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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the jokes in the long-running The Simpsons often zip past so quickly that kids won't get the deeper statements hidden within. Life in Springfield can be chaotic, and Homer could very well be the "do not try this at home" poster boy. You'll hear frequent "hell" and "damn," usually uttered by Bart. Homer frequently chokes Bart, but it's played for laughs. Religion, morality, ethics, and other sacred cows are mocked. Halloween specials are particularly violent, with characters killing each other in gruesome ways that may disturb young or sensitive viewers. Characters sometimes ingest food or drink that brings on psychedelic trips. Naked rear ends (animated) are sometimes visible, and sex is the subject of jokes (which kids may not get). Beer is consumed in every episode, bad habits are obliged, and ignorance and mockery are the norm, but somehow everyone gets along in the end.
What's the story?
Family life for THE SIMPSONS is a chaotic blend of cheeky outbursts and consequent mending, as Homer (voiced by Dan Castellaneta) and Bart (Nancy Cartwright) -- unwittingly or not -- undermine Marge (Julie Kavner) and 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 who make the cast of Cheers look tame. But within this dynamic are heartfelt scenes and clever plot lines that make THE SIMPSONS 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. Audiences will find it to be a treat during troubled times. How else to explain the success of something so inane yet so undeniably witty? In the course of over 500 shows, The Simpsons have taken on everything from alcoholism to Burning Man to social media, keeping pace with the culture it mocks. Many of the topics it takes on are not suitable for young viewers, but the humor is genial enough that most of the naughty stuff will make parents merely wince rather than shut off the television.
Ultimately, The Simpsons' scripts are terribly clever, and the cast portrays the characters with a sense of wit and care that has catapulted the series into TV legend. Just keep in mind that the show is pretty rude. Sensitive subjects will come up, and they will be mocked; Bart will always behave in ways that parents would prefer kids not emulate. Still, with humor that's by turns sophisticated/satirical and third-grade goofy, The Simpsons is the ideal whole-family show -- so long as you're not easily offended.
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 mean it's OK for kids? 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 the Simpsons show each other their true feelings? When all is said and done, are they a happy family or a contentious one?
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