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The Simpson CAST (voices) Homer Simpson.................................. Dan Castellaneta Marge Simpson ...........................................Julie Kavner Bartholomew J. "Bart" Simpson............ Nancy Cartwright Lisa Simpson........................................ Yeardley Smith Mrs. Karbappel ......................................Marcia Wallace Mr. Burns Principal Skinner Ned Flanders Smithers Otto the School Bus Driver (and Others)..........................................Harry Shearer Moe Apu Chief Wiggins Dr. Nick Riviera.......................................... Hank Azaria PRODUCERS Larina Adamson, Sherry Argaman, Joseph A. Boucher, James L. Brooks, David S. Cohen, Jonathan Collier, Gabor Csupo, Greg Daniels, Paul Germain, Matt Groening, Al Jean, Ken Keeler, Harold Kimmel, Jay Kogen, Colin A.B.V. Lewis, Jeff Martin, Ian MaxtoneGraham, J. Michael Mendel, George Meyer, David Mirkin, Frank Mula, Conan O'Brien, Bill Oakley, Margo Pipkin, Richard Raynis, Mike Reiss, David Richardson, Jace Richdale, Phil Roman, David Sachs, Richard Sakai, Bill Schultz, Mike Scully, David Silverman, Sam Simon, John Swartzwelder, Ken Tsumura, Jon Vitti, Josh Weinstein, Michael Wolf, Wallace Wolodarsky PROGRAMMING HISTORY

FOX December 1989-August 1990 August 1990-U.S. Cartoon Situation Comedy

Sunday 8:30-9:00 Thursday 8:00-8:30

The Simpsons, longest-running cartoon on American prime-time network television, chronicles the animated adventures of Homer Simpson and his family. Debuting on the FOX network in 1989, critically acclaimed, culturally cynical and economically very successful, The Simpsons helped to define the satirical edge of prime-time television in the early 1990s and was the single most influential program in establishing FOX as a legitimate broadcast television network. The Simpsons' household consists of five family members. The father, Homer, is a none-toobright safety inspector for the local nuclear power plant in the show's fictional location, Springfield. A huge blue beehive hairdo characterizes his wife, Marge, often the moral center of the program. Their oldest child, Bart, a sassy 10-year-old and borderline juvenile delinquent, provided the early focus of the program. Lisa, the middle child, is a gifted, perceptive-butsensitive saxophone player. Maggie is the voiceless toddler, observing all while constantly sucking on her pacifier. Besides The Simpsons clan, other characters include Moe the bartender; Mr. Burns, the nasty owner of the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant; and Ned Flanders, The Simpsons' incredibly pious neighbor. These characters and others, and the world they inhabit, have taken on a dense, rich sense of familiarity. Audiences now recognize relationships and specific character traits that can predict developments and complications in any new plot. The Simpsons is the creation of Matt Groening, a comic strip writer/artist who until the debut of the program was mostly known for his syndicated newspaper strip "Life in Hell." Attracting the attention of influential writer-producer and Gracie Films executive James L. Brooks, Groening developed the cartoon family as a series of short vignettes featured on the FOX variety program The Tracey Ullman Show beginning in 1987. A Christmas special followed in December 1989, and then The Simpsons became a regular series. Despite its family sitcom format, The Simpsons draws its animated inspiration more from Bullwinkle J. Moose than Fred Flintstone. Like The Bullwinkle Show, two of the most striking characteristics of The Simpsons are its social criticism and its references to other cultural forms. John O'Connor, television critic forThe New York Times, has labeled the program "the most radical show on prime time" and indeed, The Simpsons often parodies the hypocrisy and contradictions found in social institutions such as the nuclear family (and nuclear power), the mass media, religion and medicine. Homer tells his daughter Lisa that it is acceptable to steal things "from people you don't like." Reverend Lovejoy lies to Lisa about the contents of the Bible to win an argument. Krusty the Clown, the kidvid program host, endorses dangerous products to make a quick buck. Homer comforts Marge about upcoming surgery with the observation that "America's health care system is second only to Japan's ... Canada's ... Sweden's ... Great Britain's...well, all of Europe." The critical nature of the program has been at times controversial. Many elementary schools banned Bart Simpson T-shirts, especially those with the slogan, "Underachiever, and Proud of It." U.S. President George Bush and former U.S. Secretary of Education William Bennett publicly criticized the program for its subversive and anti-authority nature.

