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The Simpsons - The truth can be said with a smile

Eine höllische Familie8.30 p.m. in America.

Primetime.

Millions of Americans are watching TV, but not boring action films, some love story or unrealistic science-fiction thriller...

They are watching "The Simpsons", America's most successful comic strip. Started in December 1989, it was the first animated prime-time series since the 1960's and right from the beginning it was part of American culture. It was so successful because after similar comedy series like "Eine schrecklich nette Familie", "Alle unter einem Dach" or "Bill Cosby" the Simpsons presented a revolutionary new combination of humoristic comic strips and direct social criticism of American society. Another reason for its success is that the Simpsons represent normal and average American society, everything in the series is ordinary. The author, Matt Groening, intended to criticise society by showing it how average it really is. Nothing in the series is invented, everything and everybody does exist. "Springfield", for example, is the most used name for cities in America, it's the usual name for "Anytown" (Das Springfield, in dem die Simpsons wohnen, existiert natürlich nicht wirklich. Aber bei dem Namen hat sich Matt Groening dennoch etwas gedacht: (...) Springfield [ist] einer der am meisten vorkommenden Städtenamen in den USA.) [1]. Homer and Marge are the names of Matt Groening's parents, the teachers in Springfield's Elementary School have the same names as Matt's former teachers, the coach driver and the neighbours are the same and so on. Everybody exists in reality, which does not mean that they have the same characters as in the series. Groening wanted to create a comic series which is as real as possible, and what is more realistic than reality itself?

 

The Simpsons family consists of five people.

The father is called Homer Simpson; he is characterized as the loveable, not terribly intelligent father who tries to please his family, his boss and his friends all the time, but with varying degrees of success. He works as a safety inspector in a nuclear power plant, a job which is meaningless for Homer. He does not really like it but accepts it, not least because of its security. The most important things for Homer are TV, Duff beer and doughnuts.

His wife and mother of three children is Marge Simpson, a patient and quite intellectual housewife with tower-high blue hair. She embodies the stereotypical American mother, serving as a model of morality and good behaviour. Marge's moral qualms are a frequent theme of the episodes and developing the personalities of the family members and townspeople through moral issues is a common occurrence.

Bartholomew J. Simpson, called "Bart" (which is an anagram of "brat") is ten years old and the Simpson's eldest child. He is a cheeky young boy who only thinks of the next trick he can play on his parents, his sister, his teachers or Moe, the barkeeper. School is for Bart a necessary evil, his mind is only on skateboarding and his favourite comic, the "Radioactive Man". When the show began, Bart was unquestionably the favourite. However, today Homer is more or less the star, he is the most emphasized character in any episode. His favourite saying is "Eat my shorts, man!".

The brain of the family is definitely Lisa Simpson, particularly marked by her impressive intellect. She is the cultured person in the show with a deep respect for Jazz - she plays the saxophone passionately - and loves art. Lisa seems to be the perfect child, she is honest, kind, talented and smart. Together with her mom she is the other moral person in the show.

Last but not least there is Maggie Simpson, the youngest child, who is a baby. Since the show started Maggie has never spoken a word, she only sucks her pacifier all the time. [2]

In the series Groening broaches many different themes and social problems like the power of the mass media, mostly criticised by the brutal comic strips of "Itchy & Scratchy" and the action films of "Rainier Wolfcastle", the personified action hero like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Silvester Stallone. The author also criticizes industry and its attitude towards the environment, mainly represented by C. Montgomery Burns, the owner of the Nuclear Power Station. Burns is not very interested in the environment, the safety of his station is very bad - not at least because Homer is the safety inspector - and he does not care about the disposal of nuclear waste. A result of this thinking is Blinky, the genetically-mutated fish with three eyes. Another critical point for Groening is the security system in the U.S.A., no wonder that Springfield's policemen are all corrupt and open to bribery. Similar to the police is the Mayor called Diamond Joe Quimby. He has always love affairs with his young secretaries - an allusion to the Clinton-Affair-, his holidays are always paid by the taxpayers and he is also open to bribery. These are only a few of the points of criticism Groening mentions in the series, others are, for example, illegal immigration, child-violence, the right to bear arms and many, many more. The variety of the people and of the topics makes "The Simpsons" worthwhile.

 

2 Social criticism in the comic series


2.1 Criticism of the mass media


One of the big topics Groening criticises is the mass media.

 

2.1.1 The brutal comic strips of "Itchy & Scratchy"


He chiefly criticises the violence in TV shows, mainly expressed by the comic strip "Itchy & Scratchy", the favourite comic series of Springfield's kids, especially of Bart and Lisa, which is presented during every show of Krusty, the Clown.

Itchy, a small mouse, continuously fights against his opponent Scratchy, a cat. The mouse tries to kill its opponent always, but not always the same way. As the cat has to die differently each time. In a billboard advertising the first Itchy & Scratchy movie, "Steamboat Itchy", which parodies the first Mickey Mouse movie "Steamboat Willie", Itchy slams a movie camera into the back of Scrachty's neck, causing his head to fall off and blood to spurt everywhere. The blood lands on a couple of newlyweds in a convertible. They look up, horrified, until they see the blood is from the billboard and laugh.[3]

In another episode Itchy plays the role of Pinocchio (in the episode he is called "Pinitchio"). He has to promise his creator - Scratchy - that he will never hurt him anymore, so Itchy promises that but lies. As in the well-known story his nose grows and pierces through Scratchy's eye.[4]

But although Scratchy dies in an episode he is alive in the next one only to get killed yet again.

