How did The Simpsons get so dumb?

For many years, The Simpsons has been in going through a sharp, ravaging decline, and many viewers don’t seem to notice or care. Of course, the biggest reason for the decline is that the writing had gotten dumber, and the show kept relying on trendy guest stars. It’s now the year 2014, and I think plenty of us can agree that the show has hit rock bottom.

rock bottom
I think that’s where we are right now.

In the early 90′s, The Simpsons was a particularly clever show, with numerous carefully-placed adult jokes that sail over the kids’ heads, and an abundance of episodes centred around certain characters, leaving room for real character development. However, as the 90′s wore on, something began to change for the worse.

Many people agree that the Simpsons started to go bad as soon as Mike Scully became the showrunner, and that the show’s glory days ended after Season 9. While I agree that Season 9 was the last great season, I actually do like some of the Scully-era episodes. Ten years ago, I enjoyed the Scully-era episodes, but for an over-analytical 20-year-old, things are different.

Nowadays, whenever I watch an episode from between seasons 10 and 12, I notice that the show’s writing has gotten dumber, and the characters have suffered. For instance, Marge now likes everything bland and boring and can’t seem to live without chores. Bart’s destruction and pranks now have no real meaning, and the ADHD theory espoused by “Brother’s Little Helper” doesn’t seem to apply.

Homer had devolved into a completely self-centered, stupidly incompetent father whose brain lives in the world of Hollywood stereotypes, and Lisa had realized her destiny as the preachy queen of the soapbox, and she’s always proven right.

lisa the tree hugger
Though to be fair, crap like this kind of makes sense in the lazy, gentle America of the year 2000.

The villains had become completely hackneyed. The last great villain in the show’s history was Hank Scorpio (a.k.a. one of the best one-time characters ever). Every villain since season 10 is now a cartoonish supervillain, whether it’s Mr. Burns, the Rich Texan, Larry Kidkill (real creative), or the dreadfully hollow Garth Motherloving.

In season 13, Al Jean took over as showrunner. By then, The Simpsons had aged badly, while it’s competitors, South Park, Family Guy and King of the Hill, were doing well, with South Park causing controversy left and right, all while the Simpsons had basically become the very notion of middle America that they were fighting.

For me, the dumbing down of the show reached a tipping point with the travesty known as The Simpsons Movie, an over-hyped, over-funded, and painfully mainstream film. In it, religion and politics aren’t so much mocked, as they are blatantly insulted (if calling all the church-goers “pious morons” isn’t pretentious and insulting, then what is?). By the time the movie came out, The Simpsons had already become a mouthpiece for liberal horse crap and mainstream popular culture, but the film took it to a new low, by having Green Day sing the title and attempting to preach about the environment. The entire film was basically An Inconvenient Truth if it were an episode of The Simpsons being processed into an edgier Disney movie.

homer giving the finger
Pictured: Homer trying to be something he’s not.

After the Simpsons movie, everything was screwed. How did it get this far? Well, Matt Groening has very little control over the show, but he seems very complicit in all this because of his inaction. However, the real blame goes to the producers, for trying to make it appeal to everyone. Now, we have episodes that are completely ridiculous, and some of them attempt to do modern rehashes of premises that have already been explored.

Nowadays, only about 250 of the show’s 548 episodes are really good, and the writers are either unaware of the show’s decline, or too proud to admit that there’s a problem. The Simpsons is now so dumb, that it’s part of the lowest common denominator, which it had struggled for yours to fight against.

So apparently Joffrey’s dead

joffrey death
…and this is the least gruesome pic of his death I could find.

The fourth season has only just started, and already we’re treated to a genuinely shocking twist. King Joffrey, the tyrannical asswipe from Game of Thrones, is finally dead. He was killed after being poisoned in what quickly became known as “The Purple Wedding”.

In last night’s episode, “The Lion and the Rose”, the most hated man in Westeros was poisoned at his own wedding by an unknown assailant (though I probably suspect Tyrion so far), and lay coughing, spluttering and bleeding to death in his mother’s arms as everything he worked for starts to become undone.