In addition to its ironic lampoons, it is also one of the most culturally literate entertainment programs on prime time. Viewers may note references to such cultural icons as The Bridges of Madison County, Ayn Rand, Susan Sontag and the film, Barton Fink, in any given episode. These allusions extend far beyond explicit verbal notations. Cartoon technique allows free movement in The Simpsons, and manipulation of visual qualities, often mimicking comic strip perspectives and cinematic manipulation of space creates an extraordinary sense of time, place, and movement. On occasion The Simpsons has reproduced the actual camera movements of the films it models. At other times the cartoonist's freedom and ability to visualize internal psychological states such as memory and dream have produced some of the program's most hilarious moments. The unique nature of The Simpsons reveals much about the nature of the television industry. Specifically, the existence of the show illustrates the relationship of television's industrial context to its degree of content innovation. It was a program that came along at the right place, the right time, and appealed to the right demographic groups. Groening has said that no other network besides FOX would have aired The Simpsons,and in fact conventional television producers had previously turned down Groening's programming ideas. The degree of competition in network television in the late 1980s helped to open the door, however. Network television overall found itself in an increased competitive environment in this period because of cable television and VCRs. The FOX network, specifically, was in an even more precarious economic position than the Big Three. Because FOX was the new, unestablished network, attempting to build audiences and attract advertisers, the normally restrictive nature of network television gatekeeping may have been loosened to allow the program on the air. In addition, the championing of The Simpsons by Brooks, an established producer with a strong track record, helped the program through the industrialized television filters that might have watered down the program's social criticism. Finally, the fact that the program draws young audiences especially attractive to advertisers also explains the network's willingness to air such an unconventional and risky program. The "tween" demographic, those between 12 and 17, is an especially key viewing group forThe Simpsons as well as a primary consumer group targeted by advertisers. The Simpsons was a watershed program in the establishment of the FOX network. The cartoon has been the FOX program most consistently praised by television critics. It was the first FOX program to reach the Top 10 in ratings, despite the network's smaller number of affiliates compared to the Big Three. When FOX movedThe Simpsons to Thursday night in 1990, it directly challenged the number one program of the network establishment at the time, The Cosby Show. Eventually, The Simpsons bested this powerful competitor in key male demographic groups. The schedule change, and the subsequent success, signaled FOX's staying power to the rest of the industry, and for viewers it was a powerful illustration of the innovative nature of FOX programming when compared to conventional television fare. The Simpsons is also noteworthy for the enormous amount of merchandising it sparked. Simpsons T-shirts, toys, buttons, golf balls and other licensed materials were everywhere at the height of Simpsonsmania in the early 1990s. At one point retailers were selling approximately one million Simpsons T-shirts per week. The Big Three networks attempted to copy the success of the prime-time cartoon, but failed to duplicate its innovative nature and general appeal. Programs like Capital Critters, Fish Police and Family Dog were all short-lived on the webs.

