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 years to fight against.

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12 thoughts on “How did The Simpsons get so dumb?

  1. you are definetly right about the latest seasons. and the first 10 were the best but that doesn’t mean there aren’t good and decent episodes still. you’re completely wrong about the simpsons movie. i loved the simpsons movie and how tf are you insulted by it, have a cry. you’re obviously not a true simpsons fan and don’t appreciate a great movie when you see one. we’ve already got enough cancerous people like you in the world complaining about everything. lol

    • I am a fan, but a critical one. I criticise the show harshly because I expect better from a show that has delivered better (perhaps in vain). Also, The Simpsons movie suffers from much of the problems of latter-day Simpsons episodes, only it was more bloated and extravagant, and it was barely funny. It was merely a product the producers could market, and was worthless. That said, I have seen worse movies out there.

      I’m not the only fan who feels this way. There are many other fans out there (probably older fans mostly) who have the same gripes as me, and that’s because the show and its producers have sold out their fans in order to stay relevant. I may be a fan, but I have the right to criticise it when it fucks up, and now does this all the time.

  2. Out of curiosity, I watched the latest one, Season 28 #9. Just plain STUPID! It must not have any competition in it’s time slot or something!

  3. Absolutely right! Season 10 was the last season I watched every episode from. After that it has gotten worse and worse. Best seasond were 5 to 9. At least that’s my opinion.

  4. This is right on. Having enjoyed the early seasons of The Simpsons, I stopped watching around season 13 or so. Now it’s become completely ridiculous and stupid. The digital animation sucks too.

    • I noticed this about the digital animation as well. It only seems to make the newer Simpsons episodes look more lifeless. It’s as though the Simpsons writing team never raises a finger anymore.

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