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NCFM Mr. Manners,  In Defense of the Simpsons. Mr. Manners Tackles Television (Satire)

January 1, 2022

Homer Simpson

Early this century, “The National Organization for Women” announced that they actually found a few television programs that depicted the sexes in a fair way. One of the them being “The Simpsons.”  Perhaps it was the episode in which the dad of the show Homer Simpson, engaged in humiliating acts for money?  One of these acts resulted in Homer being raped by a panda ( Homer _Dignity 2001). Could it be that NOW realized the inter-species sexual assault was done in an egalitarian and non-sexist way?

“Time” magazine in its end of 20th century issue, named “The Simpsons” the greatest show of the century. They observed: “The Simpsons have surpassed the humor, topicality and, yes, humanity of past tv greats (The Best of the Century-Time, Dec 31 1999).” What made the show so humanitarian? It couldn’t be the panda rape episode. That program was at the beginning of the twenty first century. Perhaps it was the repeated choking of Bart by his father, which had already occurred numerous times on the program by then.

Still, what is it that makes the program stand out for its compassion in the eyes of a major news magazine such as “Time”?  The male characters are stupider, less ethical and suffer more bad consequences than the female ones. But this is television as we know it.

sexual harassment

Mr. Manners

Perhaps the answer is found in an episode that parodied the Academy Award winning movie “The “Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind.” That being the episode titled “The Eternal Moonshine of the Simpson Mind”, which aired on December 16th 2007. The episode won the Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program (for Programming for Less than One Hour), as well as receiving a number of rave reviews from television critics. It was also praised by a Simpsons show runner, as one of two Simpsons episodes that could be equivalent of a series finale (Wikipedia, Eternal Moonshine of the Simpson Mind).

It’s not that the show did not endure criticism. Television critic Richard Keller noted: “by far, this was the most interesting episode (of the season) …. True, it was another Homer-centric episode – one of too many this season (Ibid. Wikipedia Eternal Moonshine).” I interpret his criticism as exemplifying the media disdain of Hollywood movies and television programs being to male-centric.

Regarding the Homer-centric nature of the Simpson’s, he has a point. Particularly in comparison to the portrayal of Homer’s wife Marge. Simpson’s writer George Meyer explained: “The problem with writing Marge is that you can’t have her do stupid or kooky things, because people think that’s woman-bashing. And yet you can’t make her a totally PC. Superwoman. https://www.newyorke .com/magazine 2000/03/13/taking-humor-seriously.” He was stating the obvious. The more critical the media is of the way women are depicted; the more wary writers are of doing shows featuring women. As Homer Simpson would say, “doh”.  Being male, Homer is able to appear in numerous scenes where he is not just verbally, but physically bashed. If that is not male Homer-centric privilege what is?

But the episode was clearly not just Homer-centric, but male-centric. Take the treatment of the town’s most popular entertainer, Krusty the Clown. Critic Robert Canning observed: “this episode was an absolute pleasure to watch. Watching him (Krusty) get beaten like a piñata by the people he offended at the Latin Grammys was priceless (The Simpsons: “Eternal Moonshine of the Simpson Mind” Review Robert).”  Was Canning blind to the male-centrism of the scene?

In another male dominated scene, Homer knocked out a male orderly who his father Grandpa, identified as a problem at his Senior Citizen home. Then Grandpa realized the problematic guy was a different orderly, meaning Homer knocked out the wrong guy. Oops!

Also, Scrat the squirrel from the movie “Ice Age”: “is beaten and swatted away by Grounds Keeper Willie (Ibid; Wikipedia Eternal Moonshine).” This is more male domination of the show. Both the perpetrator and recipient of the violence being male.

So, what made the episode good enough to win an Emmy despite such anti-female sexism? For one thing, the show took on the subject of domestic violence against women. There’s a subject not talked about by the mainstream media. It is true that women commit such violence against men at least as frequently as men do against women (See for instance, Professor Martin Fiebert who has compiled the largest data base on the planet about domestic violence, especially violence against men”  Also, that Bart being choked by Homer’s constitutes domestic violence. But then Bart is mere child, who cares?

Early in the episode, Homer sees that Marge has a black-eye, but cannot remember how it happened. Could he, the choker as his son Bart sometimes refers to Homer, be capable of violence, in truth there was no mystery here. Anybody aware of social mores as displayed on television, knew the choker would not commit such a violent act.

In his search to find out what happened to Marge, as well as other inexpiable occurrence, Homer is attached to a machine, where he can relive past experiences, as well as create new ones. While in this flashback, Homer has a number of adventures. Bart beats him up a couple of times, as Homer travels through his youth. Also of course, the adult Homer chokes Bart during this memory flashback.  But then what classic Simpson’s episode could be without that long running gag?