-Matthew P. McAllister

Simpson Ethics
In January of 1990, "The Simpsons" debuted on American television, introducing the nation to the dysfunctional, nuclear cartoon family. Created by Matt Groening, the series originally broadcasted as 30-second shorts on the "Tracey Ullman Show." With growing popularity, the Simpson family was given a weekly series, attracting a wide audience of children and adults. While the children made a model of Bart and his "Eat my shorts" attitude, the shows keen writing appealed to adults. Today, in its eleventh season, "The Simpsons" continues as historys longest running prime-time animated show, and currently, longest running sitcom. The program has triumphed as "TVs most consistent and best written series over the past decade (Feran)." Despite the shows animated appearance, having yellow-colored characters with odd hair, "The Simpsons" is a profound parody of life, "achieving the true essence of satire (Mullin)." The writers use of "incongruity, sarcasm, exaggeration, and other comedic techniques" gives the show its true genius. Although with "pratfalls and stupidity that is, at times, nothing short of brilliant," the show appeals to those "who can laugh at the low comedy, yet understand the biting satire that truly drives the series (Mullin)." All different aspects of life are scrutinized to a hilarious effect. The Simpson family is the heart of the show. James L. Brooks, the series executive producer, describes the Simpsons as a "normal American family in all its beauty and all its horror (Steiger)." Indeed, the Simpson family is a reflection of the American lifestyle, each member following the stereotypes and cliches of society. "The Simpsons" seems to express "almost every facet of American public life and at the same time, in its most condensed humorous ways, appeal equally to the blue-collar worker from Small-Towm, USA, as to the businesswoman Joanna Smith from the Big Apple (Steiger)." With popularity comes controversy. Many people have taken offense to "The Simpsons." They claim characters like Bart, the adolescent delinquent, and Homer, the beer-gulping, ape-like father, present a bad influence on society ("Biographies"). Comments and jokes made on different social institutions are received as insulting. Much of the conflict surrounds the issue of religion. "The Simpsons" has received negative criticism throughout the nation from the churchs pulpit, denouncing the series as immoral, sacrilegious, and damaging to traditional family values. Former President George Bush stated in 1992, "We need a nation closer to the Waltons than the Simpsons (Pinsky)." As evidence, protestors cite excerpts from the show. In one scene, Homer Simpson is praying to God. Dear Lord, the gods have been good to me and I am thankful. For the first time in my life everything is absolutely perfect the way it is. So heres the deal: you freeze everything as it is and I wont ask for anything more. If that is okay, please give me absolutely no sign.

(pause) Okay, deal. In gratitude, I present to you this offering of cookies and milk. If you want me to eat them for you, please give me no sign. (pause) Thy will be done (Sillars). In a more severe case, lines made on an episode caused a complaint from the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. With pressure from the network officials, "The Simpsons" producers altered the line when later airing on reruns (Pinsky). One church minister says "The Simpsons" "portrays Christians as being out of touch with reality. It makes anyone who follows God look like a fool (Kisken)." He is referring to the character of Ned Flanders, who plays the part of the goody-goody next-door neighbor. His pious family is the perfect contrast to the Simpsons jumbled household. Flanders children, Rod and Todd, play games such as "Clothe the Leper" and "Build the Mission." Influenced by Homer, Todd swears during one episode. Neds punishment is sending him to his room without a Bible story, causing Todd to cry. When asked by his wife if he was not too harsh, Flanders replies "You knew I had a temper when you married me (Bowler)." Critics voice that Flanders makes the Christian life too holy, and want people to know that "You can be a normal person and still love God (Kisken)." Others defend that "The Simpsons" uses religion merely as a satirical element, with no harm intended. Reverend Lovejoy, the devout pastor of the First Church of Springfield, is often used to depict the hypocrisy of Christianity. While he preaches against "Gambling: the Eighth Deadly Sin," the church holds Bingo, Reno, and Monte Carlo nights. The reverend is also criticized as being judgmental, calling Ned Flanders the "fallen one" when he receives a mere traffic offense. He also leads a mob, burning Krusty merchandise, when "the clown prince of corruption" is accused of a crime, for which he is innocent (Bowler). Acknowledging the satire of "The Simpsons," some have claimed that the series is actually the most religious, non-evangelical, show on television. While other programs avoid the issue of religion, "The Simpsons" "takes religions place in society seriously enough to do it the honor of making fun of it (Sillars)." Matt Groening contends, "Right-wingers complain theres no God on TV. Not only do the Simpsons go to church every Sunday and pray, they actually speak to God from time to time. We show Him, and God has five fingersunlike the Simpsons who only have four (Doherty)." Religion is plentiful on "The Simpsons." The Simpson family is actively Christian, attending the First Church of Springfield every Sunday and praying at mealtimes . While Homer may sometimes listen to football at church and Barts prayers consist only of "Rub a dub, dub, thanks for the grub," God is present, showing that "this is a family where God has a place at the table now and again (Kisken)." God is never mocked. The Simpsons always turn to God when facing a crisis (Pinsky). Some of the shows most sincere moments are when characters are praying to God. When Bart has sold his soul to Milhouse and tries to gain it back, he finds that his friend has traded it for pogs. Bart, desperate, looks toward God. "Are you there, God? Its me, Bart Simpson. I know I never paid too much attention in church but I could really use some of that good stuff right now. Im afraid some weirdos got my soul and I dont know what hes going to do with it (Bowler)." In many cases, God intervenes for the good of the Simpson family. In fear of failing the fourth grade, Bart prays for a miracle so he may have time to

