The Simpsons celebrated their 20th anniversary over the weekend and like many people, I just can’t imagine a world without the Simpsons. It’s one of those iconic shows that marks an entire generation and spans the entire globe, and how many people can say that about anything? No, it’s not like McDonald’s, a big corporate franchise that uglifies the world. The Simpsons is an institution and it’s almost universally known and loved.
For some, it’s a piece of comic satire that shows America as it really is, laid out in all its silliness, from the mundane to the downright tragic nature of a culture obsessed with happiness and with themselves. For others, it’s a cherished sub-universe that reflects the world that we know and that we live in, the people that we meet and the perceptions that we sometimes hold. But whether it’s a truly personal or philosophical love that people have for the show, it’s real love which people tend to feel for it and that’s a very special thing.
I think the most enduring legacy of the Simpsons will be the fact that it fearlessly criticizes American society without denigrating it. All of the basic values of American society, such as family and religion are preserved, even as they’re joked about. It also manages to do this without a sense of moral superiority or glorification. It’s not trying to sell the American life to anyone else or feed them the American dream. It provides scathing social criticism on important issues while making us giggle at immature and ridiculous stories. It gave America a sense of humour and a sense of reflection.
While people are used to seeing traditional depictions of the ‘good’ all-American family where everyone gets along, or super Christian after school specials that showcase the consequences of immoral behaviour and attitudes, or listening to the Conservative pundits discuss the ungodly nature of a decadent society, the Simpsons gave America the gift of self-deprecation. The gift of being able to laugh at themselves and not take themselves so seriously, but not being taken for buffoons either. That’s a fine balance to achieve and yet, this show seems to do it at almost every level almost all of the time. It is a classic, a world treasure and there will never again be anything else like the Simpsons. At least in my humble opinion.