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Simpson’s Roasting On an Open Fire

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  • Pages: 10
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Throughout this essay, I will be addressing several key points, some of which demonstrate conventional stereotypes and typical roles within an American family. As mentioned previously, this essay will review the first ever episode “Simpson’s Roasting On an Open Fire”. This exclusive episode introduces a rather unique and special feeling, as it is the first ever Simpsons episode to be broadcast on television. This is a Christmas cracker of an episode as we see a family mostly considered for their one liners and distinct way of life.

Homer is the centre of this predicament as he battles to salvage his family from a Christmas crisis. As beer bellied, foul mouthed Homer scurries with his beloved wife to pay a visit the school pantomime, they are unaware of the heavy falling snow, which prevents them from reaching earlier to their intended destination. Homer then in a bid to prove his caring personality and loving nature sets out to become Santa in a battle to rescue his family from a rather unpredicted Christmas crisis. After hours of hard work this dream is then shattered when he finds that his job pay is the small sum of only 13 dollars.

The end snapshot is quite effective as it demonstrates to us the general love and affection each character shows for each other. The specific moral of this episode depicts the message ‘never give up’, as Homer illustrates to us nothing is impossible, which is quite conventional of a stereotypical dad in a nuclear American household. The general image of families portrayed to mainstream audiences over the latter stages of the twentieth century is quite characteristic of how modern day sitcoms are presented.

Traditionally, over the course of the twentieth century, broader audiences have witnessed the stereotypical, orthodox family, generally comprising of one disobedient boy, an academic daughter, a compassionate, empathetic motherly figure and a protective, demanding fatherly figure. Conventionally, modern day sitcoms are based and constructed around misunderstandings which usually affect the main characters, there is usually a laughter soundtrack and they are generally half an hour long with a break if shown on commercial TV.

The father, being the dominant figure in the household, is generally supposed to stand firm and stamp his authority in the house, as well as being able to deal successfully with tricky, tense or problematic situations. He is usually looked at as intelligent and has good judgement. He is hypothetically looked at as an excellent role model to his son, and the daughter normally adores him. The children should never feel as though they are uncomfortable or insecure talking through their inner feelings or thoughts. If there is any need for discipline, the father is adjudged to deal with the problem professionally and competently.

The children should always be respectful and believe the parents know the best for them. They try hard and must go out of their way in order to make the parents feel proud and swollen with pride. More significantly The Simpsons undoubtedly challenges the idea of a stereotypical American nuclear family. The ideal relationship between Marge and Lisa differs from the conventional one. In some aspects, Lisa shows she is different from her mother. Lisa’s huge mass of intelligence has ultimately pushed the relationship beyond, and furthermore, Marge seems to be threatened by her daughter’s brainpower and astuteness.

The Simpsons family bond quite negatively, and the correlation between each member of the family at times ‘negative’ and ‘off-putting’ Each and every individual family member appears to have no real firm or steady relationship amongst them. However there are some fundamentals to the Simpson’s which many people see as ‘stereotypical’ and ‘conventional’. Basics such as Marge being a typical housewife and Homers caring attitude towards the children suggest that there are certain elements, and features characteristic of a family patriarch and matriarch.

From practically the first episode broadcast in 1,989, The Simpsons impacted on planet like a giant multi coloured meteor. The standard opening is subtly manipulated for each episode, simultaneously conforming and confounding our expectation of a long established traditional sitcom and conventional family roles and values. At the beginning of the programme in the title sequence, we are introduced to heavenly celestial imagery, the emerging of the blue angelic clouds, portrays an image of paradise.

The image of the ‘power plant’ ultimately reveals the dark side of Springfield as it creates an unpleasant environment through pollution and toxic waste. Continuing through the window of Springfield Elementary school the chalkboard gag then introduces us to a troublesome, irritating little boy named Bart his subversive and rather insubordinate written comments on the blackboard demonstrate how sometimes they are quite insightful, and his lack of concentration results in him in an unfortunate after school detention.

We then encounter the family patriarch Homer; his dangerous, treacherous, and untrustworthy nature is revealed to us. Just before Homer leaves work he wears a luminous radioactive suit, and is grasping onto a small piece of radioactive material, he then finds out that he has to leave so he tosses this precarious piece of material onto the street. This is incredibly insane, as it could possibly result in any severe damage or injury caused by some extremely lethargic, careless and indolent attitude. This also reveals his irresponsibility. We are then introduced to the matriarch of the family, Marge.

She is completing the family shopping which is emblematic and quite characteristic of a mother in a stereotypical family. She then challenges our stereotypical view of a mother and throws it astray by leaving her eight month baby and undertaking maternal things however she is still careless. We see Maggie with her caring mother Marge driving away, this also illustrates what a fun mother, and she holds several characteristics conventional of a mother. She is maybe just slightly less than perfect. Next we discover Lisa who is playing her saxophone at the orchestra practice.

The rest of the orchestra are different colours which reveal Lisa is in a multicultural class which shows that The Simpsons is realistic, nevertheless, we discover that she is unique and only one of a kind. She is independent, which demonstrates she is academically gifted in her ability. She upholds the idea of a traditional daughter. Theoretically, she plays her own solo, but the conductor is angry because she decides to go by her own tune. This also clarifies the reason as to why her self confidence level is so high, and also shows her to be undermining a conventional, more authority figure.

The last element of this opening sequence adds something new to our understanding, as in the final couch gag, the family become together as a family union. This is dissimilar to previous scenes as from independent humans they are all as one, and more essentially upholds the stereotypes of a conventional American sitcom family, because normal service is resumed at the end. Another point is that the Simpsons are quite realistic. As the audience’s increasing knowledge of the family develops, they are rapidly identifying how unconventional the Simpson’s family really is at times.