study. God answers his plead with a snow day, allowing Bart to pass his exam. Bart thanks God saying, "Part of this D-minus belongs to God (Pinsky)." The Simpsons are a family "searching for moral and theological ideals (Pinsky)." Each member has a separate approach to religion. Homer, who was described as a "lovable oaf" by creator Matt Groening, wants a "take-my-order kind of God (Kisken)." Homer is lazy, fat, and incompetent. He once purposely gained enough weight to be considered handicapped to avoid working. His temptations are numerous, all prompted with a savoring "Mmmmm." In one episode, Homer sells his soul to the devil for a doughnut. Although he knows by leaving the last bite alone he will not go to hell, Homer stills consumes the "forbidden doughnut." Homer "never rejects God or the idea of divine justice. Hes simply weak (Kisken)." Bart, like Homer, knows God exists, but cannot defy his impulses of mischief. On one occasion of misbehavior, Bart, having been struck by a car, is ascending to heaven on an escalator where he spits off the side despite warning. Bart is the classic underachiever, rebelling against the society to which he cannot conform. He is excited by the topic of hell, makes prank calls to the local bartender, and is constantly plotting a defiant scheme. His devilish antics though, are "either thwarted or turn to ultimate good (Bowler)." When Barts escapades cause a teachers strike, his conscious eventually leads him to right his wrongdoing, leaving a glimmer of hope for Barts future. Bart is an adolescent overwhelmed with immaturity. The most faithful of the Simpson family is Marge. She represents the foundation on which Homer and the children depend on for love and comfort. Her affection for her family is expressed in comments such as "Oh, Homie, I like your in-your-face humanity. I like the way Lisa speaks her mind. I like Barts I like Bart (Steiger)." Although she is capable of accomplishing higher goals in life, Marge sacrifices her ambitions in devotion to the family. She acts as the stable moral consciousness of the household. When Homer gloats about skipping church, Marge states her divine commitment. "Homer, please dont make me choose between my man and my God, because you just cant win (Vogl)." Lisa is clearly the most intelligent person in the Simpson household. At the age of eight, she is a scholarly honor student and an accomplished saxophone musician. A genius unrecognized, Lisa shows the maturity of an adult, yet still has the childhood affections of ponies and Malibu Stacy (Biographies). Like her mother, she possesses strong ethical virtues. Although Marge has accepted the lesser sins as part of society, Lisa advocates morality in any situation. Her disapproval of Homer stealing cable television, breaking the eighth commandment, plagues him of guilt, leading him to eventually sever the line. With her honest principles, Lisa is disillusioned by corruption in society, often making her "the saddest kid in grade number two (Steiger)." Although "The Simpsons" may seem "to make fun of moral standards, it often upholds those standards in a back-handed way (Pinsky)." Each show ends on an uplifting note or moral integrity. Good always triumphs over evil.

Some members of society have complained over the shows reaffirming morality. Atheists have voiced that the series "is more of a Sunday school program than ever (Sillars)." They feel it preaches "that the only good people are religious and that those who are not are immoral (Sillars)." Whether it is blasphemous or uplifting, "peoples honest attitudes about religion" are depicted on "The Simpsons" (Pinsky). The fact remains that religion is more evident on "The Simpsons" than any other television show. Watching Homer misquote a Bible verse as "Thou shalt not takemoochers into thyhut" might be offensive, but watching Homer work day and night to buy Lisa a pony can be considered noble (Bowler). The decision is for the viewer to choose. Regardless of the critics, "The Simpsons" has made a "mark on television and social history that is ever-growing in distinction, and may never fade (Mullin)."

