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The Simpsons The Simpsons does more than make us laugh. Do you agree or disagree? Long running animated comedy The Simpsons is known for making its audience laugh at the outrageous antics of its larger than life characters. However, The Simpsons does more than just make us laugh. It challenges us to think about issues we deal with on a daily basis such as morality, institutional power, and politics, giving us an avenue in which we can release tension we have built up over such issues through laughter at the characters’ unconventional handlings of situations arising from these issues.

The issue of morality arises in many episodes of The Simpsons. In “Bart Gets an F”, we see Bart trying to cheat his way through school. When threatened with having to repeat the fourth grade, he forgoes a day of playing in the snow in order to study for a test. Though hard work and “prayer; the last resort of a scoundrel”[1], he demonstrates enough knowledge to be advanced to the fifth grade. This episode thus imparts the moral message to audiences that while cheaters never prosper, hard work paves the way to success.

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When Homer finds success in “Simpson and Delilah” not through hard work, but through an immoral acquisition of a hair re-growth product, his downfall (as suggested by the episode title) is imminent. When Smithers discovers that Homer has charged the hair re-growth product to the nuclear power plant, Homer loses his promotion along with his hair. One cannot ignore the moral message that stealing has its consequences in this episode anymore than one can disregard the prevalent theme of oppression under the institutional power of the media.

Homer’s act of immorality can be seen as an act of desperation, as he is made by the media to feel inadequate without hair. And the fact that he is taken seriously and promoted at work once he has hair, illustrates how instrumental institutional powers such as the media are in shaping the way we think and act. Politics also have an effect on the way we think and act. This is reflected in “Two Cars in Every Garage, Three Eyes for Every Fish” when Montgomery Burns attempts to influence voters to elect him governor so that he may bypass safety regulations at the nuclear power plant.

Burns stoops to commit dishonest and immoral acts such as making empty promises and investigating his opponent in the hopes of smearing her name. After immorally and detrimentally affecting the condition of a lake near the nuclear power plant to produce a three-eyed fish, he uses the institutional power he has as a political candidate for governor to accuse people wary of the “miracle”[2] fish as being prejudiced. He receives his moral retribution however, when Marge serves him the fish at a dinner and he spits it out.

As one reporter at the scene wryly comments, “Burns can’t swallow own story”[3]. So while The Simpsons do make us laugh, they do something much more significant. In encouraging us to think about issues such as morality, institutional power, and politics as portrayed in the show, characters who’s over the top personalities seem so irrelevant to our own lives, suddenly become significant as they provide a comical parallel to important issues that we deal with on a daily basis.

In short, The Simpsons does more than make us laugh; it helps us make light of mundane issues that weigh us down. ———————– [1] Simpson, Lisa, The Simpsons, “Bart Gets an F” [2] Burns, Montgomery, The Simpsons, “Two Cars in Every Garage, Three Eyes for Every Fish” [3] Reporter, The Simpsons, “Two Cars in Every Garage, Three Eyes for Every Fish”

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