I Didn't Do it How the Simpsons Affects Kids


The Simpsons is one of Americas most popular television
shows. It ranks as the number one television program for
viewers under eighteen years of age. However, the ideals
that The Simpsons conveys are not always wholesome,
sometimes not even in good taste. It is inevitable that The
Simpsons is affecting children.
Matt Groening took up drawing to escape from his troubles
in 1977. At the time, Groening was working for the L.A.
Reader, a free weekly newspaper. He began working on Life
in Hell, a humorous comic strip consisting of people with
rabbit ears. The L.A. Reader picked up a copy of his comic
strip and liked what they saw. Life in Hell gradually
became a common comic strip in many free weeklies and
college newspapers across the country. It even developed a
cult status. (Varhola, 1)
Life in Hell drew the attention of James L. Brooks,
producer of works such as Taxi, The Mary Tyler Moore Show,
and Terms of Endearment. Brooks originally wanted Groening
to make an animated pilot of Life in Hell. Groening chose
not to do so in fear of loosing royalties from papers that
printed the strip. Groening presented Brooks with an
overweight, balding father, a mother with a blue beehive
hairdo, and three obnoxious spiky haired children. Groening
intended for them to represent the typical American family
"who love each other and drive each other crazy". Groening
named the characters after his own family. His parents were
named Homer and Margaret and he had two younger sisters
named Lisa and Maggie. Bart was an anagram for "brat".
Groening chose the last name "Simpson" to sound like the
typical American family name. (Varhola, 2)
Brooks decided to put the 30 or 60 second animations on
between skits on The Tracy Ullman Show on the unsuccessful
Fox network. Cast members Dan Castellaneta and Julie Kavner
did the voices of Homer and Marge. Yeardley Smith (later to
star in Herman's Head) did the voice of Lisa. Nancy
Cartwright did the voice of Bart. Cartwright previously
supplied the voices for many cartoons, including Galaxy
High, Fantastic Max, Richie Rich, Snorks, Pound Puppies, My
Little Pony, and Glo-Friends. Tracy Ullman later added
Cartwright to her cast. (Dale and Trich, 11)
Brooks, Groening, and Sam Simon, Tracy Ullman's producer,
wanted to turn the Simpson family into their own show. The
Fox network was looking for material to appeal to younger
viewers. The only show they had that drew a young audience
was Married With Children. To Fox's pleasure, The Simpsons
saved the network from near failure. (Varhola, 3)
On December 17, 1989, The Simpsons got their break. The
Christmas special, "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire"
aired. (Dale and Trich, 19)
In the episode, Bart got a tattoo, much to Marge's dislike.
She quickly spent all of the family's Christmas money to
remove Bart's tattoo with a laser. At the same time, Homer,
still on his morning coffee break at 4:00 in the afternoon,
learns that he will not receive a Christmas bonus. When he
learns that Marge is relying on the money for Christmas, he
decides that he will do the Christmas shopping for the
year. He quickly buys Marge panty hose, Bart paper, Lisa
crayons, and Maggie a dog toy. When he realizes that he is
not doing very well, he gets a second job as a mall Santa
for the extra money. On the way home from work, he steals a
Christmas tree. The next day at the mall, Bart sits on his
Dad's lap and pulls down his beard. Homer responds by
choking Bart and making him help make Christmas better. On
Christmas Eve, Homer receives his check, $13.70 for over 40
hours work. Homer takes Bart to the dog track as a final
chance for Christmas money. They discovered a gem in the
third race, Santa's Little Helper. How could this dog loose
on Christmas Eve? The odds were 99 to 1, they were going to
be rich. Homer put all of his money on Santa's Little
Helper, and to his horror, he never even finished. As Homer
and Bart were scouring the parking lot for winning tickets
into the night, they saw the track manager throw out a dog.
It was not just any dog, it was Santa's Little Helper. When
Bart and Homer came home to their worried family, they had
a good Christmas after all. Now they had a dog. (Pond)
"Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire" was not the typical
Christmas story. It dealt with body art, sleeping in the
work place, sibling rivalry, stealing a Christmas tree, a
misbehaved son, and gambling. Although it was unorthodox,
it was very successful. The Fox network decided to air it
again on Christmas Eve. (Dale and Trich, 19)
In a little over a month, The Simpsons made it's debut as a
weekly show, "Bart the Genius" was the first regular
episode. In the middle of a feared assessment test, Bart
switches his test with the completed one of Nelson Prince,
Class Nerd. Bart and his parents are called into Principal
Seymour Skinner's office where they are told that Bart has
a 216 IQ. (Homer thought is was 912.) Skinner requests that
Bart attends The Enriched Learning Center for Children.
