A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
Although much of the show's satirical humor can be construed as sending messages about irresponsibility, family dysfunction, and more. The underlying message is that family is always there for you when the chips are down. It's important to strive for self control and to care for others.
Positive Role Models
Really inappropriate role model behavior, but that's the joke. Homer and Bart in particular are constantly challenged to "behave," and though they don't always fully succeed, they often learn lessons about self-control and caring for others. Marge is a loving mother and wife who cares for her family. Lisa is often the voice of reason and strives for success in school and life.
Lisa often highlights the work of women she admires, but she and Marge fall into gender stereotypes: They're the responsible, put-upon characters, while Bart and Homer get to act recklessly with no repercussions. Various characters of color appear in each episode. Guest stars vary in terms of culture, race, and sexual orientation. Disabled characters appear in minor recurring roles and range from wheelchair users to deaf characters, blind characters, folks with intellectual disabilities, etc. Different body types also appear but are sometimes used as the punchline. Not all depictions are positive; the show has been criticized for its use of stereotypes -- especially Apu, the convenience store owner, who perpetuates Indian immigrant cliches.
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Violence & Scariness
Frequent slapstick and cartoon violence: car crashes, explosions, practical jokes, injuries, schoolyard bullying. Halloween specials are particularly violent, with animated disembodied limbs and heads, blood, and gore. Homer frequently chokes Bart; it's played as a joke. Sideshow Bob tries to kill Bart in every episode he appears in. One character dies each season.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Frequent sexual references both subtle (Homer calls a hot dog a "beef injection") and not-so-subtle (Homer and Marge get under the covers and giggle). Extramarital affairs are mentioned. Homer attends strip clubs and is often shown drooling when he sees women he finds attractive. Naked rear ends are shown.
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Language includes words such as "hell," "ass," "slut," "butt," "whore," "crap," and "damn." "D--k" is used in a non-sexual manner. Transphobic slurs are used in earlier seasons.
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Products & Purchases
Guest stars sometimes promote their products or media. There are also lots of off-screen tie-ins and merchandise available.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Several characters abuse alcohol (it's played for humor). Homer often drinks beer to excess. Characters are shown getting pass-out drunk, and many scenes are set in a bar. It's often implied that bus driver Otto gets high ("my name is Otto; I love to get blotto!"), and one episode focuses on the use of medical marijuana. In several instances, characters ingest mysterious liquids or foods that send them on psychedelic trips. Children misuse medication. Tobacco use.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that the jokes in The Simpsons often zip past so quickly that kids won't always get the deeper statements hidden within the long-running animated show's chronicle of the lives of dad Homer, mom Marge, son Bart, and daughters Lisa and Maggie. Life in Springfield can be chaotic, and Homer could very well be the "do not try this at home" poster boy. Lisa and Marge emphasize the importance of communication and self control, often acting as the family's consciousness. There's frequent use of "hell" and "damn," usually by Bart. Homer frequently chokes Bart, but it's played for laughs. Religion, morality, ethics, and other sensitive issues are mocked. Halloween specials are particularly violent, with characters killing each other in gruesome ways that may disturb young or sensitive viewers. Characters sometimes eat or drink things that bring on psychedelic trips. Naked rear ends (animated) are sometimes visible, and sex is the subject of jokes (which kids may not get). Characters drink beer in nearly every episode, occasionally use tobacco, and, it's implied, use pot. Guest stars vary in terms of culture, race, and sexual orientation. But the show has been criticized for its use of stereotypes -- especially convenience store owner Apu, who perpetuates Indian immigrant cliches.
Is It Any Good?
This show isn't meant to be taken seriously; it's a rollicking ride through a fantasy society, and it satirizes very human traits with wit and humor. In the course of hundreds of episodes, The Simpsons have taken on everything from alcohol abuse disorder to Burning Man to social media, keeping pace with the culture the show mocks (though earlier episodes can feel dated because of this). Many of the topics it takes on aren't appropriate for young viewers, but the humor is genial enough that most of the naughty stuff will make parents wince rather than shut off the television.
Ultimately, The Simpsons' scripts are very clever, and the cast portrays the characters with a sense of wit and care that earned it the status of TV legend. Just keep in mind that the show can be offensive at times. Sensitive subjects will come up, and they will be mocked; Bart will always behave in ways that parents would prefer kids not copy. Still, with humor that's by turns sophisticated/satirical and goofy, The Simpsons can be a great whole-family show.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.