At the time, Groening was working for the L. A. Reader, a freeweekly newspaper. He began working on “Life in Hell”, a humorous comicstrip consisting of people with rabbit ears.
The L. A. Reader picked upa copy of his comic strip and liked what they saw. “Life in Hell”gradually became a common comic strip in many free weeklies andcollege newspapers across the country. It even developed a cultstatus. “Life in Hell” drew the attention of James L.
Brooks, producerof works such as “Taxi”, “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”, and “Terms ofEndearment”. Brooks originally wanted Groening to make an animatedpilot of “Life in Hell”. Groening chose not to do so in fear ofloosing royalties from papers that printed the strip. Groeningpresented Brooks with an overweight, balding father, a mother with ablue 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 thecharacters after his own family. His parents were named Homer andMargaret and he had two younger sisters named Lisa and Maggie. Bartwas an anagram for “brat”. Groening chose the last name “Simpson” tosound like the typical American family name.
Brooks decided to put the30 or 60 second animations on between skits on “The Tracy Ullman Show”on the unsuccessful Fox network. Cast members Dan Castellaneta andJulie Kavner did the voices of Homer and Marge. Yeardley Smith (laterto star in Herman’s Head) did the voice of Lisa. Nancy Cartwright didthe voice of Bart.
Cartwright previously supplied the voices for manycartoons, including Galaxy High, Fantastic Max, Richie Rich, Snorks,Pound Puppies, My Little Pony, and Glo-Friends. Tracy Ullman lateradded Cartwright to her cast. Brooks, Groening, and Sam Simon, TracyUllman’s producer, wanted to turn the Simpson family into their ownshow. The Fox network was looking for material to appeal to youngerviewers. The only show they had that drew a young audience was”Married With Children”.
To Foxs’ pleasure, “The Simpsons” saved thenetwork from near failure. On December 17, 1989, “The Simpsons gottheir break”. The Christmas special, “Simpsons Roasting on an OpenFire” aired. In the episode, Bart got a tattoo, much to Marge’sdislike. She quickly spent all of the family’s Christmas money toremove Bart’s tattoo with a laser.
At the same time, Homer, still onhis morning coffee break at 4:00 in the afternoon, learns that he willnot receive a Christmas bonus. When he learns that Marge is relying onthe money for Christmas, he decides that he will do the Christmasshopping for the year. He quickly buys Marge panty hose, Bart paper,Lisa crayons, and Maggie a dog toy. When he realizes that he is notdoing very well, he gets a second job as a mall Santa for the extramoney. On the way home from work, he steals a Christmas tree. The nextday 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 Christmasbetter. On Christmas Eve, Homer receives his check, $13. 70 for over 40hours work. Homer takes Bart to the dog track as a final chance forChristmas money. They discovered a gem in the third race, Santa’sLittle Helper.
How could this dog loose on Christmas Eve? The oddswere 99 to one, they were going to be rich. Homer put all of his moneyon Santa’s Little Helper, and to his horror, he never even finished. As Homer and Bart were scouring the parking lot for winning ticketsinto the night, they saw the track manager throw out a dog. It was notjust any dog, it was Santa’s Little Helper.
When Bart and Homer camehome to their worried family, they had a good Christmas after all. Nowthey had a dog. “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” was not thetypical Christmas story. It dealt with body art, sleeping in the workplace, sibling rivalry, stealing a Christmas tree, a misbehaved son,and gambling. Although it was unorthodox, it was very successful. TheFox network decided to air it again on Christmas Eve.
In a little over a month, “The Simpsons” made it’s debut as aweekly show, “Bart the Genius” was the first regular episode. In themiddle of a feared assessment test, Bart switches his test with thecompleted one of Nelson Prince, Class Nerd. Bart and his parents arecalled into Principal Seymour Skinner’s office where they are toldthat Bart has a 216 IQ. (Homer thought is was 912. ) Skinner requeststhat Bart attends The Enriched Learning Center for Children.
Suddenly,Homer takes a liking to his son. They joke together, play balltogether, embarrass Marge at an opera together. (“Toreador, oh don’tspit on the floor. Use the cuspidor.
That’s what it’s for. ” Bart singsalong with the opera Carmen. ) Soon at Bart’s old school, SpringfieldElementary School, Bart’s graffiti is roped off and tagged, “ThePrincipal. 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 himinto giving up his lunch. In frank, Bart is miserable. Then, afterturning himself green in an uneducated science experiment, Bartreveals 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 episodeends with Bart locking himself in his room and Homer trying to knockdown the door so he can tear Bart into pieces. Soon, Simpsons merchandise was all over America. Every kidwanted an “Underachiever and Proud of It, Man” or an “I’m BartSimpson, Who the Hell Are You?” shirt.