Suddenly, Homer takes a liking to his son. They joke
together, play ball together, embarrass Marge at an opera
together. ("Toreador, oh don't spit on the floor. Use the
cuspidor. That's what it's for." Bart sings along with the
opera Carmen.) Soon at Bart's old school, Springfield
Elementary School, Bart's graffiti is roped off and tagged,
"The Principal. By Bart Simpson. IQ 216." Bart's friend no
longer like him, they refer to him as Poindexter. The kids
at his new school trick him into giving up his lunch. In
frank, Bart is miserable. Then, after turning himself green
in an uneducated science experiment, Bart reveals to his
new principal that he cheated on the test. That night, as
Homer is helping Bart clean himself off, Bart tells Homer
the same. Homer instantly transforms into a murderous
rampage again. The episode ends with Bart locking himself
in his room and Homer trying to knock down the door so he
can tear Bart into pieces. (Vitti)
Soon, Simpsons merchandise was all over America. Every kid
wanted an "Underachiever and Proud of It, Man" or an "I'm
Bart Simpson, Who the Hell Are You?" shirt. Hats could be
seen everywhere that had Bart dressed like a devil saying
"Go For It, Dude!" or with Homer, his arms open, lunging
forward saying "Why You Little." The most popular shirt was
a family picture with Homer choking Bart. During the first
week of school in 1990, two thirds of the sixth graders in
America wore Simpsons paraphernalia. (Dale and Trich, 43)
As the popularity of The Simpsons grew, so did parents'
fears. To their horror, Bart Simpson became a role model.
"Aye Carumba!" was a popular expression among kids. Almost
anything a child did wrong was attributed to "last Sunday's
Simpsons." (Dale and Trich, 45)
Bad ideas continued to be broadcast into kids' minds. In
the third episode, a baby-sitter robbed the Simpson
household of most of it's belongings. In the fourth
episode, Homer caused a nuclear accident, got fired, and
attempted suicide. Bart stole the head off of the statue of
Jebidiah Springfield, Springfield's founder in the sixth
episode. In the eighth episode, Bart took a picture of
Homer with an exotic dancer and distributed them to the
entire town. Marge had an affair in the ninth episode.
Homer stole cable, and almost everything else imaginable in
the fifteenth episode. (Groening, 37)
The Simpsons is often viewed as one of the biggest threats
to Christianity. The Simpson family goes to church on a
regular basis, but Bart and Homer loath it. A typical
Sunday School conversation is as follows: Child: "Will my
dog, Fluffy go to heaven?" 
Sunday School Teacher: "No" Other Child: "How about my
cat?" Teacher: "No, Heaven is only for people." Bart:
"What if my leg gets gangrene and has to be amputated? Will
it be waiting for me in heaven? Teacher: "Yes" Bart:
"What about a robot with a human brain?" Teacher: "I
don't know! Is a little blind faith too much to ask for?"
(Pepoon) The pastor, Reverend Lovejoy is a hypocrite. In
"22 Short Films About Springfield" he leads his dog to the
Flanders' yard to go to the bathroom. He praises the dog
until Ned Flanders comes outside. He then acts angry and
threatens the dog with hell. When Ned leaves, he praises
the dog again. (Swartzwelder) In one episode, Homer quits
going to church and falls in love with life. He claims to
have his own religion so he doesn't have to go to work on
holidays, such as the Feast of Maximum Occupancy. In a
conversation with Lisa: Lisa: "Dad, I don't understand, why
have you dedicated yourself to living a life of blasphemy?"
Homer: "Don't worry Lisa, if I'm wrong, I'll repent on my
death bed." (Meyer) The Simpsons is not just an enemy of
Christianity, though. In one episode, where Krusty the
Clown is reunited with his father, a rabbi, almost the
entire episode is spent making fun of Judaism. Lisa asks
Bart, "Do you know what a rabbi's most valued possession
is?" Bart replied, "I dunno, those stupid little hats."
Hinduism is constantly joked with by using East Indian,
Kwik-E-Mart clerk, Apu Mahasapeemapitalon. Apu is once
asked is he is Hindu. He replied, "By the thousand arms of
Bishna, I swear it is a lie." Once Homer was in the
Kwik-E-Mart: Homer: "Hey Apu. No offensive, but when they
were handing out religions, you must have been on the can."
Apu: "Mr. Simpson, please take your jerky and get out and
come again!" (Meyer) The average child can acquire a
plethora of foul words from one episode. In "Flaming
Moe's", Bart is "jinxed", meaning he can't talk until
somebody says his name. Homer: "What is it boy?" Bart:
[Grunts] Homer: "Us anything the matter, my son? Talk to me
young man." Bart: [Takes a pencil and writes 'Say my name.]
Homer: "Say your name? Why should I do that, my lad?" Bart:
"Because I'm jinxed damnit!" Homer: [Punches Bart in the
arm.] Bart: "Ow! What was that for!" Homer: You spoke while
you were jinxed, so I get to punch you in the arm! Sorry,
it's the law!" (Cohen) Homer Simpson definitely has the
worst influence on children. Once, Homer overheard Ralph
Wiggum say the he would do anything for Lisa. In the next
scene, Ralph is coating the Simpson's roof in tar. Ralph
calls out, "Mr. Simpson, the tar fumes are making me
dizzy." Homer, relaxing in a hammock replies, nonchalantly,
"Yeah, they'll do that." Homer fits the genera of the
parent who pressures his kid to do well in sports. In one
episode, after Bart scored a winning goal, Homer
congratulated him, "Okay Bart, you won the hockey game.