Naturally, the reaction from the show’s fans is been quite strong. In fact, many of the show’s fans rejoiced when they saw the king’s life slip away.

As for me, I though that the Purple Wedding was a very visceral scene, to the point that you could actually feel the king’s life slipping away, but what’s really interesting is that Cersei literally loses it, and orders Tyrion to be locked up (to be fair, he shouldn’t have picked up the cup).

Say what you will, but I think Joffrey got exactly what he deserved. Think about it. First, he steals the Iron Throne, even though the Lannisters had no real claim to it in the first place. Then, he executes Ned Stark, one of the best characters in the show, just to prove a point. He also had no respect for Sansa, his wife-to-be, and just before his death, I think that “king of the north” bit might have been disrespectful towards her.

For me, I enjoyed the Purple Wedding scene because it shows someone who thinks he can do what he wants being totally weeded out of the thread of life. It was basically karma for everything he did throughout the show.

The only question is, what will happen next? Only time will tell, as the eight remaining episodes of season four have yet to be seen.

We don’t need religious movies

noah
Completely ridiculous.

Have you wondered why there aren’t so many religious movies? It’s because they suck ass. If I wanted to hear about the life of Jesus, I’d go back to Sunday school. Movies are about entertainment, and in my opinion, religion simply has no place in cinema.

However, the religious right in America is getting pissy over the fact that Hollywood doesn’t produce that much religious movies, and now that we have two big budget Christian movies released to the mainstream (Son of God and Noah), the Fox News pundits seem to have a problem with it. Since I haven’t seen the films yet (as an atheist, I think they’re repulsive), I’m about to describe what I’ve heard they’re bitching about this time.

In the case of Noah, the conservative pundits are picking on how the film isn’t faithful to the Bible. Actually, they’re mad because Noah isn’t faithful to their version of the Bible, which mainly comes from those saccarhine children’s Bible stories. You know, those shorter, watered-down versions of Bible stories that Christian parents read to their kids.

They’re also mad that in Noah, the word God purportedly isn’t used at all, perhaps because the studio producing it wants to avoid offending non-Christians. Let’s make one thing clear: Noah is not a documentary, and neither was the Bible. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no solid evidence that the events of the Book of Genesis actually did happen, so it can’t be a documentary.

As for Son of God, I’d have thought that conservative Christians wouldn’t have any problem with it. In fact, when you’re appealing to right-wing nut jobs who think everyone else is going to burn in Hell, you can’t exactly go wrong with a film about Jesus…right?

Unfortunately, it turns out that you can go wrong, because the women of Fox News are complaining that the Jesus of this film is “too sexy”. Call me crazy, but wouldn’t a fundamentalist right-wing Christian housewife want to spend the night with “the sexy Jesus”?

jesus

Other than that, Son of God is virtually unremarkable, being that it’s basically the “Jesus” section of The Bible TV series, which itself was basically the cinematic equivalent of going to Sunday school.

The last thing about this that bugs me is that whenever the concept of religious cinema is brought up, people almost always think about Christian movies, and these movies are always expected to have some kind of moral message. Basically, this means that most people’s concept of religious movies basically amounts to more propaganda in favour of the church. It’s as though Hollywood assumes that Christians want to hear the same message over and over again.

Like I said at the beginning, movies are about entertainment, and many religious movies can’t be entertaining because the writers of these films are primarily interested in preaching the same antiquated message over and over again.

Get ready for TV’s (terrible) grey dawn

According to recent statistics, in the near future, the majority of Britain’s population will be 40 or over. The biggest indicator of this can be found on TV. Ageing stars are making a comeback on our screens, and for young people like me, it’s going to be really fucking excruciating.

last tango in halifax
It’s like Grey Dawn all over again.

Before what I say gets taken the wrong way, hear me out. I don’t like the TV shows that the older generation watches, and I don’t even like hearing about them. At the very worst, thinking about it makes me think “where did we go so wrong?”, but the worst part about is that these shows have become the norm for British TV.

