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But the Simpsons are a paragon of wholesome family values ...

By Rose Cooper - posted Wednesday, 12 November 2003

With the news that the latest special guest voice to appear on The Simpsons in the US this week, was none other than Tony Blair, it is again time to examine this phenomenonally successful cartoon. The world is definitely divided into two distinct camps – those who love The Simpsons and encourage their children’s adoration of it, and those who see the show in a purely negative light and fear the impact it has on wholesome, decent family values. I normally smile inanely but say nothing when people insult these insightfully, illustrative illustrations. Argument is futile – those who don’t like The Simpsons, simply don’t “get” The Simpsons. If you take away the fact that the Simpsons never age; are an intact family, with bright yellow skin, four digits on each hand and extremely weird hair, there is very little left that isn’t completely representative of modern suburban family life in the age of rampant consumerism. That’s what makes it so gosh-darn funny.

Anti-Simpsons zealots also tend to hanker nostalgically for the “family values” TV fare of The Good Old Days. However, when I cast my mind back to the early days of family-based sit-coms, I'm hard-pressed to come up with any that were truly representative of the high-minded ideals that one might associate with those buttoned-up, cross-legged times. In fact, two out of every three shows from the 50s and 60s featured single-parent families – or, more accurately, single-father families. Anyone would think there was a post-war epidemic of papas without partners. Peruse this list for starters: The Beverly Hillbillies, Family Affair, My Three Sons, Gidget, The Patty Duke Show, The Courtship of Eddie's Father, Flipper, Bonanza, The Andy Griffith Show …oh, and of course, Bachelor Father.

Female role models were mighty thin on the ground. Even Australia’s own Skippy fed us testosterone by the helicopter-load.


Let's examine some of these examples in Doris Day lens close-up hmm?

Family Affair: Cissy, Buffy, and Jody were left in the primary care of Mr Bubbl.... um, Mr French. What did a stitched-up English butler know about raising kids? Zippo! Did Dad care? Not if Brian Keith's bleary-eyed portrayal is anything to go by. My God, what was he on?

Then we had Bonanza. The Ponderosa was bursting at the seams with big, beefy, boofy blokes, ('ceptin' Lil' Joe of course, he was just a teensy critter). These guys were men's men, poncing about on horsies doing manly things … hoick - spit - dang! The utterly rugged Cartwrights numbered three, (occasionally four), fully-growed menfolk, who plum couldn't look after theyseff proper, so they went and lassoed theyseff a Chinese housekeeper ... who (surprise surprise) happened to be another gawd-dern feller too. Well kiss my grits!

Okay, I can hear those murmurs of dissent. Sure, there were some family shows that portrayed Mom as not only alive –doing her Donna Reediest to solve the world’s problems - but on reflection they truly were in the minority. Keep looking closer and you discover that many of those more traditional TV couplings were anything but ideal. Take Mr Ed: Wilbur Post spent all of his time out in the barn. Granted, Mr. Ed had a sexy voice and had a mean way with a pencil in his mouth but what did he have that that little hotty Carol didn’t have? Maybe she just wasn't into leather. I Dream of Jeannie and Bewitched were both the ultimate in female subservience - clearly nothing we should want to emulate. That blowhard Ralph Kramden kept threatening Alice with physical violence. Certainly nothing warm and fuzzy about that.

Homer Simpson wouldn’t harm a royal blue hair on Marge’s head.

The Simpsons TV series totals 300+ hilariously observant parables depicting the many human frailties evident in our lazy, capitalistic, society. But examine the family itself more closely - they’re the absolute ideal. They own their own home. Homer supports his family perfectly well with one wage. He absolutely worships Marge and is scrupulously faithful to her. Marge is a paragon of virtue, as selfless and devoted a wife and mother as has ever been depicted on celluloid. Sure, she had that little gambling problem and a brief fling with firearms but hey - nobody’s perfect. Nevertheless, Marge is clearly not vapid nor dissatisfied with her life. Her family is her pride and joy and her role as homemaker is certainly not something she apologises for. There’s more purity of heart in The Simpsons than meets the myopic eye and, rather than shield my kids from it, I consider it must-see TV.


It never ceases to amaze me how opponents of The Simpsons actually think it idealises the cold, cynical, self-indulgent society we live in … when it’s actually making fun of it. I challenge those who poo-poo Homer and the gang to watch it with this perspective in mind. No doubt, when the penny finally drops, they’ll undoubtedly slap their forehead and yell “D’oh!".

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About the Author

Rose Cooper is a freelance writer and actor who has contributed to many national publications over the past 20 years. She was Australian Women's Forum Magazine's most prolific contributor as well as their Sex Advice Columnist. Her areas of expertise include comedy, women's health and sexuality issues, relationships, theatre and pop culture. For more of Rose's articles visit:

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