The Simpsons: An Imperfect Ideal Family

By Eliezer Van Allen ( Nevertheless, once Groening, Brooks, and the show's staff began creating thirty-minute episodes in 1989, The Simpsons received harsh criticisms for its portrayal of family life that continue to this day. Many critics cite shows like Father Knows Best, which aired on prime-time television from 1955 to 1963 and which depicts the Anderson family as the model social unit for American society, as appropriate material for American families to watch on television. In this show, the father is the intelligent ruler and moneymaker; the wife is her husband's "ornament" and is the person who cleans the house; while the kids are obedient and maturing (Jones, 97-102). Likewise, family members never scream at one another and problems are always solved sensibly and according to parental wisdom (Himmelstein, 125-126). The title itself, explaining that the father "knows best," summarizes the show's depiction of a traditional male-dominated familial sphere. The Simpsons critics have thus argued that such families should set the example for viewers to follow. Conversely, to some, The Simpsons, in trying to represent the American family, is totally off the mark. When criticizing the Simpson family, many people turn to Bart, the son, as the greatest corrupter of the American familial ideal. Bart does not obey his parents, do his homework, or clean his room. His motto, "underachiever and proud of it," made its way out of the mouths and onto the shirts of kids across the country during the shows early years on television. Parents and school administrators nationwide have explained that Bart's disrespectful thoughts and actions are hardly what American children should use as a model (Jones, 267). Bart does not convey the attitudes and beliefs, from parental submission to educational dedication, which parents hope to instill in their television watching and susceptible children, thus making him a target for criticism about child raising. He is a "hell-raising" prankster, having committed crimes ranging from petty vandalism to international fraud that are used by critics to validate such a claim. Bart is "every authority figure's nightmare," and thus a seemingly terrible role model for impressionable children (Steiger, 7).

Similarly, Homer is the target of criticism for those looking for parental role models on television. People focus their attention on his idiocy and indifference as his main faults. For instance, when advising Bart about his difficulties with playing the guitar, Homer does not give supportive tips and provide a role model for his son to follow. Instead, he simply remarks, "If something's hard to do, then it's not worth doing," (Aucoin, C1). Homer's attitudes are considered atypical and not ones that would normally be expected of a father, resulting in criticism of Homer and his non-respected place in the Simpson family. In fact, U.S. Congressman Joseph Pitts in 1999 blamed Homer Simpson for contributing to the decline of fatherhood in America (Anthony, 3), emphasizing that Homer is perceived as a terrible model for parents. Senator Pitts' negative comments embody Homer's status as a focus of criticism for The Simpsons.

Worst Episode Ever January 24, 2002, ByJaime J. Weinman, Salon

( Almost every episode now seems to end with some sort of violent action climax. Already this season, Homer survived an assassination attempt by a horde of evil restaurant owners, the kids torched a pile of evil robot toys and the whole family was attacked by rampaging farm animals. Some fans point to these outlandish plots as evidence that creator Matt Groening's original rule for the show -- that "The Simpsons" would never do anything a real, non-cartoon family wouldn't do -- has been violated. To the TV critics, what matters most is that the show is still taking on the big cultural targets; the fans are quicker to object when a joke, however nervy, gets in the way of the characterization -or worse, when characterization is violated for the sake of an easy joke. In the ninth-season episode "Bart Star," Lisa showed up at football tryouts, expecting to stir up controversy and fight discrimination against women in sports. When she discovered that the team already had three female members, she lost interest and left; she didn't care about football, just about taking up a new cause. It was a nice bit of self-parody, but many fans saw it as a betrayal of the character, an indication that the writers had misread Lisa's personality, turning her from a sweet girl with a social conscience into a self-righteous, preachy troublemaker. You could say that this kind of attitude is presumptuous for supposing that fans know more about the characters than the writers do. Certainly some of the writers have seen it that way; in one of the episode capsules, a longtime fan recalls getting a private e-mail from a "Simpsons" writer saying "that he cares more about Lisa than any 'abject admirer of Lisa Simpson.'" The fans could counter by pointing out that just because someone writes for a show doesn't mean he's necessarily in a position to understand what the show was originally like. In that notorious interview, Maxtone-Graham admitted that he had hardly ever watched "The Simpsons" before he was hired. The current executive producer, Mike Scully, didn't join the show until the fifth season, when, in the opinion of some fans, its humor had already started to shift toward simple cartooniness, and Homer had started to dominate the show.

