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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What 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.
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What's the Story?
Family life for THE SIMPSONS is a chaotic blend of cheeky outbursts and consequent mending, as dad Homer (voiced by Dan Castellaneta) and son Bart (Nancy Cartwright) -- unwittingly or not -- undermine mom Marge (Julie Kavner) and daughter Lisa's (Yeardley Smith) good intentions. Bart finds joy in being a constant source of trouble. Homer earns his keep by falling asleep at the controls of Springfield's nuclear plant and drinks beer after work with fellow barflies. But within this dynamic are heartfelt scenes and clever plot lines that make the show a classic.
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.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about how different cartoon life on The Simpsons is from reality. Just because a show or movie is animated, does that lessen the impact of mature themes/content? Why, or why not?
What does responsibility mean? Would Homer and Bart get away with their antics in the real world? What types of things do the characters on this show do that people in real life could not?
How do characters like Apu perpetuate offensive stereotypes? Should White actors voice characters of color? What about the other way around?
How do the characters on The Simpsons demonstrate communication and self-control? Why are these important character strengths?
How is love for your hometown displayed in the show? What are some of your kids' favorite spots and things to do where you live?
- Premiere date: December 17, 1989
- Cast: Dan Castellaneta, Hank Azaria, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright
- Network: Fox
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters
- Character Strengths: Communication, Self-control
- TV rating: TV-14
- Last updated: March 30, 2023
Our Editors Recommend
The Jetsons meet The Simpsons.
Contrary to its title, this isn't a family show.
Outrageous, shocking humor carries a message.
The Goode Family
Smart satire about ultra-"green" family best for teens+.
King of the Hill
Wickedly funny at times, but not for all tastes.
For kids who love over-the-top humor
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