The movies seem to be similar to cartoons like "Tom & Jerry", the scheme is also the same. As in other animated cartoon-shows the violence and brutality of these fights are represented in a very funny way which does not correspond to reality.

The concept of these shows targeted at what pleases children. So it is no wonder that the broadcasting time of these comic series is mostly during the afternoon, at a time when mainly children are watching TV. They are exposed to violence without the ability to distinguish between reality and fiction.

Bart and Lisa laugh at the show all the time not realising how brutal it is. In one show Itchy kills Scratchy by a hammer. The little baby, Maggie, also watched this movie. After that she hits Homer with a real hammer in the belief it would be only funny but could never really hurt him[5].

Even the intelligent girl Lisa does not realise this. It is only when she becomes a vegetarian that she claims that "Itchy & Scratchy cartoons put over the idea that violence against animals is funny"[6] , but rejects this opinion not much time later.

The reason for this need for violence can be often a desire for diversion.

„Grund für die Bevorzugung gewaltvoller Medieninhalte ist der Wunsch nach Ablenkung. Mit der häufigste Anlass dafür, Computer oder Fernseher anzustellen ist zweifelsohne Langeweile. Medienkonsum soll Zerstreuung bieten und gute Gefühle produzieren. Bei Computerspielen wird das zunächst durch spannende Geschichten und ausreichende Handlungsmöglichkeiten erreicht. Damit das mit Spielanfang erreichte Erregungsniveau nach einiger Zeit aber nicht absinkt, wird die Spielerin konstant durch virtuelle Gewalt bedroht. So bleibt das von der Spielerin als positiv empfundene "mittlere Erregungsniveau" erhalten. Ähnlich funktionieren Action- und Horrorfilme. Auch hier nutzen Produzenten/tinnen Gewalt, um "in einem relativ kurzen Zeitraum eine spannende Handlungssequenz aufzubauen und zu einem einsichtigen Abschluss zu bringen.""[7]

 

2.1.2 Action films with "Rainer Wolfcastle"


Another genre of TV films Groening criticises are action films.

In America millions of people watch this kind of film. Every year Hollywood produces many action films that cost millions of dollars - and they are popular! Nearly everybody knows "Action Heroes" like the Austrian, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who played the main protagonist in films like "Terminator" etc. These kind of films must not have a real message, they just have to show a lot of action and gigantic special effects. And the violence and brutality is shown in an entertaining way for the viewer and not very realistic.

Scientists see a danger in these films. They think that these films are responsible for the growing readiness for violence people show in America. Especially children try to imitate these "heroes" by being violent against other without recognising reality. The violence is presented in a way that is adjusted to the taste of the viewer.

„Gewalt wird jedoch nicht in jeder Form von den ZuschauerInnen als angenehm erregend empfunden. Die nackte Realität von Gewalt wäre unerträglich und damit inakzeptabel. Aus diesem Grund wird die in den Unterhaltungsmedien präsentierte Gewalt dem Publikumsgeschmack entsprechend aufbereitet: Das bedeutet, dass die dazu verwendeten Objekte (Waffen, Kriegsflugzeuge, Kampfschiffe) als schön und begehrenswert inszeniert werden und die schmerzhaften Folgen von Gewalt nicht gezeigt werden, wie überhaupt negative Konsequenzen ausgeblendet bleiben. Der Zuschauer kann den Gebrauch von Gewalt durch das Ziel, das meistens darin besteht "das Böse" zu bekämpfen, legitimieren. Insgesamt wird Gewalt als erfolgreiches Mittel gezeigt, um erwünschte Ziele zu erreichen. In dieser ästhetisierten Form macht der Gewaltkonsum Spaß und die Wahrscheinlichkeit, dass der jeweilige Rezipient in seinem weiteren Nutzungsverhalten weiterhin auf gewaltvolle Medieninhalte zurückgreift, vergrößert sich."[8]

Groening has created also an Action Hero called McBain (it may be a coincidence that the protagonist of the action film trilogy "Die hard", played by action superstar Bruce Willis, is also called McBain), played by Springfield's superstar Rainier Wolfcastle, who comes, whether by accident or not, from the same origin country as Schwarzenegger. Wolfcastle seems to be very stupid and naive - an attribute that is often ascribed to action-stars. McBain always fights alone against a lot of opponents and all the time wins in the end. As in cartoons, a lot of unrealistic violence is shown but it is played down.

It also shows the competition between film producers - everybody has to make a bigger film than the others with the most-wanted and over-paid actors, more action and the most expensive special effects, and that is why the cost of those films is so exhorbitant.

Groening handles this topic in a very satirical way. In one episode McBain talks about his new film:

McBain: " This film is just me in front of a brick wall for an hour and a half. It cost 80 million dollars."

Jay: "How do you sleep at night?"

