games like Fortnite which has very little real life skill to offer, other than learning to work as part of a team.
MODERN AMERICAN FAMILY
The phrase American family carries a much different meaning today than it did in the past. Nowadays, families can be made up of two fathers, two mothers, a single father or mother, a male and female parents, perhaps even eight dads in a gay polyamorous relationship, there are endless possibilities and more so in the USA.
Typically the American family was built up of a mother, father and 2.5 kids. That’s known as the American ideal or the nuclear family.
Take a look at any of the shows like Family Guy, Modern Family, F is for Family, The Simpsons and even newer efforts like Duncanville and you’ll see the common theme. A mother and father plus 2.5 kids.
THE SIMPSONS AS THE IDEAL
It gets a little strange when we start to think about Homer as the “ideal” man. It’s essential that I point out that ideal doesn’t mean desirable in this context, it merely means typical.
Homer is the typical patriarch of the American family household. He’s the one who goes to work. He’s the one who provides money for the family. He’s the one who is financially responsible, albeit with help from his wife.
Marge is the ideal housewife, who doesn’t put a foot wrong with the exception of an occasional bout of gambling, perhaps some slight flirtatious behaviour with a neighbour or colleague, but she keeps a tidy house and looks after her children very well.
Bart is the ideal bad boy, Lisa the ideal good girl and maggie is simply the ideal baby, quiet but intelligent.
That being said, these were all the ideal factors when the show started in 1989, so what has changed now and do The Simpsons still fall into the category of ideal?
AN ARGUMENT FOR YES
The Simpsons has shown that it can and does evolve with the times. The show is no stranger to controversial topics and has recently even produced an episode about the ethical and moral issues surrounding the legalisation of soft recreational drugs like marijuana.
Years ago, the slightest mention of legal marijuana would have been enough to spark thousands of hate mail letters, but now The Simpsons has learnt that the world has moved far left enough to allow these things to occur. You may be for or against legalization, I don’t really care, that’s not what this is about.
Marge frequently takes jobs in various places or tries to start her own business ventures, meaning that she has evolved from the typical housewife that we saw at the beginning of the series.
Homer has also learnt how to control some of his issues and is very supportive of Marge in her business endeavours.
Even the way that the family converse has become somewhat more appropriate for the 21st century. Homer is no longer the angry father figure he was at the start, appeased seemingly only by frosted chocolate milkshakes. Instead he now shares his empathy with both Bart and Lisa on various occasions.
In a recent episode, he even tries to understand Lisa’s passion for music and buddhism in an attempt to be a better father. He fails of course, but it’s much further forward than when he paid a spy to collect information on Lisa in a fit of jealousy.
So, The Simpsons are growing as a family, but I’m curious to see where that takes them next and in comparison to a lot of other shows, I still feel a little like they are not focused on growing enough into 2020.
AN ARGUMENT FOR NO
Compared to other animated shows like Bob’s Burgers or Duncanville, I don’t think that The Simpsons has done enough to justify being the ideal 21st century family. They still fall back into old routines and Marge especially doesn’t seem to grow as a person.
Compare this to Bob’s Burgers in which Bob and wife Linda work together to keep a struggling restaurant afloat. Despite their struggles, they are still able to care for their children, find time for friends and grow as people. The show has some similar issues in that Linda feels unable to be independent from Bob financially and their children are far from the best behaved they could be, but they still remain a much more modern unit than The Simpsons could hope to be.
The most modern nuclear family in animation that’s come to my attention recently is the family in the newly released Duncanville. The mother and the father both work full time jobs, although it’s the mother in the series who earns more money and is much more ambitious than the father.
That is a more realistic representation of a modern American family. I believe that men have lost both the sense of pressure to provide everything for their woman and family and similarly women have picked up some of that pressure. This is a good thing in my opinion as stress shared two ways is much more useful than stress shared one way.
So, to clarify, as much as I love The Simpsons and as much as they move with the times in other ways, I’m afraid to say that I do not see them as a representation of the modern American family.
What do you think? Why not ask your language exchange friends their opinion on animated series and families?
Written by: Jordan Benyon, Staff Writer
- TV & Film
- 22 Apr, 2020
- 928 views