Now, just as I promised, here's your turtle, alive and
unhurt." Homer got angry at Marge once for spending lots of
money to vaccinate Maggie against diseases she doesn't
have. His advice on how to get out of jury duty is "to tell
them that you're prejudiced against all races." His self
proclaimed, best advice is, "Sometimes the only way you can
feel good about yourself is to make other people look
stupid." (Groening, 26) Personally, I believe that The
Simpsons affects children, but not necessarily in a bad
way. Children never hurt themselves mimicking The Three
Stooges, nor do they with The Simpsons. Almost every
episode ends with a family that loves each other. Some
episodes have answered the question of them affecting
children on their own. Once, Marge began to protest Itchy
and Scratchy cartoons. Itchy is a psychopathic mouse who's
only purpose is to kill and torture Scratchy, a cat.
Nearing the end of the episode, Marge realizes that Itchy
and Scratchy is not hurting anyone. They take a satirical
view to the situation when a group of mothers try to stop
Michaelangelo's David from visiting the Springfield Museum
of Art by means that it is pornographic. (Koger and
Wolodarsky) Unlike many sitcoms, The Simpsons is more like
everyday life. Homer works in a power plant. In many other
sitcoms, the father works a popular job, such as an
accountant, or with a television studio. The Simpson family
is not a wealthy family living in a $300,000 house. Many
children can relate to this. (Rebeck, 622) In some cases,
The Simpsons is educational. Karen Brecze credits Homer
Simpson with saving her 8-year-old son, Alex's life. Bence,
of Auburn, Washington, says the boy was choking on an
orange when his 10-year-old brother, Chris, used the
Heimlich maneuver, which he learned from "Homer at the
Bat", where Homer is choking on a doughnut. Unlike Alex,
Homer doesn't receive help and coughs up the doughnut as
his co-workers look at the Heimlich maneuver poster. (Dyer,
D3) The Simpsons affects kids, just as anything around them
will. Perhaps people fear The Simpsons because they can see
a little of The Simpsons in themselves. We all have inner
child's trying to get out that behave just like Bart. We
all do "pull a Homer" sometimes. It just happens. The show
doesn't make us do it. It just happens. If this world did
not have The Simpsons children would behave in the same
manner, they just might laugh quite as much. 
Works Cited
"22 Short Films About Springfield." The Simpsons. By: John
Swartzwelder, Dir: Jim
Reardon, Prof: James L. Brooks. Fox. WHNS, Greenville. 12
May, 1996.
"Bart the Genius." The Simpsons. By: John Vitti, Dir: David
Silverman, Prod: James L.
Brooks. Fox. WHNS, Greenville. 14 Jan, 1990
Dale, Steve, and Shane Tritsh. Simpson Mania. Lincolnwood:
International, Ltd., 1991.
"Flaming Moe's." The Simpsons. By: Robert Cohen, Dir: Rich
Moore and Alan Smart,
Prod: James L. Brooks. Fox. WHNS, Greenville. 21 Nov, 1991
Groening, Matt. The Simpsons Uncensored Family Album. New
York: Harper Perennial, 1994.
"Homer at the Bat." The Simpsons. By: John Swartzwelder,
Dir: Jim Reardon, Prod:
James L. Brooks. Fox. WHNS, Greenville. 20 Feb, 1992
"Homer the Heretic." The Simpsons. By: George Meyer, Dir:
Jim Reardon, Prod:
James L. Brooks. Fox. WHNS, Greenville. 8 Oct., 1992
"Homer's Odyssey." The Simpsons. By: Jay Choker and Wallaby
Wolodarsky, Dir: 

Wesley Archer, Prod: James L. Brooks. Fox. WHNS,
Greenville. 21 Jan,
"Homer Simpson Saves the Day." San Francisco Chronicle 21
May, 1992: D3
"Homer VCR. Lisa and the Eighth Commandment." The Simpsons.
By: Steve Pepsin,
Dir: Rich Moore, Prod: James L. Brooks. Fox. WHNS,
Greenville. 7 Feb, 1991
"Itchy & Scratchy & Marge." The Simpsons. By: John
Swartzwelder, Dir: Jim Reardon,
Prod: James L. Brooks. Fox. WHNS, Greenville. 20 Dec, 1990
"Like Father, Like Clown." The Simpsons. By: Jay Choker and
Wallaby Wolodarsky,
Dir: Jefferson Lynch with Brad Bird, Prod. James L. Brooks.
Fox. WHNS,
Greenville. 24 Oct., 1991
Rebeck, Victoria. "Recognizing Ourselves in the Simpsons"
The Christian Century 27
June, 1990.
Varhola, Aaron. "The Simpsons" Dies. 1994.

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