McBain: "On top of a pile of money, with many beautiful ladies."9

As you can see the film has no real story, it is just McBain in front of a wall telling bad jokes. After he realises that the audience dislikes his jokes he pulls out a big machine gun and fires at the people. And this film is supposed to cost 80 million dollars!

 

2.1.3 Summary


All in all Groening criticises television as a medium which abuses its power to influence people -and especially children- in a very bad way by showing them a totally unrealistic version of violence and crime that produces a false impression in their minds, just to earn more and more money.

 

2.2 Criticism of industry


2.2.1 Criticism of Nuclear Power


2.2.1.1 Production and use of nuclear energy


During the last century there was a continuous discussion about the production of energy. Nowadays the most criticised aspect is the production of atomic energy in a nuclear power station. Particularly the physical aspects stand here in the foreground. Caused by the nuclear-core-meltdown, atomic radiation arises which can cause very bad physical damage if protective measures are not taken. A sad and horrible example is the atomic accident in Tschernobyl in 1986 when thousands of people (25 000 people[9])were contaminated by radioactivity and died.

Although this accident should be a good reason to shut down all the nuclear power plants, most countries went on building them, which cannot be accepted and supported. Also the difficult and expensive disposal of nuclear waste is a reason that speaks clearly against this form of energy production.

"Vierzehn Jahre nach der größten Katastrophe der zivilen Atomnutzung wird die tickende Zeitbombe Tschernobyl endlich entschärft(...).Aber trotz des Desasters von Tschernobyl setzen viele Staaten noch immer auf die Atomenergie. Die Abschaltung des Unglücksreaktors sollte aller Welt klar machen: Atomenergie ist nie vollständig sicher, sie ist und bleibt ein Verbrechen an der Umwelt und sie ist ersetzbar." [10]

Groening also wants to show this problem in "The Simpsons".

The SNPP, the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, is the only source of energy Springfield has. Under the leadership of the most powerful man, C. Montgomery Burns it is Springfield's major employer and at the centre of public life. But that is more or less the only advantage the SNPP brings with it.

Safety measures are seriously lacking in the Power Plant and there is a great risk of leakage of nuclear fallout in the construction and operation of atomic power stations.

The method of construction was very cheap, and Mr Burns does not see any point in restoring the Plant as long as it works. That is an attitude which is often ascribed to powerful industrialists. The health of the employees does not stand in the foreground but the only priority is to achieve a profit that is as big as possible.

The security equipment of the employees is also very bad or rather non-existant. The expenditure, in Mr Burns' eyes, would be to high. That is also a reason why the workers in the Power Station are not really instructed in their job and are not specialists but normal citizens of Springfield, unqualified to do such a dangerous job.

This is true of most other countries, not just the USA.

 

2.2.1.2 Consequences of nuclear energy


The consequences of this way of energy-production can be disastrous. In particular health problems have to be considered.

A sad example is once more Tschernobyl. 25 000 people died and thousands of others are still contaminated. Radiation causes very serious health damage like cancer etc.

But that is not the only consequence. It also causes genetic mutation.

 

2.2.1.2.1 Blinky, the fish with three eyes


A result of the disposal of nuclear waste in Springfield is "Blinky", the fish with three eyes. It has mutated because its habitat was the power stations effluent which is of course contaminated.

When Bart and Lisa went fishing there the event made big headlines, enough reason for a Washington regulatory committee to send a team to investigate nuclear waste coming from the plant. "Despite Mr. Burn's attempts at bribery, the team told him to clean up his plant or they would shut it down"[11] Burns tries to convince the people that the third eye is a development of nature but does not succeed.

The story ends with a failed attempt by Mr. Burns to become governor. The attempt fails because he has to eat Blinky within the scope of his election campaign, something he baulks at. [12]

In another episode Homer's sperm count has been damaged due to radiation exposure. One sperm has even a third eye like Blinky, the fish. In the fear of a lawsuit Mr. Burns gives Homer 2000 US $ in exchange for a legal waiver.[13]

Another result of damage to health caused by nuclear radiation is the green shining the bodies of the workers show and that is shown in many episodes.[14]

 

2.2.1.3 Summary


This all shows that the conduct of powerful industrialists is only of a profit-seeking nature. The security of the employees and their health does not play a role in their considerations. Their only concern is how they can earn more and more money.

 

2.3 Criticism of the security system in the USA


The American security system is a topic of interest to the whole world.

2.3.1 The right to bear arms


2.3.1.1 Criticism of the right to bear arms


The law that enables Americans to bear arms without any qualification or any training is controversial all over the world. The wave of reports about massacres of Americans who shot their family members or friends is never-ending.

Violence in America was very high, the police were helpless, considering the high number of offenders, and so the population tried to protect itself - by buying a gun or a rifle.

More than 40% of all citizens in the U.S. are owners of a weapon.[15] "(...) Millions in the U.S. believe passionately that their liberty, their safety or both are bound up with the widest possible availability of guns." [16] The consequences are horrible.

News about the youths who run amok in schools of cities like Paducah in Kentucky, Jonesboro in Arkansas, Springfield in Oregon or Richmond in Virginia shocked the whole world. Nevertheless the American government stands to its amendment to allow Americans the possession of firearms. "There are still as many firearms in the U.S. as people - 235 million."[17]

Homer decides to buy a gun after Springfield's citizens fight amongst themselves after a boring soccer match. He has no problem in buying a gun, the only thing he has to do is to accept a five-day waiting period, because his identity has to be checked.

