To begin with I would like to present you the topic of my essay and explain why it is appropriate for the topic of the pop culture. So, as an example of a present pop-culture, I have chosen TV show “The Simpsons”. I will begin my argumentative essay with the history of this TV show.
“The Simpsons” is the oldest animated TV show which has stolen the hearts of both children and adults. The cartoon was shown in 1987 in one of the popular TV shows called “The Tracey Ullman show”. In fact, The Simpson family looked much different that time,, but most people agree that even though their appearance has changed a lot since that time, the characters have not grown much, as the humor of Matt Groening will stay forever young.
The story of The Simpsons began when James L. Brooks, who was the producer of the TV show “The Trace Ullman”, realized the idea of adding some sketches which would follow the commercial breaks. At first, he and Matt Groening who was a famous cartoonist decided to make a series of short cartoons called “Life in Hell”. Then, in some time, another idea of transforming this cartoon in a small version of a typical American family story came into their minds. The first cartoon appeared on the American TV on April 19, 1987. The first animators of it were David Silverman, Klasky Cruspo and Wes Archer, who basically gave a birth to the members of the Simpsons family we know today (Groening, 2003).
If to take pop-culture as a mix of ideas, thoughts, pictures, sounds, tendencies which become mainstream phenomena, than The Simpsons TV show can certainly be referred to as an important aspect of not only Western, but the world pop-culture.
Appearing as innocent addition to a TV show, The Simpsons became a best-seller and quickly took first places in the national rating of TV shows. The key to success of this cartoon lays, first of all, in the simple and unique idea of creating the series of funny stories relating to the family situations. It made this cartoon interesting and relaxing not only for children, but also for adults who from time to time want to feel and to have fun like children. Every member of a standard American family and an American city can find his personality which is performed in an amusing way (Groening, 2003).
The show expresses more or less important social issues and this is why it is rather sociologically significant. It raises the problems of the city government, technical addiction, overeating, environmental protection, family relations, unemployment and many others. The TV show makes fun of these problems by presenting them in hilarious situations, but at the same time it reminds people of their existence. The cartoon is the unique way of presenting social issues in the interesting way that makes people realize the absurdity of the social actions sometimes. The humor, reflected in this cartoon, touches all parts and levels of the society, all generations and nationalities (Corliss, 2007). Moreover, it includes references to some famous culture attributes and even the pieces of art. It mentions some aspects of music, social networks, films and history which are widely known among Americans. Some jokes are deeply hidden, and it makes the audience read behind the lines to understand them. The jokes of the TV show are aimed at showing the troublesome age of the oldest child of the Simpsons family (Bart Simpson). But when the writer’s team of the Simpsons added another talented writer, Conan O’Brien, the main character of the cartoon was changed into the head of the Simpsons family – Homer Simpson.
The producers of the TV show have chosen a unique strategy of mixing parts of pieces of arts transforming and interpreting them in a new way, which makes the audience recognize the symbols of their national culture. For example, Mark Lieberman who was the head of the Linguistic Consortium considers The Simpsons to be fabric of idioms which are born from the mix of the Bible and Shakespeare. In facts, the idiom “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” which was for the first time used in The Simpsons quickly drew attention of journalists and even appeared in the dictionary (Corliss, 2007). Moreover, the expression “Do’h” which is often used by Homer Simpson became a part of the Oxford English Dictionary, meaning “excellent”, or “laughing”. The wide spread of some tendencies proves that this TV show, as an element of a pop-culture, became a powerful tool of producing other elements which become popular also.
The popularity of The Simpsons became so world- wide that some people compare the spread of the cartoon stereotype across the world with a process of McDonaldization. Just like the popularity of McDonald’s and its fast food service created a special cult, brand, image widely recognized and popular with thousands of people, this cartoon became one the most-recognized symbols of America and created certain stereotypes of an American family. It is rather important to understand that The Simpsons is not just a cartoon or a media tool any more. It is also a world-famous brand which continues stealing the hearts of the audience.
The growth of the popularity of The Simpsons can also be compared to the process of the cultivation. There is no denial that for American television today this cartoon has become a tool, a unique piece of pop-culture which can cultivate public opinion, transforming their views on political and social events. As people our days are media-dependent on news and they are very sensitive to the way the news is presented. Thus, sometimes they do not trust informational agencies. But who would not trust an innocent cartoon which is a part of family’s traditions? This idea gives a huge commercial, political and social power to its producers.
The phenomena of The Simpsons popularity and its media power as a part of the pop-culture also relates to the theory of controlling images. The foreign audience sees the American culture and life through the glasses of the media. That is why images and points of view which are created in the TV show reflect the image of the USA in general. The cartoon draws an image not only of a simple family and its members in details, but also of famous political leaders and attitude of the government of the USA towards some important events on the international scene (Corliss, 2007). As it has already been mentioned above, the cartoon creates phrases which become the idioms and images which become the stereotypes. The characters of the cartoon were not created the way they look accidently. They are a part of the idea for which it serves as an element of pop-culture.
However, while some people become Simpsons-addicted and consider this TV show to be one of their favorites, others call it a “dark spot” on the face of cartoons. There are numerous reasons for both opinions.
The Simpsons has a quite relaxing and fun-making effect on adults and children who are watching it. But if to talk about the building of family values in the head of the audience (especially the younger part of it), the effect of the innocent cartoon may be rather destructive.
On the one hand, the Simpsons family is a strong union which stays together despite all the numerous fights that happen between its members. There are also two children who grow up in prosperity, the father has a good job and the mother is a housewife. The family celebrates the holidays together and cheers each other up during the hard times. But what about the language which they speak? Everyone who watches this TV show can notice that the characters use a lot of curse words, both parents and children. Of course, it may sound amusing, but about it influences the younger part of the audience. The fact of using of inappropriate words rejects the idea of calling The Simpsons “a family TV show”. Most members of the family do not present good family values (Alberti, 2003). For example, Homer Simpson drinks a lot of alcohol (in particular beer) while lying on the couch and watching TV for hours. Bart Simpson is a good example of a trouble-making teenager, who fights against the education and any social rules. All the family mess that continues during the whole TV show makes people feel sure that this is a normal situation in which family may survive, but it is not like this in reality.
Some people also call The Simpsons an anti-Christian TV show because of the numerous jokes which are hard on Christians (in particular the jokes about the Evangelical variety). Moreover, some episodes present stories which propagate racism and distinctions in race, religion and sex. Some people also have noticed that the recent episodes are more sexualized than the previous ones. Most of experts consider this cartoon to be inappropriate for people under sixteen (Alberti, 2003).
All in all, even though there are controversial opinions about the influences and effects The Simpsons can make on public opinion, the TV show remains one of the American’s favorite ones. Moreover, starting as an addition to a TV show in the form of a simple cartoon it has been transformed into a piece of the pop-culture, having a power of a cultural attribute and influence of media tool. Today The Simpsons is one of the brightest symbols of American pop-culture and represents it social and political values to the domestic and foreign audience, making people laugh and fall in love with a story of a regular American family.