Learning from The Simpsons

I read this interesting article comparing and contrasting The Simpsons with typical happy Disney characters recently. One of the points discussed is that a generation of children are being introduced to events in history entirely based on what they learn from The Simpsons:

In contrast to Disney, with its lush visuals and stark storylines, the sophistication of “The Simpsons” was all in the scripts, which are highly literate, gaily referring to everything from Susan Sontag to “Citizen Kane”. Children who have been brought up on the show often have a weird general knowledge. When Al Gore was vice president, only 63% of American kids surveyed could identify him, whereas 93% could identify the cast of “The Simpsons”. Children may know the yellow versions of Richard Nixon or the Beatles long before they encounter the real thing. My ten-year-old son recently read “Lord of the Flies”. He didn’t find it that upsetting: he already knew most of the plot from “Das Bus”, “Simpsons” episode 192.

I thought that was fascinating. I also didn’t know that the writers of the show have included occasional New Yorker writer George Meyer and Conan O’Brien, of the Tonight Show fame. (On a not-so-related note, as I was rooting through the internet just now, I found the Wikia Entertainment wikis for some of the best shows on TV, which I didn’t know about before. Wow.)

In an excellent insight, the article ends with this paragraph that compares The Simpsons movie with Disney movies, where it says Disney clearly have the upper hand:

“The Simpsons Movie” seemed a shot at achieving a Disney-like immortality. But despite some inspired one-liners–and the genius of Spider-Pig, Homer’s pet pig which he plays with like a Spiderman doll–the movie lacked the density of the best short episodes. And it ended with another self-referential gag, Maggie uttering the single word “Sequel?” It confirmed that though “The Simpsons” may win best animated television show hands-down–Disney’s made-for-TV efforts are mediocre–it still cannot beat Disney at the movies. I suspect Matt Groening knows this. Behind all his mockery of the big Mouse is an admission that Disney’s big-screen sentiment ultimately sees off his small-screen yellow cleverness. Deep down, most of us are stupid and sentimental like Homer. Long after we forget why Spider-Pig was so funny, we will still be crying at Bambi’s mother dying.

How true. At the end of the day, all it’s really about, is emotions.

And since this post is about The Simpsons, here’s an entertaining interview with the voices behind the characters, that I saw a long time ago. If you haven’t seen it yet and you’re a Simpsons fan, you may enjoy it:

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