‘If cartoons were meant for adults they’d put them on in prime time,’ as someone precocious and yellow (and mildly annoying) once sagely observed. But it hasn’t stopped lots of adults who should probably know better not just watching The Simpsons, but treating it with the kind of high intellectual seriousness once traditionally reserved for things like Shakespeare, or medieval literature or Kant’s Critique on Pure Reason.
The essays, books and lecture series on The Simpsons are absurd and stultifyingly serious. But just because The Simpsons has provoked more than its share of pseudo-academic garbage doesn’t mean it’s unworthy of study. Au contraire: if Proust can change your life, so too most certainly can The Simpsons, as we shall attempt to show below:
Family: it’s all that really matters
Perhaps the biggest mistake of President George Bush snr’s entire political career was when he declared: ‘We need a nation closer to the Waltons than the Simpsons.’ He missed the point completely: The Simpsons doesn’t undermine the concept of family but celebrates and upholds it almost every episode.
As Professor Paul Cantor of the University of Virginia has argued, The Simpsons – with their demographically typical 2.5 children (the half is Maggie, the baby who never grows up) – are a throwback to the nuclear families celebrated in Fifties sitcoms.