Weeks ago, I was watching an episode of The Simpsons with my dad. It wasn’t an entirely bad episode, but I found myself criticizing the writing a lot. My dad, meanwhile, is content with the belief that The Simpsons is just a cartoon. From him, I got the impression that most ordinary people in the UK think that The Simpsons is basically just a funny cartoon, and I didn’t like that one bit.
Of course, I was basically questioning elements of The Simpsons like any critical writer should. I have a history of writing critically of The Simpsons. For me, it’s more than just a cartoon, or at least it used to be. In my opinion, it’s a show that was once a clever alternative to mainstream TV, but became a part of the very mainstream the writers tried to avoid.
The Simpsons started out with intelligent writing, and in my opinion, this was exemplified in perfect form in the season 1 classic Bart the Genius. With this in mind, I hold every episode since Bart the Genius to the same high standards, which is part of the reason why I get really annoyed with how sloppy the writing gets in seasons 10 and onward.
For me, the biggest problem with taking The Simpsons as “just a cartoon” the way my dad does is that when you do, you end up ignoring some of show’s biggest problems. The characters have gotten completely bastardized by years of negligent writing, and the show’s chronology keeps getting altered more and more to keep up with the scrolling timeline. Also, newer episodes keep getting worse and worse, with some of them ripping off the premises of older episodes. On the Internet, this is a frequent subject of debate, but outside the Internet, I’ve only met a few people who understand my point, whether they agree or not. Then again, I mostly bring up this subject either at home or on the Internet.
Through all this, I’m trying to say that it’s not exactly fair or wise to take the Simpsons as just a funny cartoon, especially when it comes to the earlier seasons, which had episodes that were rich with clever cultural references, intuitive gags, and poignant social commentary, all of which go the way of the dodo in the newest episodes. Unfortunately, I can’t exactly blame a lot of people for it, given the increasingly cartoonish characterization of newer episodes.