The following scene describes the qualification of Homer; it takes place in the gun shop:

(Homer grabs for the gun, but the cashier of the gun shop holds onto it)

Cashier: "Sorry, the law requires a five-day waiting period. We've got to run a background check."

Homer: "Five days? But I'm mad now!"

(The cashier pulls the gun away from Homer)

Homer: "I'd kill you if I had my gun."

Cashier: "Yeah, well, you don't."[18]

After Homer has got his gun he shows it to Marge.

Homer: "It's a handgun! Isn't it great? This is the trigger, and this is the thing you point at whatever you want to die."[19]

As this quotation shows Homer, an average citizen like hundreds in America, has the possibility of buying himself a gun although he is not able to use it at all. He attends NRA meetings but "the members kick him out when they see how recklessly Homer uses his pistol".[20]

Marge wants Homer to get rid of the pistol. Homer does not want to so he tries to hide it in the fridge, where Bart finds it and takes it to play "Wilhelm Tell" with his friend Milhouse, but not with an apple on Milhouse's head, but in his mouth!

After Marge prevents a tragedy she asks Homer why he did not get rid of the gun. Homer tries to explain it to Marge: "...this gun had a hold on me. I felt this incredible surge of power, like God must feel when he's holding a gun."[21]

Homer abuses the power he has because of the gun. He shoots out the light, opens the beer can with his pistol or shoots at the television, for example. For him his gun is more or less a useful tool to make life easier.

He really cannot estimate the danger a gun can cause. And that is a feature many people in real life share also.

 

2.3.1.2 The Neighbourhood Watch Group


To protect themselves the Americans also established a program called "Neighbour is watching you", a program which makes clear to strangers that come into a city or a certain neighbourhood that they are being observed by the people living there, so that they cannot commit a crime without being at least seen. Of course most of those "watching neighbours" are gun owners.

Violence and crime also often appear in Springfield, not at least because of the incompetent police. Struck by a mysterious chain of burglaries the citizens of Springfield decide to found a Neighbourhood Watch group with Homer as the leader. Together they try to patrol the streets, but instead of preventing people from committing crimes they are the ones who break the law. The group's opinion is that "they are the law", and that is the way they act. They drink beer on the streets, for example, or burn a telephone box. They try to rule in the streets by using force, forgetting their original aims.

A young boy called Jimbo asks when he sees them: "Hey, you're a drunken posse. Wow! Can I join you?"

Homer replies by asking him: "I don't know. Can you swing a sack of doorknobs?

Jimbo: "Can I!"

Homer: "You're in., here's the sack."

Moe: "But you gotta supply your own doorknobs."[22]

As you can see they abuse the power they have. Instead of protecting the neighbourhood they only have fun and use their power to do everything they want.

 

2.3.1.3 Summary


All of this shows that the Neighbourhood Watch group itself is a more or less useless institution and has to be observed by a higher institution like the police, otherwise the group can abuse the power it has. That also counts for the firearms law. The law on the possession of firearms have to be stricter otherwise it is too easy for a potentially dangerous person to own a weapon. And that can have serious consequences.

 

2.3.2 The Springfield police


A topic Groening also often mentions is Springfield's police. Again he wants to show that powerful institutions have easily the chance to abuse their power. Consisting of Chief Wiggum and his two officers Lou and Eddie they make up the police - or what you want to call it. They are totally unqualified to represent the law. Their talents are "abusing power" and "intimidating suspects" whereas their weaknesses are "solving crimes" and "keeping the peace"[23].

 

2.3.2.1 Police corruption


But although they are incompetent they abuse the power they have to enrich themselves. Often they take bribes to get some "extra-money". But they do not hide this readiness for corruption, they show it directly.

One time Chief Wiggum caught the TV star Troy McClure driving by car without his necessary glasses. But instead of revoking his license or giving him at least a ticket, he offers him an opportunity of bribing him.

Wiggum: "Tell ya what - just go down to the DMV tomorrow and try to pass that eye test. I'll tear you up this ticket, but I'm still going to ask you for a bribe."[24]

But taking bribes is not all the police does. In another episode the police enters a blind man's house. A drug dog discovers that the blind man has some marijuana in his pocket and the police confiscates it.

The next scene you see is how a police car stops in front of the house, some officers get off together with some prostitutes and there is the sound of Reggae music in the background, and you can hear Chief Wiggum singing "Jamin'" by Bob Marley.[25]

 

2.3.3 Criminality in Springfield


2.3.3.1 The Mafia and organised crime


Originating in Italy organized crime wreaks havoc all over the world. Also well-known as "The Mafia", criminals founded different groups within which they commit Crimes like extortion, drug-, weapon- or body-traficing, money-laundering, bribery or murder. It is very difficult for the police to fight against mafia members, and a criminal trial often ends with a death. But what makes the mafia so powerful?