Besides, this elderly trend is just something that the major networks – the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 – can exploit. Think about it for a moment. TV is a dying medium that is becoming progressively more obsolete as time goes by. This seems like too much of a coincidence. While all the youngsters are getting better entertainment from the Internet and on Netflix, TV is now being relegated to a dreary status as the old-fashioned cesspool of brain-rotting crap, and now it’s going to be overrun with ageing presenters.

When will these ageing celebrities learn that it’s okay to pass the torch to a new generation? In fact, it’s not just okay, that’s how it’s supposed to be in the first place. TV audiences like seeing younger people on TV for a reason: because they don’t like being constantly reminded of their inevitable decay. Also, the older generation the TV networks are trying to appeal to have largely given up the radicalism of their younger days, surrendering to a culture that discourages the questioning of the status quo.

david dimbleby
They’re also planning for a thousand years of darkness, by which I mean boredom and endless babble about the economy.

I hope nobody expects this fad to last. Some of these stars are in their late 70′s, or even in their early 80′s (although if they’re really celebrities, you’d expect nothing less than for them to pamper the hell out of themselves). Naturally, time is probably not on their side, so they want to make the most out of their newly revitalized career.

Before I finish with this post, I’d like to point out that I’m not an ageist. In fact, I’m firmly against ageism, which is exactly why I have a problem with major TV networks focusing on ageing stars. It’s just like focusing on young sex symbols to draw attention to yourself, and there’s just as little integrity involved. Also, I’m only talking about TV stars.

If you don’t care about TV, this probably won’t matter. However, I’m writing this because I want to at least warn people that this trend is going to be everywhere at some point. But then, trends always die at some point. If this trend does reach its peak, then it’s only a matter of time before it vanishes into thin air.

Death of the old and great

windows xp rip

Yesterday was a dark day in human history. Yesterday, Windows XP died, by which I mean Microsoft is cutting off support for Windows XP, the operating system we all knew and loved. This means that if you still use Windows XP, you can’t get support or security updates.

This really is a tragedy, because Windows XP, in my opinion, was the best operating system they ever made, and I mainly say this because I didn’t grow up with the older operating systems from way back in the early 90′s. Besides, the death of Windows XP is another sign of the unwelcome tide of change, and I say it’s unwelcome because Microsoft is basically forcing this on us.

When Windows 8 came out, Microsoft acted as though this is the thing we must all move on to, even though it was complete crap on a level that I didn’t think was possible. I was already fine with Windows 7 by the time Windows 8 came out, and so I felt that Microsoft was abusing their reputation as the top dog in PCs. They’re so arrogant, that they feel they can do whatever they want.

Now that Windows XP is dead, Microsoft has the gall to offer Windows 8.1 is the alternative, as though they’ve already forgotten about Windows 7. They’ve also forgotten that even with XP withering away, Windows 7 is still the more popular operating system, so if they killed off Windows XP just to bolster Windows 8, they’ve not failed miserably, but they’re also horribly wrong for even trying.

With Windows 8, I think Microsoft knows that they’ve failed, and are trying to appease us Windows XP/7 users with a new update caters to traditional PCs. They’re only doing this because they know they’ve screwed up. If they really wanted us back, they should make a new Windows OS that is actually like Windows XP, but slightly more refined for today’s PC, and without that goddamned Metro interface.

The death of Windows XP is a fine example of how old ways are better. However, if you still want to use XP, it’s not the end of the world. The support expiration only means that it won’t get system updates or security updates. In theory, all you need to do is get paid anti-virus software and not use Internet Explorer or Microsoft Outlook, and you should be fine.

Why Kurt Cobain shouldn’t have killed himself

kurt cobain

Twenty years ago, Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain was found dead in his home. Apparently he committed suicide, thereby robbing any chance of his band having any future success, and jeopardizing the future of the grunge movement.

