Monday, October 10, 2011

Quick Analysis: The Simpsons and Technology

Since there was no new episode this week, I decided to push this up a week. I know I should have done Midnight Towboy here since I missed it on Friday, but I elected for this instead. Now, this is going to be a segment where I take a look at something done in the modern episodes and explain how they either stray away from the classics or remain rather close. So without further ado, let's take a look at how the show handles technology. (Note: I'm sure I'll miss a couple of examples that could help my point, if you can think of anything I missed, just post them in the comments)

The two biggest examples that have been drastically changed in my opinion is the car and the TV.

The Car:
The car was basically a piece of junk that a lower-middle class American would probably drive; bent fenders, occasional tailpipe falling off, manual locks, roll-down windows, etc. but perhaps the one change that rubs me the wrong way the most (Not going to throw a fit about it though, just annoys me) is the change from them having an 8-track player to CD player. Now having a CD player isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I can't help to feel that the CD player was a springboard to the GPS, IPod, and other modern technology (Heck there was even a subplot where Homer had a car just for the sake of the writers to throw in as much technology as possible). Really, the 8-track really defined how crappy the car was in my opinion and they kept it for a long time, which really helped to represent how rather poor the family was. This leads me into the TV argument.

The TV:
The TV change really symbolized just how badly this show did not belong past the 90's and just how out-of-place it feels today. The rabbit-ear antenna again was an icon of this show, it really represented the 90's rather well, being a kid of the 90's, rabbit ears were a huge part of growing up, fidgeting with them and having no two channels getting the same reception with a certain alignment. But with less and less need for them including the forced change to DTV, the need for rabbit ears was dying and thus the show changed as well. They scrapped the rabbit ears, along with the bulky TV for an HD flatscreen... this is the same family that would go hundreds of miles to shop for 'Panaphonics' and 'Sorny' the idea of them having a flatscreen is just so very wrong and the additions they added (Tivo being the worst) just really shows us that this is a show out of its time era.

Now those are the two biggest, but I'll go over some of the smaller points in smaller detail

Cell phones:
Just... NO! Why don't we just resurrect Animaniacs or something and throw Wakko or Yakko texting pictures of their junk to the censors as pranks (Although that would be funnier than any texting-based jokes this show has attempted). The point remains as this is another out-of-place reference that the writers just don't understand how to integrate naturally with the show (Seriously, cell phones are never just a side object of a scene). You can call this point as a "It's different so it sucks" but really, seeing characters like Mr. Burns using a cell phone or seeing something like a family member texting just doesn't feel right.

Video Game systems:
Yes I know that Bart basically had an Atari 2600 in season 1 (Moaning Lisa), but again, the writers just don't get how to incorporate this and make it funny. If you didn't know it already, I HATE the Wii references in this show, fortunately there haven't been too many, but when they're placed in they are terrible and miss out on SO many jokes. Or how about video games in general, remember that "Bart playing WoW" episode (Because I don't, it was very forgettable) or how about in that oh-so clever 9-0-2-1-0 'parody' where Homer spends about 30 seconds teabagging a guy in a not so subtle Halo knock-off? Moaning Lisa had some clever jokes about Mike Tyson's Punch-Out that poked fun at the game, now? They just find footage on Youtube of people playing these games and do exactly what they do.

Apple Products:
RIP Steve Jobs, now that we have that out of the way, let's talk about this a bit more in detail. How many times between season 1-10 can you recall a family member using a portable CD player or tape player? Now, how many times in the last 5 seasons alone can you think of an Apple product of some sort being used by one of the family members? From memory (Correct me if I'm wrong) the latter wins here, heck there was an entire episode dedicated to Lisa having an IPod, was it funny? Did it make fun of the IPod? Did it satirize how dependent people are becoming of their portable MP3 players that losing it would cause most people to go into a state of panic? The answers to all of those questions is a resounding no, it was just "Lisa has an IPod and we reference a huge IPhone bill" (Rule of comedy; make sure your references make sense, just because they're both Apple, doesn't mean they connect).

Really all I have to end this on is just this thought; The writers are losing their audience by the week and losing touch with the modern world. So instead of going back to what made them so great, they will just throw in as much technology and references as possible hoping in vain people will watch and say "Hey I know that event" or "Hey I own that item" or even "Hey I knew that thing". The reality is that it dates the episodes miserably, and it's not that enjoyable the first time around. With all that, I'll see you guys again later.


  1. A point you missed might have been HOW much stuff they have. It shows two flatscreens, one in the living room and one in Bart's room, three fairly new computers, laptops, cellphones, the list goes on. I thought this was supposed to be a lower-middle class family, not a very wealthy one.

  2. Yeah I probably could have elaborated a bit more on that. I know that money can vary on this show (Even in the classics, Homer could be flat broke one episode, and in another have $1100 to spend on play money) but you're right, they're a lower-middle class family that resorts to buying knock-off products, seeing them with all that stuff is just wrong.

    Heck, if I may recall an episode for a second, in the Kill Gil episode, Homer claims to make $6000 a year, yet they're able to drive out to Arizona and buy a new house... These writers aren't nearly as down to Earth as the Classic ones were, and don't quite understand the whole "Family trying to make it through life with limited money" concept.

  3. You mean Mapple? Because we all know that putting an M on everything is funny, right?

  4. Yep, I do agree. One jarring, though not immediatley obvious but once you realise it - yeah, example of the difference between the classic episodes and the more modern episodes is how well off the family appears to be financially. Nowadays, they may as well be depicted as yuppies.

    Some classic episodes even point out to the fact that they are essentially working class; it all seems phony now, they may as well be living in Stepford and have Homer drink chardonay instead of Duff. Hell, just throw in a soy half-caf latte at work each day. (Sorry for stereotypes there).

    Besides, as with the classic episodes - did they need to play SNES or Sega games, listen to Nirvana, "reference" Home Alone or Jurassic Park, wear parachute pants, constantly "debate" Sonic vs Mario, watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (or some akin knockoff), guest star Guns N Roses, promote Hulk Hogan, make promos out of guest starring Kelsey Grammer for Frasier, be watching Twin Peaks, have paralells of the LA Race Riots for social commentary, attempt Beavis and Butt-head's humour to compete in ratings or have the writers force their opinions of Bill Clinton constantly amongst other examples (sorry if there is alot, had to prove a point) to be and remain relevant? Would it have been funny? Short answer;

  5. Actually I meant 'Sprapple' because putting 'SPR-' in front of anything means instant comedy on this show nowadays.

  6. This Analysis reminded me of the good old days, the episode "There's No Disgrace Like Home" supports the argument of the Simpsons being lower middle class; they had to pawn the TV to pay for therapy. It's sad that the writers whore out the show with barely any payoff

  7. Well "Lower-Middle class family" is very relatable to the average family (Making sacrifices for the sake of a low income, being there for each other, etc). So of course, the writers being the geniuses they are, decide that The Simpsons have as much money as they could ever need despite having a low income, thus 'budget' is never in their vocabulary.

    I could probably do another analysis on the concept of "Lower-middle class family" if given enough time. I'll think about it