Which brings us to one of the most often-used phrases on, "Jerkass Homer." This refers to a new characterization of Homer that has supposedly become prevalent in recent seasons, a Homer who is not simply dumb but disgusting and semi-sociopathic. This is the Homer who, in the season opener, showed Mel Gibson his wife's wedding ring and said, "It's a symbol of our marriage, signifying that I own her." Fan Dale G. Abersold wrote, "This new Homer displays only three characteristics: lust, greed, and stupidity. Yes, [the] old Homer was lustful, he was greedy, he was dumb ... but he was so much more. Can you imagine the current Homer thrust into the classic episodes of the first two seasons?"

5 Business Lessons From The Simpson

The Simpsons represents an American cultural icon and is the greatest television show of the 20th century, according to Time Magazine. Homer and cast also provide a multitude of business lessons for any entrepreneur. Here are five good and bad business lessons for your enjoyment and education. Avoid Apu-like Hours: Apu Nahasapeemapetilon is the Indian business owner of the local Springfield convenience store Kwik-E-Mart. He is an overly dedicated businessman who says Thank you, come again! to all customers good and bad, even armed robbers. Apu is a chronic workaholic who once worked a continuous ninety-six hour shift causing him to hallucinate he was a hummingbird. Its far too easy as a small business owner to be constantly busy. Overwork can impact your decision-making skills and wreak havoc on your family life - not to mention turn you into a hummingbird. At the onset of building a business, long hours are required. Put systems in place, hire staff, automate, and outsource so you dont have to be a workaholic like Apu. DOh! Yourself: Who can forget the funny, catch-phrase of Homer when things go wrong? This phrase has led to memorable show titles including C.E. DOh and We're on the Road to Dohwhere. So powerful is the expression that 20th Century Fox applied for trademark protection. Every small business vying for attention in todays information glut society can use a memorable, catch phrase to stand out. Jim Cramer of CNBCsMad Money uses the term, BooYah referring to are you ready to make some money? Taco Bells Think Outside the Bun promotes Mexican Food. A good catch-phrase can make you unforgettable. Protect Your Flaming Homer: In one episode, Homer reveals his drink recipe to Moe's failing tavern business when the bar's taps run dry. The Flaming Homer soon becomes Moes knock-off, the Flaming Moe, and business booms.

Every good business has a Flaming Homer. A special product or method of achieving great results, a Coca-Cola-like formula. To succeed in business; sharing ideas, and getting feedback is necessary. But dont reveal your secrets to a competitor. When disclosing sensitive information, use a non-compete agreement. Dont get carried away and have everybody sign it. The business lesson here is to protect your money winners. Spread the Ned: Ned Flanders' venture into the retail business teaches an important business lesson. Homer becomes jealous of Neds new left-handed product store, the Leftorium. Homer doesnt support his friends business and watches as the operation fails. Feeling guilty, Homer steps up and starts telling all the lefties in Springfield of the Leftorium. Spreading the word of Neds business brings the retail store new found success and a saved friendship. Word of mouth marketing can mean the difference between success and failure for any start-up, as Homer learned. Friends telling friends create higher credibility and sales than a one-off ad. Build the word for your business by actively networking. Create excitement and buzz around your company. Connect with influential contacts and trend setters in your market. Dont Krusty a Promotion: Krusty the Clown is hardly a business role model. Krustys business ethics run beyond unethical, his products include bubble gum containing spider eggs and a home pregnancy test that may cause birth defects. Krusty runs a promotion to capitalize on the Olympic Games and boost sales at his chain of burger joints. Krusty riggs a scratch-and-win promotion offering a free Krusty burger to people who scratch the matching event to a U.S. gold medal win. The problem was that the cards were stacked favoring Soviet-dominated events. Krusty ends up losing when the Soviets boycott the Olympics. Running contest and sweepstakes can provide a boost to your business. Take precautions to abide by the law. For instance, the Federal Trade Commission states "when a 'free' offer is tied to the purchase of another product, the price of the purchased product should not be increased from its regular price." Be safe, not a Krusty. ***

