End the Simpsons #4 – Cosmetic Consistency Has Its Limits

“Look at me – er ah – mom, I am – er ah – President Kennedy.” – Homer Simpson
Just about any time someone writes an article praising The Simpsons for its longevity they’ll mention what an advantage it is to be a cartoon.  The characters don’t get any older (or wider) and so the show can be timeless.  In 1995 or even 2000 it was true; but these days it’s a superficial and increasingly nonsensical point.  
The Simpsons has been on for so long now that the world itself has changed around them and as a result the characters no longer epitomize what they’re supposed to be satirizing.  Homer and Marge are exquisitely crafted late model Baby Boomers; they came of age in the seventies and became adults in the eighties.  He’s a union guy; she’s a housewife; they have cranky World War II generation parents, they go to church out of a sense of duty and their kids lead unstructured, small town lives.  They are run of the mill late 1980s Americans, that is when they were created and that is the context in which they best fit.  
Homer and Marge are supposed to be in their mid to late thirties, but in 2009 real people who are in their mid to late thirties are Generation Xers.  They grew up on MTV and video games and they don’t typically go to church; their kids go on play dates and it’s their parents who are the Baby Boomers.  Yes, these are stereotypes and generalizations, but stereotypes and generalizations have always been The Simpsons stock in trade.  Are there still people like Homer and Marge?  Of course, but neither of them is the archetype they once were.  The Simpsons may not have aged but America did, and it takes increasinly zany nonsense to shoehorn old characters into modern situations. 
The show is on Season 20, but culturally speaking it’s going to enter its fourth decade next year.  The characters can always be drawn the same way, but that doesn’t keep them from showing their age.


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