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When Matt Groening's "The Simpsons" was first syndicated on FOX, it brought about a new wave of television comedy, filled with flatulence jokes, under-achieving wild children, ignorant parents, clueless administration, and the like. It was fresh and new, and was welcomed by the general public, causing The Simpsons to be one of the most successful cartoon/sitcoms in American history.

Soon after, a day wouldn't go by where you wouldn't come across some kid on the street wearing a "Don't Have A Cow, Man" or "Eat My Shorts" t-shirt or some overweight balding man yell "Doh!" But that was ok. The show still managed to keep its originality all throughout the marketing phase of its life.

But now I fear the show that was once very original and creative has fallen into a hole it has dug for itself, leaving plenty of room for overused jokes, unfunny references and situations you sworn you've seen them in once before. I remember when it was cool when The Simpsons had guest voice actors, but now basically every week they get someone to donate their voice for the good of the show, so instead of becoming something only privilaged few have done, its something almost every actor has done, sometimes more than once.

The problem? Its simply become too popular, too mainstream. The show was good when it had an edge. Now every show is modeling itself after The Simpsons in one form or another. Its just not funny anymore.

Occasionally you will see a cartoon sitcom that dares to break the rules, but they usually fall flat within a season or two. The Simpsons had the perfect ingredients to make a hit series and make it last so many years, such is the fact that no other cartoon sitcom that has come out since could ever stand a chance of entering the lives of the people who watch it like The Simpsons has.

Its downfall, sadly, is one that many artistic projects and endeavors have fallen victim to. Popularity. Remember when Pearl Jam and Soundgarden were the "alternative" bands? Now everyone models their guitar playing and singing after them. Just another example of how Americans can take something so great, splash it onto t-shirts and billboards across America and destroy something sacred.


This node is featured in My Little Black Box, an ongoing autobiography by Corey Vallejo.
http://www.vulpinearts.com/littleblackbox/

Yet, I also enjoy Family Guy, Futurama and Stone Temple Pilots. Why wouldn't I? Yes they're very similar to each other, but that does not make them bad. Quite the opposite, I find that I enjoy them for the same reasons I enjoyed their predecessors.

Not to long ago, a friend introduced me to Limp Bizkit. Even though I don't much care for hip-hop, I enjoyed what they had done with it. I dug their music and bought the album.

What seemed like a very short time later, this same friend began preaching about how bad Limp Bizkit and Fred Durst were. "They're just corporate rock," he would say. "Fred Durst is a dick," he said. "They're sell outs."

I don't understand how you can like something, be it a TV show or music, and then turn around and claim it is no longer a good thing, not because the product has changed in any measurable way, but simply because too many other people enjoy the same thing.

Have we become too much of a cult of individuality that we are incapable of finding pleasure in any thing enjoyed by another. I can't buy into that. I'm already getting old enough to feel myself slipping away from today's youth. I knew it was no longer possible for me to be "hip" when I started hearing songs produced during my senior year in high school on the oldies station.

And now I have the added indignity of being forced to purchase a new album every time a band becomes too "popular." I don't have that kind of disposable income, and I refuse to abandon those things I hold dear simply because all the rest of you like it as well.

Can't you tell that you're falling prey to the very corporate merchandising force that you claim to be attempting to rebel against? "Oh my! I heard on the 3Com MTV Granola Rocks Nike Hour that Dillon McChale isn't cool anymore! But they said Brandy Sameel is now, so I went out and bought both of her albums before anyone else in my class, and I even got this backpack with her name on it, It's a limited edition you know, only 750,000 were made for distribution in California."

I think I will continue to watch the Simpsons, and listen to the music I like. These things are cyclical anyways. I'll just wait a couple of years and they'll be cool again, just look at Aerosmith. What's that? You don't like Aerosmith or Steven Tyler? Yeah, he is just a big-lipped big studio whiner, no talent in that guy at all. Come see me again in another ten years.

Hmm. Perhaps the problem is actually that the mainstream has become too Simpsons?

It is the mainstream that's changing, not The Simpsons. If everything that's as groundbreaking and original as The Simpsons eventually seems like it's become mainstream, that's a Good Thing! Every time that happens, it means the world is becoming a more interesting place to live.

I'm not even sure if this is an accurate statement. I mean, yes, many of the shows on television now, especially on the "underdog networks" and even now on the big three are mirroring The Simpsons prototype of the disfunctional family comedy, the others now apeing the group of young yuppies format popularized by Seinfeld, The Simpsons, I maintain, has managed to keep its individuality, to keep one step ahead.

To this effect I cite the past couple seasons. Unless you've just been watching the show in syndication, you will notice that the show has just been getting plain weird. Really plain weird. To cite a few examples, last season the show revealed that jockeys are really elves who live underground (in the same episode, incidentally, the show actually makes fun of its own repetition of motifs and those that harp on them when comic-book-guy points out the fact that Lisa, who gets a horse in this episode, had had a horse before, and homer had been forced to take a second job, "with hilareous consequences".) And THIS season has really cut the mold open from the first episode, where in the first five minutes they throw so many bizzare jokes and oddities at you that you stop wondering whether the writers were on drugs and start wondering if you are. Skinner's Sense of Snow was also incredibly odd (and again played the show continuity error card when Flanders asks Homer whatever happened to his plow and Homer, wearing the Mr. Plow jacket and humming the Mr. Plow song ("call Mr. Plow. That's my name. that name again is Mr. Plow denies ever having had a snow plow.) Taking the cake however, and amazing me was The Computer Wore Menace Shoes. The entire episode was a tribute to the late 60's television show The Prisoner, which is not exactly mainstream and is more than a little odd. And yet The Simpsons, a show with undeniable mass appeal and watched by many, managed to make a show that would amuse the hell out of maybe ten percent of its viewership, and leave the rest dumbfounded, but satisfied.

Even if The Simpsons reflects popular culture a little too well, that's not necessarily a bad thing; the best art SHOULD resonate with its time and its audience. The Simpsons is undoubtedly both a reflection and an agent in the world in which it lives, and we should be grateful rather than disgusted that it has managed to reach so many despite its intelligence and odd humor.

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