I Didn\'t Do It: How The Simpsons Affects Kids


The Simpsons is one of Americas most popular television shows. It ranks
as the number one television program for viewers under eighteen years of age.
However, the ideals that The Simpsons conveys are not always wholesome,
sometimes not even in good taste. It is inevitable that The Simpsons is
affecting children.
Matt Groening took up drawing to escape from his troubles in 1977. At
the time, Groening was working for the L.A. Reader, a free weekly newspaper. He
began working on Life in Hell, a humorous comic strip consisting of people with
rabbit ears. The L.A. Reader picked up a copy of his comic strip and liked what
they saw. Life in Hell gradually became a common comic strip in many free
weeklies and college newspapers across the country. It even developed a cult
status. (Varhola, 1)
Life in Hell drew the attention of James L. Brooks, producer of works
such as Taxi, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and Terms of Endearment. Brooks
originally wanted Groening to make an animated pilot of Life in Hell. Groening
chose not to do so in fear of loosing royalties from papers that printed the
strip. Groening presented Brooks with an overweight, balding father, a mother
with a blue beehive hairdo, and three obnoxious spiky haired children. Groening
intended for them to represent the typical American family "who love each other
and drive each other crazy". Groening named the characters after his own family.
His parents were named Homer and Margaret and he had two younger sisters named
Lisa and Maggie. Bart was an anagram for "brat". Groening chose the last name
"Simpson" to sound like the typical American family name. (Varhola, 2)
Brooks decided to put the 30 or 60 second animations on between skits on
The Tracy Ullman Show on the unsuccessful Fox network. Cast members Dan
Castellaneta and Julie Kavner did the voices of Homer and Marge. Yeardley Smith
(later to star in Herman\'s Head) did the voice of Lisa. Nancy Cartwright did
the voice of Bart. Cartwright previously supplied the voices for many cartoons,
including Galaxy High, Fantastic Max, Richie Rich, Snorks, Pound Puppies, My
Little Pony, and Glo-Friends. Tracy Ullman later added Cartwright to her cast.
(Dale and Trich, 11)
Brooks, Groening, and Sam Simon, Tracy Ullman\'s producer, wanted to turn
the Simpson family into their own show. The Fox network was looking for
material to appeal to younger viewers. The only show they had that drew a young
audience was Married With Children. To Fox\'s pleasure, The Simpsons saved the
network from near failure. (Varhola, 3)
On December 17, 1989, The Simpsons got their break. The Christmas
special, "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire" aired. (Dale and Trich, 19)
In the episode, Bart got a tattoo, much to Marge\'s dislike. She
quickly spent all of the family\'s Christmas money to remove Bart\'s tattoo with a
laser. At the same time, Homer, still on his morning coffee break at 4:00 in
the afternoon, learns that he will not receive a Christmas bonus. When he
learns that Marge is relying on the money for Christmas, he decides that he will
do the Christmas shopping for the year. He quickly buys Marge panty hose, Bart
paper, Lisa crayons, and Maggie a dog toy. When he realizes that he is not
doing very well, he gets a second job as a mall Santa for the extra money. On
the way home from work, he steals a Christmas tree. The next day at the mall,
Bart sits on his Dad\'s lap and pulls down his beard. Homer responds by choking
Bart and making him help make Christmas better. On Christmas Eve, Homer
receives his check, $13.70 for over 40 hours work. Homer takes Bart to the dog
track as a final chance for Christmas money. They discovered a gem in the third
race, Santa\'s Little Helper. How could this dog loose on Christmas Eve? The
odds were 99 to 1, they were going to be rich. Homer put all of his money on
Santa\'s Little Helper, and to his horror, he never even finished. As Homer and
Bart were scouring the parking lot for winning tickets into the night, they saw
the track manager throw out a dog. It was not just any dog, it was Santa\'s
Little Helper. When Bart and Homer came home to their worried family, they had
a good Christmas after all. Now they had a dog. (Pond)
"Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire" was not the typical Christmas story.
It dealt with body