The Simpsons Define Generation X


By Nikolaus Olsen

© Rocky Mountain Collegian, Colorado State University, February 28, 2000. Via U-Wire.

(U-WIRE) FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- Every night at 5, people gather and watch. Total strangers will sit next to each other and discuss the merits of each episode during commercial breaks.

It seems like everyone loves "The Simpsons." Strange how a cartoon can define a generation. "The Simpsons" first came on the air when most of us, now in college, were in junior high, or even younger. As the years have passed, I, like most of my friends, have kept vigil beside the television every Sunday night at 7 p.m.

Five times a week, whenever I can, I sneak over to one of many televisions in the student center tuned to the comedy. I watch for the humor and the message. The half-hour cartoon has always been popular with people who grew up in the 90's. You can see up to 13 episodes a week - even more if you can tune in to Cheyenne's FOX station. "The Simpsons" mocks the world. Creator Matt Groening pulls off zany stunts in each episode, but sends a clear message. Groening has tackled everything from gun control to education to violence on television.

Each episode is interlaced with ongoing shots at every part of America. From confused senior citizens to a cat and mouse (Itchy and Scratchy) that beat the hell out each other, from an Indian man who runs the local Kwik-E-Mart 24 hours a day to the regular drinkers in the town bar. The humor Groening uses keeps each episode timeless.

It's easy to identify with all the characters in "The Simpsons." Homer, the father, is big and dumb, but has a heart of gold. Bart is the consummate troublemaker. The cartoon is based on the "average" American family. Mom, Dad, 2.5 kids (they have a baby). Of course, the family is only based on the perception of an "average" family.

If "The Simpsons" really wanted to be like a true American family, then the parents would probably be divorced; they wouldn't live in a town full of only white people; and Homer would've died a long time ago from the cancer caused by his job at a nuclear power plant. Groening's creation paints a perfect picture of American life. Watching each episode can make you nostalgic for the simple days of being young.

Every time Bart gets beat up, I remember a few of my own school-yard pummelings. Every time Homer makes a tragic mistake, you can almost see your own bumbling father doing the same thing. It's the averageness of "The Simpsons" that has propelled the show's success. The entire story is set in the town of Springfield. The creators have never revealed what state Springfield is in. That ambiguity is typical of Groening.

He has used the show as his soapbox, making comments about society through a series of stereotyped characters. He uses a combination of high-brow and low-brow humor to carry his message. Because of the quality Groening puts into his show, he has built an almost cult-like following within an entire generation. Anyone who grew up in the 80's and 90's has been trained to catch the subtle humor and zany plots of the show.

Some may think it's sad people our age have a cartoon as one of their strongest cultural links. But it's a very real link and, somehow, that cartoon has begun to identify a generation -- the Simpsons Generation.

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Last updated on March 3, 2000 by Jouni Paakkinen (