With The Simpsons movie in theaters, and every fucking 7-11 converted into a massive walk-in advertisement for the show, I have finally decided to speak out about why I have hated this overrated, overquoted TV show for 17 years.
When The Simpsons debuted on Fox back in 1990, I was primed to love it. I’d been reading Groening’s stuff in alt.weeklies for years, and was into the idea of an indie cartoonist making it big on what passed for an indie network at that time. But as the action unfolded that season, I grew depressed, then angry.
I was watching yet another network TV show that gave us yuks by lampooning a working class family full of stupid men and smart-but-indulgent women. This was the era when the show Roseanne was going full-blast, and I loved it because we finally had a working-class comedy where the characters dealt with real-life problems (not being able to pay bills), weren’t the butt of the show’s jokes (instead, they made the jokes), and didn’t fit known stereotypes (one daughter, Darlene, was a comic book geek).
On The Simpsons, however, the characters are nothing but stereotype. They’re practically Pyncheonesque in their emptiness — not people, but objects who get driven through various pastiches in order to become the butt of the audience’s arch, ironic jokes. I didn’t give a shit about any of them. The only way I could enjoy these characters was to say, “Haha look at the funny dumb poor people who are so incredibly stupid that they actually work at nuclear power plants.”
Problem is, I actually don’t find that funny.
Yes, it’s true that there’s one rich guy on the show, Mr. Burns, who is also the butt of jokes, but let’s face it: the whole point of The Simpsons is to let us have our postmodern Archie Bunker in the character of Homer, and quote all the moronic things he says to our media-savvy, smarty-smart friends.
The Simpsons feels like an early 1970s show wrapped up in a form of Gen X knee-jerk irony that was hip 17 years ago and hasn’t been funny since The Daily Show rewrote the rules for U.S. TV satire. So now there’s nothing left about The Simpsons that’s interesting anymore: not only do we have the same old recycled “blue collar idiot” jokes that mainstream comedy has provided for at least 100 years, but they’re told in a satirical style that’s about as fresh as a Sonic Youth album.