Generally speaking, The Simpsons family are very close, however at times they do not bond as a well as a family unit, therefore this reiterates and moreover demonstrates the sheer lack of communication and social roles held within the family. In addition to this, each character is almost given the impression, that their own family members are more or less their own victims, which is quite eccentric. Generally speaking, having witnessed the father/son relationship on a number of occasions, the audience are now given the inkling that these two characters are somewhat identical in a number of ways.

They both possess similar qualities, and communicate quite well with each other. For instance during the episode “Bart gets an F” we see Bart and Homer sitting on the couch, enjoying and treating with pleasure each other’s company whilst relaxing and watching television; this image portrays a warm, loving relationship being formed by these two central characters. On the other hand, the relationship is not always as stereotypical as Bart hasn’t a fatherly figure to look up to. Homer himself is childish and can also be a described as a ‘big kid’.

This is established when Homer attempts to strangle Bart due to his rebellious, disobedient attitude towards him. This furthermore illustrates that Bart doesn’t always obey his fathers rules correctly and rarely gives him the respect and dignity that a father deserve and really craves. The relationship between the mother-daughter is somewhat negative, comprising of undependability, untrustworthiness at times, and this is one of many reasons as to why these two significant characters don’t bond together as well as they would like to.

Marge’s connection with Lisa differs from the stereotypical caring relationship, since her responsibilities and actions are frequently overshadowed by Lisa’s mass of intelligence and mental power. Quite simply, she cannot cope with her mass of brainpower, and this is probably the reason as to why their relationship is beyond the stereotypical expectation of a loving mother/daughter relationship. Now, most people would consider the husband/wife relationship as a reliable, calm, stable and passionate one.

However the relationship between Marge and Homer fluctuates, with certain elements of passion, and periods which are sometimes taken to the other extreme.. Nevertheless, we do see the dark side of the relationship, where Homer is dependant, unreliable and doesn’t really stamp his full authority and influence in the relationship. Marge herself can’t really request him for possible support or guidance as he doesn’t possess any qualities or attributes that contribute to a conventional, demanding or supportive person which a man may possess.

As Marge is the stereotypical housewife, she is given several jobs within the house, including looking after a two month dummy sucking baby, a rebellious ten year old and a intelligent daughter that is maybe just to clever for her liking. To some extent she requires some assistance and support; however Homer cannot live up to these expectations as he himself acts childish, immature and infantile. This in addition reinforces my initial implication that the relationship between Homer and Marge doesn’t always match the stereotypical passionate, supportive relationship.

As a whole, the Simpsons family do not abide by the stereotypical, conventional family. Stereotypically characters such as Lisa are not particularly portrayed as clever, astute and intelligent, nonetheless she has been given these attributes and this is an example of what formulates the Simpsons to be so unique and distinctive. A number of crucial relationships within the Simpsons family have been formed, some of which conform to familial stereotypes and others which emphasise negativity and unconventionality.

One of the most significant, essential and commanding relationships that should be held within a family relationship is undoubtedly the ‘sister-in-law’ association. The two grumpy characters we are introduced to generally bond well together, however they do have big difficulties and complications when it comes to exchanging a few words with Homer J Simpson. Their inability to interact with each other is evident. Both Pattie and Selma feel as though Marge has ultimately married the wrong man, and knowing this they treat Homer with no dignity or respect. This is emphasised during the episode “Bart gets an F”.

As Homer comes home late from work, both sisters question him as to why he is so late, Homer then ignores them and mutters to him “can’t you ever say any good things about me? ” then stomps off upstairs. This is a conventional joke that a married man does not get along with mother/ sister in law. The next relationship to be formed can be described as ‘unconventional’, and ‘dull’. ‘The Flanders Family” who are adjudged to be ‘perfect’, are effectively being used to compare with The Simpsons family in different ways. The Simpson’s ability to impress is clearly second to none; it more or less mirrors and reflects on real life situations.

It comprises of humour and absurdity as well as simultaneously challenging and upholding certain stereotypes and conventions. One of the most considerable features that The Simpsons comprise of is that it has realistic characters with whom everyone can identify with. Moreover, the series is humorous and this mainly is introduced through characters such as Homer and Bart. These characters are excellent to watch for the viewers as they provide excitement and, humour which inserts a major dimension to enlighten spectators. The most compelling element about The Simpsons is that there is no change developed between and amongst the family members.

This is something which is unconventional of modern day sitcom as we generally witness a character gradually developing, progressing and learning new and innovative things each and every day; nevertheless The Simpsons challenges this by not abiding and altering any of these things. The animation ensures that the characters do not alter, change or transform the personalities or appearances of these characters. Inevitably, it has reorientation, and normal service is resumed at the end. Some critics regard The Simpsons as a ‘dysfunctional’ family whilst others have praised the show as offering a more realistic representation of the family.

However based on several viewpoints about this, I have progressively come to the conclusion that it covers both of these features. It mirrors real life situations and also upholds stereotypes. It is not only realistic but also humorous, however it is the characters that throw the idea of stereotypes astray. This special sitcom also comprises of several types of comedy, such as one liner, slapstick and satire which is illustrated in the opening sequence, which is another reason as to why the Simpsons has almost created a new genre for audiences looking for high quality entertainment.

The Simpsons to some extent has had a huge influence over modern day society. It has formed something unique and special, not only for mainstream audiences, but more significantly for future sitcoms, as a first-class role model. Generally The Simpson’s includes a variety of elements that construct a very unique and also sets up a compelling and gripping sitcom. Matt Groening has undoubtedly created a new genre, which is called animated, grotesque family sitcom, which has influenced, and shocked many people with its ability to mirror and epitomize the modern day society that we are living in.

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