Why I Love The Simpsons

Satire seems to be one of those things that the modern Christian has little appreciation and stomach for. Our bent towards a literal interpretation of the Scriptures may have skewed our view of all things. Literal is the only possible understanding of particularly art.  That is perhaps why there was such a hesitancy among many average Christians to appreciate the brilliance of The Simpsons until recent years. There is no doubt that Homer is a terrible husband and father. There is no question that Bart is an awful son. And there is no question that the show often criticizes and mocks the church. But the show is not commending bad parenting, reveling in disobedient children, or applauding the mockery of faith. Rather they are showing these things in order to point out the absurdity of them in hopes that changes can be made. That is what makes The Simpsons brilliant. A quick look at the particular uses of satire will help us understand the brilliance of the show.

Satire as Irony. Irony is a comparison between what one expects and what actually is. In The Simpsons this is largely found by means of situational irony, like in the following picture. Here the family is spending a nice day enjoying a picnic…complete with nuclear waste in the background:

Parody is another form of satire. Here a spoof is used to mock something else. Often The Simpsons will parody a movie or television show, or, as in the case below, a music video:

In the video the focus of the song is shifted from a teenage girl partying all day to rushing home to watch TV, particularly an episode of The Simpsons. In this case they are the party.

Now I can appreciate if you still don’t see the brilliance. Maybe you don’t care much for all that artistic stuff (even though Christians need to learn to appreciate this too). For most the supposed lack of moral values  is what causes them to react negatively to the show. But when we consider the use of satire known as exaggeration I think you can see the brilliance more readily.

Take for example one of my favorite clips. Here Homer tries to buy a gun but is outraged by the new fire arm safety laws requiring a waiting period before one can purchase a gun. The clip shows the absurdity of several things, see if you can catch them.

Or take this example from an episode involving an obsession with “Mapple”. See if you catch the exaggeration and the critique behind it. Note that this example also involves a parody.

Even Homer’s often questionable behavior is exaggerated to show the absurdity of absent-minded husbands and fathers. The critiques are often over the top; not many men are actually just like him (nor are many pastors just like Reverend Lovejoy), but sadly there are many like that. If we can look at it through the lens, however, of The Simpsons and see its absurdity then maybe, just maybe, we are better able to see similar absurdities in our own world. This is where The Simpsons excels and why I love it.

For more on this see my series on Barth and Bart


  1. […] I first snuck watching an episode as a young boy. It’s an often misunderstood show with a gift for brilliant satirical insight and cultural commentary. So, when The Atlantic runs a piece on The […]

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