Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
The popular American TV cartoon The Simpsons is universally and consistently described as America’s, or TV’s “favorite dysfunctional family.” So it was in “Vermont town named home of ‘The Simpsons,’” July 12th. I suppose one reason for the common use of this adjective - “dysfunctional” - is because the news articles that use it originate with the same news service and are distributed worldwide as syndicated pieces for print. In other words, use of this word describing the Simpson family has been monopolized. But I think it is completely and demonstrably false, however, and the Simpsons family is, in fact, eminently functional. But in America’s self-centered culture claiming“dysfunction” has become a pop diagnosis of all manner of ills and, not unexpectedly, the word has come to be misused as its perceived meaning evolves. American culture is conspicuously self-centered, brazenly self-promoting, and crassly allergic to individual responsibility and good taste. Claiming “dysfunction” is an easy way to avoid responsibility while courting publicity and pity. I don’t mean that the culture is bad, depraved or corrupt for any of that. That’s just what it is.
Homer Simpson is cartoonishly stupid. But he is successfully employed and married. He keeps his family housed, fed and clothed. He attends church. His children are in school without any conflict with the law. And by the end of each episode of the show Homer and Bart always do the right thing. Furthermore, the Springfield community is a successfully functioning multi-cultural town reflecting modern America - or, at least, exposing the persistent stereotypes used by Americans when imagining and making fun of themselves. You have the working class Homer, the Hindu store keeper, the Jewish entertainer, the Christian fundamentalist, the African American and Asian American doctors, corrupt politician, the Italian mobsters, the local millionaire, the closeted gay guy, the school bully, and more.
I hated The Simpsons when it first appeared, but now I admire it for the humor and the craft that goes into its production.
Published on Wednesday, July 25, 2007 as “Admirable, humorous production.”
It is simply dishonesty to continue calling The Simpsons “America’s favorite dysfunctional family.” I think people are looking at the show without seeing it, and also deluding themselves about the reality of their surroundings as well. It betrays lack of imagination to just continue repeating the same phrase like a mantra. Repeating it often does not make it true, although that is certainly the line of propagandists: disinformation repeated often enough becomes information.