Hats could be seen everywherethat had Bart dressed like a devil saying “Go For It, Dude!” or withHomer, his arms open, lunging forward saying “Why You Little. ” Themost popular shirt was a family picture with Homer choking Bart. During the first week of school in 1990, two thirds of the sixthgraders in America wore Simpsons paraphernalia. As the popularity of”The Simpsons” grew, so did parents’ fears.
To their horror, BartSimpson became a role model. “Aye Carumba!” was a popular expressionamong kids. Almost anything a child did wrong was attributed to “lastSunday’s Simpsons. ” Bad ideas continued to be broadcast into kids’minds. In the third episode, a baby-sitter robbed the Simpson householdof most of it’s belongings. In the fourth episode, Homer caused anuclear accident, got fired, and attempted suicide.
Bart stole thehead off of the statue of Jebidiah Springfield, Springfield’s founderin the sixth episode. In the eighth episode, Bart took a picture ofHomer with an exotic dancer and distributed them to the entire town. Marge had an affair in the ninth episode. Homer stole cable, andalmost everything else imaginable in the fifteenth episode.
This isclearly not the kind of behavior we want our children to learn. The Simpsons is often viewed as one of the biggest threats toChristianity. The Simpson family goes to church on a regular basis,but Bart and Homer loath it. A typical Sunday School conversation isas follows: Child: “Will my dog, Fluffy go to heaven?” Sunday SchoolTeacher: “No” Other Child: “How about my cat?” Teacher: “No, Heaven isonly for people.
” Bart: “What if my leg gets gangrene and has to beamputated? 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 alittle blind faith too much to ask for?” The pastor, Reverend Lovejoyis a hypocrite. In “22 Short Films About Springfield” he leads his dogto the Flanders’ yard to go to the bathroom. He praises the dog untilNed Flanders comes outside. He then acts angry and threatens the dogwith hell.
When Ned leaves, he praises the dog again. In one episode,Homer quits going to church and falls in love with life. He claims tohave his own religion so he doesn’t have to go to work on holidays,such as the Feast of Maximum Occupancy. The Simpsons is not just an enemy of Christianity, though. Inone episode, where Krusty the Clown is reunited with his father, arabbi, almost the entire episode is spent making fun of Judaism.
Lisaasks Bart, “Do you know what a rabbi’s most valued possession is?”Bart replied, “I dunno, those stupid little hats. ” Hinduism isconstantly joked with by using East Indian, Kwik-E-Mart clerk, ApuMahasapeemapitalon. Apu is once asked is he is Hindu. He replied, “Bythe thousand arms of Bishna, I swear it is a lie. ” Homer Simpsondefinitely has the worst influence on children.
Once, Homer overheardRalph 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 ahammock replies, nonchalantly, “Yeah, they’ll do that.
” Homer fits thegenera of the parent who pressures his kid to do well in sports. Inone episode, after Bart scored a winning goal, Homer congratulatedhim, “Okay Bart, you won the hockey game. Now, just as I promised,here’s your turtle, alive and unhurt. “Personally, I believe that “The Simpsons” affects children, butnot necessarily in a bad way. Children never hurt themselves mimicking”The Three Stooges”, nor do they with “The Simpsons”.
Almost everyepisode ends with a family that loves each other. Some episodes haveanswered the question of them affecting children on their own. Once,Marge began to protest Itchy and Scratchy cartoons. Itchy is apsychopathic mouse who’s only purpose is to kill and torture Scratchy,a cat. Nearing the end of the episode, Marge realizes that Itchy andScratchy is not hurting anyone. They take a satirical view to thesituation when a group of mothers try to stop Michaelangelo’s Davidfrom visiting the Springfield Museum of Art by means that it ispornographic.
Unlike many sitcoms, “The Simpsons” is more likeeveryday life. Homer works in a power plant. In many other sitcoms,the father works a popular job, such as an accountant, or with atelevision studio. The Simpson family is not a wealthy family livingin a $300,000 house. Many children can relate to this.
In some cases, The Simpsons is educational. Karen Brecze creditsHomer Simpson with saving her 8-year-old son, Alex’s life. Bence, ofAuburn, Washington, says the boy was choking on an orange when his 10-year-old brother, Chris, used the Heimlich maneuver, which he learnedfrom “Homer at the Bat”, where Homer is choking on a doughnut. UnlikeAlex, Homer doesn’t receive help and coughs up the doughnut as his co-workers look at the Heimlich maneuver poster. “The Simpsons” affects kids, just as anything around them will.
Perhaps people fear “The Simpsons” because they can see a little ofthe Simpsons in themselves. We all have inner child’s trying to getout that behave just like Bart. We all do “pull a Homer” sometimes. Itjust happens. The show doesn’t make us do it. It just happens.
If thisworld did not have “The Simpsons” children would behave in the samemanner, they just might laugh quite as much.