On September 25th, 2016, in USA the 28th season of FOX The Simpsons started to air. The most dysfunctional family in America came to TV in 1989, after some appearances in Tracey Ullman Show in the 1987-1989 period. Matt Groening’s show is still a great success after 30 years, influencing pop culture and more. Here are some data facts about The Simpsons:
- Time magazine called it the best TV show of the 20th century
- It has won dozens of awards since it debuted as a series, including 31 Primetime Emmy Awards
- In a recent poll in UK, the Simpsons were voted more popular than the royal family.
- More than 200 animators and 30 writers hel bring the characters to life
- Since its debut on December 17th, 1989, the series has broadcast 597 episodes: The Simpsons is the longest-running American scripted primetime television series.
The Simpsons are a lot more than the numbers and the success that represent them: there are profound reasons behind all of this, that we extracted reading lots of informative pieces on the web (and offline). Which are the reasons for The Simpsons great success?
Reason #1: raising the cultural status of animated cartoons
The animated cartoon, before The Simpsons, was considered a foolish, light and ironic element of pop culture. After 1989, The Simpsons became the example of a new way to intend TV shows, and thanks to the cartoon format they easily could enter into people’s houses.
That’s what Homer Simpson tells his wife: “Marge, cartoons don’t have any deep meaning. They’re just stupid drawings that give you a cheap laugh”.
Reason #2: breaking taboos and ironizing about everything
The Simpsons managed to mock just about everything: from presidential elections to news of any wind. And they also mocked about Fox, the TV network that broadcasts the show in USA. It’s rare that a TV series can have such liberty about saying anything the writers want, especially if it involves the one who pays the TV show’s bills. Though that is exactly the reason why the Simpsons could break every taboo: because they tried, they deserve the respect and the laughter by everyone who is mocked. Nothing is off limits.
Reason #3: being so into popular culture to modify the language
In 2007 the Oxford English Dictionary added Homer’s favorite exclamation – D’oh! – to the English language, defining it as “expressing frustration at the realization that things have turned out badly or not as planned, or that one has just said or done something foolish”. Homer’s most famous exclamation not only is today into pop culture but also has modified the way we speak. Any other expression? Well: how many times have you told somebody “eat my shorts”? 🙂
Reason #4: creating stereotypical characters
The strongest reason of The Simpsons success is the characters stereotyping and their immutability. Because of these elements, the characters are in the like of everyone who watches the show. According to Matt Groening, “I think that even Homer, as bad as he is to his family, and to himself, and to the world at large, he’s a likable guy”.
But the stereotyping is the clearest reason for which The Simpsons have reached this success, thanks to Matt Groening creations: “Homer as the family’s patriarch and bumbling idiot; Marge as his long-suffering wife; naughty 10-year-old Bart; precocious, world-weary 8-year-old Lisa; and pacifer-sucking baby Maggie.”
And there it is: the typical dysfunctional middle-class American family in a kind of Everytown USA (“Springfield, no state identified).
Reason #5: bringing to life characters with really good actors
It is the actors who do the characters’ voices who create a history and psychology for them. They really create the characters. Dan Castellanata developed Homer’s famous voice by studying the raw drawings. Before speaking, “my IQ dropped about 70 points”, he said. “It’s like being a kid, a 9- or 10-year-old kid in a man’s body but trying to deal with the fact that now he’s an adult”.
But these actors are even better: Dan Castellanata does not only interpret Homer Simpson but also Krusty the Clown and Barney. That’s what Hank Azaria does too, whose dubbed character Apu is very hard to fetch out. “You start out with a stereotype, then you start peeling away the layers of this person to see what they’re really like underneath.”
Reason #6 Humanizing stereotypical cartoons with good writers
The stereotyping is something that also the cartoon’s writers start from: their job is actually to spoof stereotypes while finding the humanity underneath. Screenwriters spend months on just one episode, carefully crafting each word so that characters pus hall kinds of buttons that real people could not get away with.
The narrative possibilities in The Simpsons are limitless: over the years a real parallel word where the writers can build many stories was created. The only limit is their imagination.
Reason #7 Having a deep purpose to get into people’s lives
Can a TV show as The Simpsons have a purpose? Yes, and a big one: according to executive producer George Mayer, “It’s to get people to re-examine their world, and specifically the authority figures in their world.”
And it’s right that this is something an animated cartoon can do, entering into people’s lives softer than anything else, making them laugh and in the same time leaving them to think over. And “If the show weren’t a cartoon,” Mayer said, “it would just make people flip.”
Oh, we almost forgot. There’s one more important data fact about The Simpsons: we wrote about televiewers, not fans. People who follow The Simpsons have a seemingly unquenchable thirst for anything Simpsonian, annually spending millions on collectibles.