„Organisierte Kriminalität korrumpiert die staatlichen Institutionen, sie bezieht wegen enormer Wettbewerbsvorteile legale Wirtschaftsbereiche in ihre kriminelle Praxis ein und schafft häufig von ihr kontrollierte Monopole".[26]

It is a worldwide net which is closely knit, and people who do not seem to be mafia members work for it in the background, organizing everything that is necessary for a crime. Politicians or policemen are often offered bribes to ensure the mafia that nobody will disturb their criminal machinations.

The members of the mafia are also able to cover up every move they make, which helps them to act inconspicuously. Often the police have no idea that there is organized crime in their town. This is a fact that appears worldwide as you can see by the following examples:

„Wenn man die Polizei in Kiel nach einem bestimmten chinesischen Lokal befragt, wird man zu hören bekommen: "Das sind harmlose Leute". Glaubt man den Aussagen von V-Leuten aus der illegalen Glückspielszene, dann ist der Besitzer des Lokals ein bedeutendes Mitglied der Triaden. Über sie wissen wir unendlich wenig."[27]

„Vor wenigen Tagen lief im Regionalprogramm des Hessischen Rundfunks ein Bericht aus Melsungen, einer kleinen Stadt in Nordhessen. Man mokierte sich darüber, dass Melsungen als ein Zentrum der Mafia bezeichnet wurde. Das habe dem Tourismus in der Stadt geschadet, so der Tenor. Berichtet wurde, dass die Italiener dort doch alle so freundlich seien und man überhaupt nichts mitbekommen habe. Das Essen sei gut, so der Moderator am Ende des Beitrags. Er werde gerne Melsungen besuchen. Tatsache ist, dass eine Familie der N'drangheta, der kalabresischen Mafia, dort ihren Stützpunkt hat, die Familie Grisafi. Ihr Netz geht über Deutschland hinaus."[28]

The typical image of a Mafioso is an Italian-looking man with an awkward body who has deep rings under his eyes, wears a suit and of course has a gun under his jacket.

That is the way the mafia in Springfield is also shown.

The boss of the mafia is the Italian, Don Vittorio. Together with his odd-job men Fat Tony, Louie, Joey, Legs and some un-named men they rule Springfield's society.

In one episode Homer is dressed like Krusty, the Clown. Fat Tony, who tries to collect on Krusty's gambling debt, thinks that Homer is Krusty and wants to kill him.

Homer: "But wait,. You can't kill me for being Krusty. I'm not him. I'm Homer Simpson."

Fat Tony: "The same Homer Simpson who crushed his car through the wall of our club?"

Homer: "Uh... actually my name is Barney. Yeah. Barney Gumble."

Legs: "The same Barney Gumble who keeps taking pictures of my sister?"

Homer: "Uh, actually my real name is uh, think Krusty, think, Joe Valachi."

Louie: "The same Joe Valachi who squealed to the Senate Committee about organized crime?"

Homer: "Benedict Arnold!"

Legs: "The same Benedict Arnold who platted to surrender West Point to the hated British?"

Homer: "D'oh!"[29]

As you can see by this example the power of Springfield's mafia is very wide-spread. Nearly everybody in Springfield had already contact with the mafia.

In another episode Marge tries to establish herself in the food business. She founds a food service where she sells Pretzels, but with poor success. Former colleagues of Marge open a fast food service with foreign food, with great success . Marge is very disappointed so Homer, who cannot stand seeing his wife being sad, decides to ask Fat Tony for help. From now on the citizens nearly fight over the pretzels - forced by the mafia to do so. The rivals have several accidents - caused by the mafia. So they cannot sell their food anymore. Marge's sales rocket, and Fat Tony attempts to collect all the profits.

The story ends when the mafia appears at the Simpson's house "for a showdown but are headed off by the Japanese mafia"[30], who are sent by Marge's rivals to eliminate the Italian mafia.

 

2.3.3.2 Snake


Although organized crime in America is huge, the problem of petty offences plays only a peripheral role. A statistic from the Daily Mail shows that an average of 100.000 inhabitants commit 4.578 crimes in America whereas in the much smaller country Great Britain 8.537 crimes per 100.000 inhabitants were committed on average[31]. This is a fact that can be explained by the right to bear arms in America.

"(...)die Amerikaner [hätten] schon immer weniger Mitleid mit Verbrechern, als dies z.B. in England der Fall sei. Im wilden Westen hätte man Kleinkriminelle erschossen oder gehängt, auch heute hätten viele Bürger das Gefühl, dass man sich selber schützen müsse. In den Staaten, in denen der Besitz von Feuerwaffen legal sei, wären die Zahlen der Kriminalstatistiken um 40 - 60% niedriger, als in den Staaten, in denen der Besitz von Feuerwaffen illegal ist."[32]

As the statistic shows petty offence in Springfield are also very low. There are nearly no criminals next to the mafia except for a few minor characters.

Springfield's most famous criminal is called Snake. He is "Springfield's chief convenience- store armed-robber, rioter, and unrepentant smoker".[33] He alternates between being in prison and committing a crime.

 

2.3.3.3 Summary


All in all the real problem is not petty offence but organized crime which can exert its influence- not at least because of corrupt politicians- in all sectors, especially in sectors like new economy.