Behind all the satire though is the driving force of the main message of the show: family. While religion itself has been scrutinized under a watchful eye, it also has been shown as force to be reckoned with in time of family crisis. In one episode, religion is being scrutinized again, but in a more friendly way. Homer approaches God in a dream about his own crisis of faith: Homer: I'm not a bad guy. I work hard and I love my kids, so why should I spend half my Sunday hearing about how I'm going to hell? God: Hmm, you've got a point there. You know, sometimes I'd rather be watching football. Does St Louis still have a team? Homer: No. They moved to Phoenix. (Mullin)

God isn't shown as a vengeful God; here he is shown as a caring father, to one of his own children. Homer mentions his own family values, and God praises him for it. The show itself says here, religion shouldn't be what it's all about; it should basically be about being a good person and taking care of your family.

You Be the Judge - CFMT-TV re: The Simpsons Verdict

The Verdict The CBSC's Ontario Regional Council considered the complaint under the Code of Ethics and the Sex Role Portrayal Code of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB). Although violence was not at issue here, the Council also referred to the relevant provisions of the Voluntary Code Regulating Violence in dealing with the issue of scheduling. The pertinent clauses that related to this complaint, read as follows: Clause 3, Code of Ethics Recognizing that programs designed specifically for children reach impressionable minds and influence social attitudes and aptitudes, it shall be the responsibility of member stations to provide the closest possible supervision in the selection and control of material, characterizations and plot. Nothing in the foregoing shall mean that the vigour and vitality common to children's imaginations and love of adventure should be removed. It does mean that programs should be based upon sound social concepts and presented with a superior degree of craftsmanship; that these programs should reflect the moral and ethical standards of contemporary Canadian society and encourage prosocial behaviour and attitudes. The member stations should encourage parents to select from the richness of broadcasting fare, the best programs to be brought to the attention of their children. Clause 4, Sex-Role Portrayal Code Television and radio programming shall refrain from the exploitation of women, men and children. Negative or degrading comments on the role and nature of women, men or children in society shall be avoided. Modes of dress, camera focus on areas of the body and similar modes of portrayal should not be degrading to either sex. The sexualization of children through dress or behaviour is not acceptable. Clause 3.1.5, Voluntary Code Regarding Violence Broadcasters shall take special precautions to advise viewers of the content of programming intended for adult audiences which is telecast before 9 pm in accordance with article 3.1.3. Conclusions:

The Regional Council members viewed a tape of the program in question, and reviewed all of the correspondence. For the reasons given below, they unanimously agreed that the program did not violate any of the Codes referred to above. The important issues raised by the viewer's letter are each discussed below. The Content of the Program: Parents and Children It was the view of the Council that the complainant had done the right thing in viewing the program with her children. Council assumed that the viewer, having obviously found the program unfit for her home, would likely have discouraged, if not forbidden, the watching of the series in future by some or all of her children. This would represent media literacy in action and would constitute an example to be followed by Canadian parents. There are, however, circumstances in which programming may be so contrary to the standards established in one or more of the Canadian broadcast Codes, that it ought not to air at all. This was the Council's view in 1994, when they dealt with an episode of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and concluded that the entire series would likely be in breach of the articles of the voluntary violence code, and not just the episode in question. In the case of The Simpsons, the Council felt strongly that, despite the fact that the program is animated, it's not necessarily a program that's intended for children to watch unsupervised. Even though the content is presented in a tongue-in-cheek or satirical way, the program contains much material that exemplifies what children should not do - such as rudeness to parents, drinking, etc. Because of this, it's a program whose suitability ought to be judged in each home. Since the Council did not consider The Simpsons to be "designed specifically for children," in accordance with the provisions of Clause 3 of theCode of Ethics, it did not believe that that Code applied to The Simpsons episode in question. The Scheduling Issue Furthermore, the program was aired by the broadcaster from 7:30-8:00 pm - in a time slot when parents can easily determine the suitability of a program for their own households. Since The Simpsons, or at least the episode in question, did not, in the Council's view, fall into the category of "programming intended for adult audiences which is telecast before 9 pm," the Council did not believe that "special precautions to advise viewers of the content" were required. The program at issue here was considered an example of programming in the satirical genre, arguably aimed at older kids, but still a part of the mix of legitimate family fare which could be overseen by responsible parents if appropriate. Council was of the view that the last sentence of Clause 3 of the Code of Ethicsapplied, namely,

The member stations should encourage parents to select from the richness of broadcasting fare, the best programs to be brought to the attention of their children.

