The Simpsons is and will always be one of the most iconic television shows in popular culture. Although the shows concept grew as a large part of American popular culture, the Simpsons have found a global audience over its 24 years on television. Even if you don’t watch a lot of television or any television at all you will at least know one of the characters from the show. Plus the characters have now surpassed their TV origin and serve commercial purposes too. Their main website shows just how much they have grown: http://www.thesimpsons.com/#/about
As a youngster (okay, so i’m not that old yet – early 20’s… i just feel old) I remember watching the Simpsons and laughing hysterically at times at the characters silly performances and at the witty humour of the scripted episodes. However, over time I began to realize the media’s nature of reinforcing negative stereotypes socially constructed by those in society and even racism, marketing it as an acceptable form of entertainment. After all comedy is and should be about making fun of life and yourself, right? Hmm, well let’s consider this…
In the Simpsons Lenny who is white and Carl who is black are the best of friends and co-workers at the Nuclear power plant. They do everything together and demonstrate that race is not an issue when it comes to true friendship, especially in a society where there is tension between black and white people.
However, there have been instances where their difference of race has been brought up for comedic purposes. I remember one part in the Simpsons movie (2007) where Springfield town mayor, Mayor Quimby declares a state of emergency: Code black and then Lenny makes a comment that is part of a racist joke:
Lenny: Black? that’s the worst colour there is. No offence there Carl. – Carl: I get it all the time.
Now, I know the Simpsons has always poked fun at people but it just doesn’t feel right that such a comment should be accepted as a joke and not mean anything. Carl’s response is even more embarrassing as he just accepts it as normal, as something he just has to put up with which I think has some reflection on real life. Racism as a source of ‘laughs’ in television has blurred the barriers. It is so blatant and we see it all the time so now people are just desensitized to it, and feel that it is okay. It’s not okay to be racist and making people feel that racism disguised as comedy makes it more acceptable is wrong. Even if Carl had made the joke about himself I still wouldn’t have found it funny… Am I just over reacting here or is this not a fair point? Especially considering children watch the show as well… What message is this sending to them?
Image taken from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/0/06/Lennyandcarl.png/250px-Lennyandcarl.png