 

2.4 Criticism of politics and politicians


"The cancer of corruption" was the headline of an edition of Time Magazine in 1998.[34] The article reported on the problems countries with corrupt politicians have. Bribery and corruption costs billions of dollars35 and there is nearly no chance of bringing it to an end.

It is too hard to continuously control the "balance-book-twilight-zone", which offers politicians the possibility of taking money out of the public purse and putting it aside for themselves.

Another problem is bribery: powerful politicians often get bribed to enable the briber to do things that are illegal which the state would otherwise prevent, for example. This is a way of dealing that is often ascribed to members of organized crime like the mafia.

An actual example for corruption would be the "CDU-Spendenskandal" which made the headlines of all Germany's newspapers in the last few months. This example shows how it was possible for politicians to put aside millions of Deutsch Marks for years without getting caught.

Springfield's mayor, Diamond Joe Quimby, typifies this kind of corrupt politician perfectly.

 

2.4.1 The corruption of Mayor Quimby


As the mayor of Springfield he tries to rule the city in a manner that ensures him to have enough money for himself and to get re-elected.

Every time when things get too hot for him he takes money out of the public purse, puts it into a suitcase and is ready to leave the city, no matter how bad the situation is for the citizens. The situation ends always with Quimby staying because somebody has defused it for him. He only thinks egoistically and about how he can wriggle himself out of responsibility, not caring about the city but only about the next election - his election!

Quimby: "I run this town. You're just a bunch of low-income nobodies."

Quimby's aide: "(low)Uh, election in November. Election in November."

Quimby: "What, again? This stupid country.![35]

He is totally unqualified to be a mayor but has no rival in Springfield. That is why he is always re-elected. This has to do with the fact that the citizens of Springfield are not very interested in politics. There may be several town-meetings where the citizens discuss certain topics but they are not often political. They are similar to a referendum, everybody can voice his opinion and at the end the best solution is taken.

To enrich himself even more and to avoid problems Quimby also often takes bribes from the mafia.

If there is a decision to make he tries to make it to his advantage, often acting totally irresponsibly. In one episode Bart accidentally gets drunk on beer. The exited women of Springfield want beer to be banned in Springfield; Quimby as a passionate beer drinker is against it. Here is an example of how he tries to justify his opinion:

Quimby: "You can't seriously want to ban alcohol. It tastes great, makes women appear more attractive, and makes a person virtually invulnerable to criticism."

Helen Lovejoy: "Oh, won't somebody please think of the children?!??"

Maude Flanders: "What kind of an example are we setting?"

Quimby: "Ladies, please. All our founding fathers, astronauts, and World Series heroes have been either drunk or on cocaine."[36]

 

2.4.1.1 Political affairs


The daily boulevard press is always full of news about celebrities' love affairs. It hunts them to get big headlines and to get stories everybody wants to read.

Especially the so called "Clinton-Affair" caused a stir worldwide. The president of the United States- often seen as the most powerful man in the world- had a sexual affair with his trainee Monika Lewinsky. The affair was exposed and Clinton got into real problems. He as an official representative of the most powerful nation in the world had to be honourable and loyal.

The House Judiciary Committee spoke the following judgement:

"William Jefferson Clinton has undermined the integrity of his office, has brought disrepute on the presidency, has betrayed his trust as a President, and has acted in a manner subversive of the rule of law and justice, to the manifest injury of the people of the United States".

Clinton was lucky, he escaped impeachment and was allowed to stay in his position as the President of the United States.

 

2.4.1.2 The affairs of Mayor Diamond Quimby


Groening criticises this very cynically. Mayor Quimby has love affairs continually with his secretaries, with models and other beautiful-looking young ladies. Although he is married he does not shrink from being unfaithful to his wife. He uses his fame to get these women, and the women want him because of his fame.

Quimby: "By the way, this young woman is not my wife, but I am sleeping with her. I'm telling you this because I'm comfortable with my womanizing."[37]

He also is a regular customer of Maison Derriere, Springfield's burlesque salon.[38] Where there was a discussion about this salon to close it Quimby did his utmost to ensure that the salon stayed open.

Although the whole of Springfield knows about the affairs of its mayor, the citizens seem to ignore them and that prevents Quimby from getting into the same trouble as Clinton.

 

2.4.1.3 Summary


Groening shows the viewer that politics is a dirty business. Corruption and bribery plays a big role in decisions politicians have to make. And affairs like the Clinton-Affair are commonplace in a celebrities life, always assuming they are publicised by the yellow press.

 

2.5 Criticism of the educational system


Criticism of the parental education of children is increasing.

Nowadays most children grow up in financial security and are cared for. But if you look at the situation in more detail you can see that there is little social interaction between children. Life today has become too individual, and it is hard for them to create relationships to each other and even harder for children to show their feelings.

Another reason for the inability to get along with other children is that they grow up in one-child-families and not - as usual some years ago - in at least two or three-child-families. So they are not used to arguing and acting for themselves. If they want something from their parents they get it, no matter what and how expensive it is. That makes the young fastidious and demanding.

The other point is that the parents of these children often have to work so much that they cannot spend enough time together with their children. The kids do not get enough love, nobody really takes care of them. They try to search for a replacement but cannot find anyone that pays attention to them and helps them with their problems. This disappointing experience makes the kids desperate. Rage raises in them and the only way to get rid of their aggressions is through violence.