Homer returns from the memory recall machine to real life. Mistakenly, from what he learned while in the machine, he believes Marge is having an affair and that he punched her when he found out. He goes to a bridge where he plans to jump off and end his life. He starts to reconsiders it, but his sisters- in-laws push him off the bridge anyway.

Later, the sisters make a humorous denial about trying to kill him. Wikipedia had a different interpretation of the women’s remarks. (Ibid Eternal Moonshine). However, I think it is clear that the intention of the writers is that the sisters were trying to kill him. Regardless, this scene is clearly Homer-centric. After all, he is the one pushed from the bridge. The shows ending is also male centered. It turns out the mysteries were an attempt to hide from Homer that Marge was throwing a surprise party for him.

So, let’s sum up the male-centric nature of the twenty-two-minute episode. The show included an assault on a lovable male squirrel. A man Krusty, the town’s most popular entertainer, was savagely beaten. An innocent male caretaker was knocked out. Homer was beaten up twice by Bart and Homer choked Bart. Not to mention Homer being pushed off the bridge.

Regardless, the central question of the show was how Marge got her blackeye. It turned out the show was not violent. Marge’s black-eye was an accident. Who would have thought?  So, did the show exemplify the humanity and fairness it has been praised for. Or did it reek from anti-female sexism of male-centrism?

The democratic means to solve this is the reaction of the America public. Despite 10.15 million viewers watching the original broadcast, I could find no negative reaction by the public. Therefore, I conclude the show exhibited the gender equality that “The Simpsons” is admired for.

More evidence. People involved with “The Simpsons” are not averse to correcting injustices exhibited on the program. For instance, five-time Emmy winning white actor Hank Azaria decided to no longer do the voice of the Indian American character Apu.  Azaria remarked: “Part of me feels like I need to go around to every single Indian person in this country and personally apologize (” No such apology was made by any show member regarding any aspect of the Moonshine episode. I rest my case.

While exhibiting such moral character, the program is still able to repeat many of its recurring non-discriminatory gags. As mentioned, the seemingly endless mishaps involving Homer in which he suffers major physical pain and of course the frequent choking of Bart. God bless the Simpson’s and its humanity.

national coalition for men

NCFM Mr. Manners, In Defense of the Simpsons. Mr. Manners Tackles Television (Satire)

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5 Responses to NCFM Mr. Manners,  In Defense of the Simpsons. Mr. Manners Tackles Television (Satire)

  1. Banake on February 24, 2022 at 1:45 PM

    (I assume some media about women sacrificing for someone else must exist, but I don’t recall coming across it as easly as I come across the Captain Marvels and The Invisible Mans of the word.)

  2. Banake on February 24, 2022 at 1:38 PM

    Well, being fair, the show presented Homer’s leaving his dream job as a negative for Homer, and shows his only motivation for doing it was his love for his daughter. That said, yeah, I can’t really think of a lot of media that teach girls/women self sacrifice for others off the top of my head. Most it is just how women are either powerful or oppressed. :-/

  3. Mr. Manners on January 9, 2022 at 10:14 AM

    Yes, that show about the bowling alley was an example I almost used in an article I wrote long ago. Homer was saying how perfect his life was and Marge got pregnant changing his life greatly. Yet millions watched nobody notices or cares. Well you and me Banake.\

  4. Banake on January 7, 2022 at 5:32 AM

    Being fair, the episode “And Maggie Makes Three” (The one were Homer has to quit his dream job at a bowlling alley when Maggie is born) could very well be used to illustrate how male gender roles were not always good for men. In fact, that episode was the first thing I though about when I read the following passage of Jack Kammer’s Heroes of the Blue Sky Rebellion:

    In his book I Don’t Want To Talk About It, Terrence Real tells a story about his family: “My father… worked his way through [art school]. Sculpture… was his great passion. But my father had three hungry people to care for, and so he switched his major from fine art to industrial design. Years later, he told me that a part of him had died on the day he went to the registrar’s office to make the change.”

    In 2001 writer Cathy Young observed, “In one couple I know, the father had to drop out of a graduate program in music when he learned that a baby was on the way; he finds his current corporate job boring and exhausting and hates the long hours away from his son. The mother, who quit an office job she never much liked, seems to be enjoying her time at home. Who’s making the sacrifice?”

    • Mr. Manners on January 11, 2022 at 3:01 PM

      Banake,I remember that Simpson’s episode. Homer was saying how his life was perfect and he had his (everyone’s) dream job, working in a bowling alley. It ended because his wife was pregnant. Millions watched the show. Try the reverse, with a woman giving up their dream job and see how people react.

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