In this case, by offering the program in the 7:30 pm time slot, the broadcaster was providing precisely that opportunity to the general viewing community. In its decision, the Council noted that there had been a tendency, since the introduction of the 9:00 pm "watershed hour," for everyone to treat that moment as the "Great Divide" - that all programming after 9:00 pm falls into the "adults only" category, and that all programming before 9:00 pm falls into the "suitable for everyone, including young children" category. Neither generalization is wholly accurate. The watershed hour is only the hour before which no programming containing scenes of violence intended for adult audiences may be shown. Private broadcasters have voluntarily tended to extend this principle to all programming containing any material intended for adult audiences, even if it's not of a violent nature. But this doesn't mean that all programs aired before 9 pm are suitable for all members of the family. That would be true of programming intended for children below 12 years of age, which airs in a different time slot, but material broadcast in the early evening falls within that "rich broadcasting fare" mentioned above, and should be vetted by parents as to its suitability in their homes. Similarly, the Council took no position for or against the suitability of the program for audiences at another hour of the day, such as the 5:00 pm time slot in which the CBC was airing the series in Toronto at the time of this complaint. In general, the Council does, however, regret the fact that the standards applied carefully by it to private over-the-air broadcasters are not applicable across the entire Canadian broadcasting system for the benefit of all Canadians. Sex-Role Portrayal In the portion of the episode in question, Moe, the bart ender, is portrayed as a chauvinist, a particularly uncouth chauvinist at that. His dialogue regarding the waitress applicant's measurements is hardly role model material. Then again, much of the behaviour on the program could be characterized in the same way. However, the program does not suggest that this dialogue is suitable, and because of this, Moe's actions don't amount to exploitation. Nor are there negative or degrading comments on the role of the waitress. The fact that they are depicted in the same bed together within the half-hour show is not exploitation either. If anything, the tongue-in-cheek approach makes something of a mockery of Moe's behaviour. No approval is implied. Overall, the Council concluded, the continued exaggeration of Moe's inappropriate behaviour emphasizes the unacceptable nature of such behaviour. The producers of the show have not made Moe a likeable character and thus, creatively, have not positively reinforced his actions. To the contrary, the program could be seen as reinforcing the rules within the SexRole Portrayal Coderegarding exploitation and degrading statements. Broadcaster Responsiveness This was an unusual case in the experience of the Council, as far as the question of broadcaster responsiveness was concerned. In general, Council limits itself to the broadcaster's written response to the viewer's complaint. In this case, Council also

considers it appropriate to comment on the viewer's allegations of what happened before the CBSC was involved in the dossier. First, on the level of the broadcaster's obligation to respond by letter to the viewer, the Council finds that CFMT-TV's letter constituted a sufficient response to the complainant. Consequently, its overall view of this matter is that CFMT-TV had breached neither the Codes nor the standard of responsiveness. On the other hand, if the viewer's claims about the initial oral response she had from the station are correct, the Council hopes that such actions are not the rule for either this broadcaster or other broadcasters adhering to the various CAB Codes and the principles established in the CBSC Manual. Simply stated, every broadcaster is responsible for all of the material it broadcasts, whatever its source. A broadcaster may, for quite positive reasons, wish to encourage a viewer to also contact the producer of the program, but it should not attempt to side step its own responsibility in that regard on the grounds that it was not the producer of the show at issue. Canadian broadcasters are also required to direct complainants to Canadian resources, specifically the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, when they have a problem with material they have aired which they have been unable to resolve directly with the complainant. The Council regrets the frustration which the viewer apparently underwent in attempting to find the correct venue for her complaint within her own country.

The Simpsons:

A Reflection of Society and a Message on Family