 

2.5.1 The readiness of young people to commit violence


The inhibition threshold of children to acts of violence goes down. The Young nowadays clearly show more readiness to use force. Extreme examples for this are the many terrible news-stories about the massacres committed by the young in American Schools.

 

2.5.1.1 Nelson Muntz


The guy the pupils of Springfield's Elementary School fear most is called Nelson Muntz. He is a rough bully who tyrannizes his classmates all the time. If something is not the way he wants it Nelson uses violence to get his way. He is unable to show his feelings or to act in a friendly or human way and he is proud about his image of being such a rough and violent boy.

In one episode Lisa fells in love with Nelson. The boy is ashamed of himself and wants to keep the relationship secret.

Nelson, accepting an invitation to Lisa's house: "Okay. But if anybody sees us, I'm just here to steal your bike."[39]

Nelson is also the boy that is kept late in school the most. He shows a deep contempt for his teachers, especially for Principal Seymour Skinner. He disturbs the lessons notoriously and tries to play tricks on his teachers and classmates.

He tyrannizes the other students together with two of his vassals, called weasels, by wanting protection-money. Otherwise he says he is going to beat them up. He even has a schedule to remember all the fights he has to fight on any given day.

Nelson, to Bart: "I'll see you at the flagpole at 3:15."

Weasel #1: "And you better be prompt!"

Weasel #2: "He has four other beatings scheduled this afternoon."[40]

One time Lisa baked some cupcakes for school. As she wants to enter the building Nelson catches them and tries to eat them. Bart, who witness the whole scene protects his sister and beats Nelson on his nose. From now on Nelson treats Bart every day very badly by beating him up and putting him into a dustbin.

Bart, who cannot stand these punches every day, decides to found troops consisting of pupils that have to suffer from Nelson. Together they can inflict a defeat on Nelson with the consequence that he has to leave every kid in peace.[41]

But in the other episodes he is the old tyrant again and terrifies the other children.

 

2.5.1.2 Youth gangs


Even worse than the odd young rough boy are gangs of thugs. These gangs exist in every country and in every city. They move through the streets and their only aim is to terrorise everyone who sees them. Together in a gang they are strong and courageous enough to beat other defenceless people, often of other nationality.

But also at school gangs rule. They intimidate everybody and claim protection money, otherwise they can be very violent.

 

2.5.1.3 The gang, consisting of Jimbo Jones, Dolph and Kearny


The pupils of Springfield Elementary School also have to fear a gang - consisting of Jimbo Jones, Dolph and Kearny. Together the three young boys beat up immediate classmates, go shoplifting to the Kwik W-Mart and throw rotten vegetables on Principal Skinners house.

They are really proud of being known as the worst kids in school. Often they act together with Nelson Muntz.

When Nelson falls in love with Lisa the gang wants Nelson to come with them. They try to persuade him by telling him that there is a rumour that Nelson has become well-behaved. They try to appeal on Nelson's sense of honour to be a bad guy.

Dolph: "You asked for it, man. You're broadcasting geek rays all over the entire valley."
Nelson: " 'Fraid not! I'm still wicked bad:"

Jimbo: "Oh, yeah? Then prove it, assbutt. Come raid Skinner's house with us."[42]

They know about the power they have if they are in a gang and that is something they take advantage of mercilessly. They are proud to be so violent and that they are reputed to be bullies. They cannot imagine behaving in another manner.

Nelson: "Imagine. A school out there with no bullies."

Jimbo: "Science geeks not getting' beat up. Kids using their lunch money for food."

Nelson: "I can't take it!"[43]

 

2.5.1.4 Summary


To sum up one could say that the rate of violence between youths has been growing over the last years. Especially at school there is a lack of values. Children no longer learn how to get along with each other, and the consequence of that is the violence they display.

 

3 Conclusion - why the Simpsons are my favourite comic series


Since the comic serial "The Simpsons" started in 1990 I have seen almost all of the more than 200 episodes. Every episode is brilliant, a masterpiece of comic art. The figures are drawn with so much love for detail, nearly every episode has hidden allusions on films, celebrities as guest stars or historical events (no wonder that the production of one episode costs more than 1.000.000 US $ as I lately discovered on a TV show). Every time I watch the Simpsons I discover new things I have missed so far - new gags and funny elements, which ensures that you cannot get bored watching "The Simpsons".

These are reasons that make the Simpsons that worthwhile - because it is not any same-scheme comic serial. "In Matt Groening's world of the Simpsons, a microcosm is created where moral satire and crass humour is paramount. We immerse ourselves in Springfield, indulging in the blatant truth of much of the satire."[44]

All types of personalities are represented in a certain light in order to satirize a specific aspect of society and the spread of the criticism is unbelievable wide. Nearly every sector of every-day-life is mentioned in the series. The points I have described are only a few examples. It is impossible to write an essay about all the things Groening criticises in his strips. Mainly criticised is American industry, the security system, the educational system, the mass media and politics.

The criticism is hard, but showed in a humoristic way which makes it easier for the Americans (and the rest of the world) to accept the truth. This indirect way of making people laugh helps them to laugh at others and themselves.