Since I heard about this years ago, I always wondered why a rock star like him would contemplate suicide. Think about it. He had pretty much everything: money, fame, legions of fans, and a wife who loved him. Why on earth would anyone in the right mind throw it all away?

It’s generally known that towards the end of his life, Kurt suffered from depression, struggled with heroin addiction, and couldn’t handle his fame and public image. He also felt that his artistic vision was being misinterpreted by the public.

What Kurt apparently didn’t realize is that this happens to all popular musicians. For example, Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” was misread by the public as a patriotic, pro-America song, when in actuality, it was intended to be critical of America’s war in Vietnam. Also, before the rise of Nirvana, countless popular rock and metal bands were accused of promoting devil worship and subliminally inciting suicide, even though there was no evidence of the sort.

It’s also worth noting that Kurt Cobain was trying as hard as he could to prevent his music and his band’s image from becoming too commercial. When he killed himself, he may as well have handed his art form to the corporate machine. After Kurt died, Nirvana broke up as a band, and became a corporate brand with a plethora of merchandise, and that should be more than enough proof that suicide is the mark of surrender, rather than release from pain.

After Cobain died, several grunge bands went on the decline and broke up entirely before the year 2000, but after Alice in Chains and Soundgarden would stop making records for the next decade, a new movement, known as post-grunge, would begin taking its place as the go-to form of rock for record labels.

creed
I was going to reference Nickelback, but that would just be too easy.

Post-grunge is what happens when you take grunge, and deprive it of any artistic meaning whatsoever, distilling it into a commercial, radio-friendly arena rock sound. It’s just as bad as it sounds.

I have a feeling that if Kurt didn’t kill himself, he would have had a chance to at least restrict the amount of merchandising that’s now being churned out with Nirvana’s name. If Kurt were alive, he could also have continued refining grunge as a genre, essentially securing its place as a competitor to rock, or even rap music, but because he took the coward’s way out, that can never be.

A Game of Thrones review

game of thrones

With season four starting very soon, I think that now is a good time for me to talk about the show itself. In the past, I thought that it was immaturely copying stylistic elements from Lord of the Rings, but without any of the magic. However, I’ve watched every Game of Thrones episode there is up until this point, and my perspective of the show has matured along the way.

As I eagerly await season four, I’d like to talk about the show itself, and what makes it one of the best TV shows I’ve seen in quite a while.

The plot revolves around a series of conflicts between several noble houses in the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros as they fight each other for the Iron Throne. The characters are all drawn out very well, and they aren’t subject to the usual black-or-white character writing that usually comes up with TV shows.

The story is filled with genuinely thrilling plot twists, and I’m not easily impressed by a TV show. I’ve never read the Song of Ice and Fire novels (which the show is based on), but I find that the world of Game of Thrones is very interesting, with set-pieces inspired from various historical sources. The world of Game of Thrones manages to take numerous sources of inspiration and combine them into a melting pot of fantasy goodness.

The show’s overall style is worth considerable praise, mainly because it isn’t like other fantasy settings. Yes, I don’t like that magic doesn’t have much of a presence compared to other fantasy settings, but perhaps that isn’t the point. This allows Game of Thrones to be an ultimately more serious fantasy setting than some of its peers, and if that still leads to epic fantasy, then I’m open-minded about it.

Of course, the show is also known for sex and violence. If you’re fans of either of them, then you’re in luck, because the show doesn’t disappoint in delivering either of them. While the show can deliver copious amounts of sex and violence, it also manages to balance it well enough that it doesn’t become the whole of the show, without disappointing fans of the show.

There are characters I like, and characters I hate, but if there are characters who I hate for all the right reasons (like Joffrey), then the makers of the show must have done something right.

joffrey baratheon
Holy crap! What kind of crossbow is that?

In conclusion, I’m looking forward to the premiere of season four, and I’m wondering what’s going to happen next, because even if you’ve watched it, the show can be rather unpredictable, and that’s what adds to the enjoyment factor.

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