And another point is that nearly everybody can find himself in the series as Groening wanted to describe the average life of a normal citizen. That is why everybody should feel himself represented and made risible in a satirical way, but take it seriously enough to think about themselves. One can only regret that this disassociation from the world lasts a mere 30 minutes per episode.

To quote Horaz: Ridentum dicere verum.

The truth can be said with a smile.

Eat my shorts, man!

 

Literaturverzeichnis

Groening, M.: The Simpsons - A complete guide to our favourite family; New York 1998

Groening, M.: The Simpsons - Forever!; New York 1999

Lacayo, R.: Still under the gun. In: Time Magazine Vol. 152/ No. 27, S.31

Walsh, J.:A worlds war on bribery. In: Time Magazine Vol.151/No.25S.18f

Roth, Jürgen: Organisiertes Verbrechen und Politik. o.O, o.J.

Webseitenverzeichnis

http://www.snpp.com/other/papers/dk.paper.html

http://www.krinke.onlinehome.de/Amok/MedienUndGewalt/MedienTxt.html

http://www.tschernobylhilfe.ffb.org/archiv98.htm

http://www.greenpeace.ch/press/press_main.html

http://www.north-america.de/gewaltusa.htm

Episodenverzeichnis

Episode 9F18 "Whacking day"

Episode 7G06 "Bart the general"

Episode 4F01 "Lisa's date with density"

Episode 4F06 "Bart after dark"

Episode 4F14 „Homer vs. the eighteenth amendment"

Episode 2F12 "Homie the clown"

Episode 1F09 „Homer the vigilante"

Episode 5F01 "The cartridge family"

Episode 7F01 "Two cars in every garage and three eyes on every fish"

Episode 8f23 "Brother, can you spare two dimes?"

Episode 3G01 "The Springfield files"

Episode 2F31 "A star is Burns"

Episode 9F03 "Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie"

Episode 7F09 "Itchy & Scratchy & Marge"

Episode 3F03 "Lisa the vegetarian

Episode 3F15 "A fish called Selma"

Episode 4F16 "The canine mutiny"

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[1] See F.A.Q. on http://www.die-gelbe-familie-aus-springfield

[2] Characterizations according to http://www.snpp.com/other/papers/dk.paper.html

[3] Episode 9F03 "Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie"

[4] Siehe CD-ROM Video IS - Pinitchio

[5] Episode 7F09 "Itchy & Scratchy & Marge"

[6] Episode 3F03 "Lisa the vegetarian"

[7] http://www.krinke.onlinehome.de/Amok/MedienUndGewalt/MedienTxt.html

[8] http://www.krinke.onlinehome.de/Amok/MedienUndGewalt/MedienTxt.html

9 Episode 2F31 "A star is Burns"

[9] http://www.tschernobylhilfe.ffb.org/archiv98.htm

[10] http://www.greenpeace.ch/press/press_main.html

[11] "The Simpsons - a complete guide to our family" by Matt Groening, p.38

[12] Episode 7F01 "Two cars in every garage and three eyes on every fish"

[13] Episode 8f23 "Brother, can you spare two dimes?"

[14] e.g. Episode 3G01 "The Springfield files"

[15] Time Magazine, vol.152/no.27 "Still under the gun", p.31

[16] Time Magazine, vol.152/no.27 "Still under the gun", p.31

[17] Time Magazine, vol.152/no.27 "Still under the gun", p.31

[18] Episode 5F01 "The cartridge family"

[19] Episode 5F01 "The cartridge family"

[20] Groening, Matt "The Simpsons - forever!"

[21] Episode 5F01 "The cartridge family"

[22] Episode 1F09 „Homer the vigilante"

[23] Groening, Matt "The Simpsons - a complete guide to our family"

[24] Episode 3F15 "A fish called Selma"

[25] Episode 4F16 "The canine mutiny"

[26] Roth, Jürgen „Organisiertes Verbrechen und Politik"

[27] Roth, Jürgen „Organisiertes Verbrechen und Politik"

[28] Roth, Jürgen „Organisiertes Verbrechen und Politik"

[29] Episode 2F12 "Homie the clown"

[30] Groening, Matt "The Simpsons a complete guide to our favourite family"

[31] http://www.north-america.de/gewaltusa.htm

[32] http://www.north-america.de/gewaltusa.htm, quotation of a Daily Mail correspondent

[33] Groening, Matt "The Simpsons - forever! " p.24

[34] Time Magazine, vol.151/no.25, "The cancer of corruption", June 22, 1998

31 Time Magazine, vol.151/no.25, "The cancer of corruption", June 22, 1998

[35] Episode 4F14 „Homer vs. the eighteenth amendment"

[36] Episode 4F14 „Homer vs. the eighteenth amendment"

[37] Groening, Matt "The Simpsons - a complete guide to our family" p.160

[38] Episode 4F06 "Bart after dark"

[39] Episode 4F01 "Lisa's date with density"

[40] Episode 7G06 "Bart the general"

[41] Episode 7G06 "Bart the general"

[42] Episode 4F01 "Lisa's date with density"

[43] Episode 9F18 "Whacking day"

[44] Comment of an American friend of me to the question what the Simpsons make worthwhile for her


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