simpsons, gay marriage & kids

In the NYTimes article covering last nite’s Simpsons, the president of the Parents Television Council is quoted as having said: “You’ve got a show watched by millions of children. Do children need to have gay marriage thrust in their faces as an issue? Why can’t we just entertain them?”

My immediate reaction was to laugh my ass off. So, in other words, we’re supposed to teach when it’s a conservative value that the Council supports but supposed to only entertain when it’s a value that the Council doesn’t share? Hmm… But seriously, when did a parent’s council ever support media that just entertains? ::laugh::

February 21, 2005

‘Simpsons’ Animates Gay Nuptials, and a Debate

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 20 – In the ongoing culture wars over whether gays should have the right to marry, an animated question reared its head on Sunday prime-time television: as goes “The Simpsons,” does the nation go, too?

In an episode titled “There’s Something About Marrying,” a longtime character on Fox’s 15-year hit – it was Marge Simpson’s sister Patty Bouvier, a closely held secret until the 8 p.m. broadcast – came out of the closet while Homer Simpson conducted dozens of same-sex weddings after small-town Springfield legalized the unions in a bid to increase tourism. As television’s longest-running situation comedy, “The Simpsons” is no stranger to hot-button social, religious and political issues, mocking wardrobe malfunctions, Hollywood liberals and born-again Christians, among other targets.

But when a show as mainstream and popular as this takes on one of the most divisive issues in American society, it is certain to attract attention. Bookmakers in the United States and England were taking bets as to which character would be revealed as homosexual, and whether there would be a kiss – a nod, perhaps, to the popular programming gimmick of having lesbian characters lock lips during sweeps periods like the current one.

But mostly, television experts, fans and advocates for gay marriage ruminated over the larger significance of the moment.

“The issue was mainstream to some degree, but now that they’ve deigned it worthy of the show it is interwoven into the fabric of popular culture,” said Ray Richmond, a television columnist for The Hollywood Reporter and co-editor of the anthology “The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family.”

He added, ” ‘The Simpsons’ bestows upon something a pop culture status it never had before, simply by virtue of being ripe for a joke.”

( posted odds on the kiss at 7 to 5, and laid odds on Patty as the favorite to come out of the closet.)

Not unexpectedly, culture warriors were swift to weigh in, both for and against the cartoon’s treatment of the issue.

“It’s saying to those who demonize homosexuality, or what they call the homosexual agenda, anything from ‘Lighten up’ to ‘Get out of town,’ ” said Marty Kaplan, associate dean of the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communication and host of a media show on the talk radio network Air America. “It sounds as though they’re saying that what the religious right calls ‘the homosexualist agenda,’ as if it were creeping Satanism, is: these people are your neighbors in the Springfield that is America.”

Indeed, in some ways the Simpsons’ fictional hometown, Springfield, has become a surrogate for mainstream, small-town America, with Homer its bumbling working-class hero. The closest parallel may well be the endearing though intolerant Archie Bunker, who became a symbol of working-class America in the 1970’s show “All in the Family.”

L. Brent Bozell III, president of the Parents Television Council, criticized “The Simpsons” for addressing the issue of gay marriage, though he cautioned that he had not seen the episode. A parental advisory preceded the broadcast.

“At a time when the public mood is overwhelmingly against gay marriage, any show that promotes gay marriage is deliberately bucking the public mood,” he said.

“I’d rather them not do it at all,” he added. “You’ve got a show watched by millions of children. Do children need to have gay marriage thrust in their faces as an issue? Why can’t we just entertain them?”

The show’s writers could not be reached for comment, and Fox declined to comment.

Since debuting in 1989, “The Simpsons” has commonly skewered the most sensitive topics of social, religious, political and cultural debate. The culture, in turn, has returned the favor. “The Simpsons” has been featured in at least one university philosophy course, in which Homer was used as a tool to understand Aristotle, Kant and Nietzsche, and in a mathematical course to explore topics like calculus and Riemannian geometry.

The show, now in its 16th season, still garners strong ratings, while reruns of episodes from past years are broadcast continually on Fox. It has become a billion-dollar franchise for the network, spawning lucrative DVD packages, books and consumer merchandise.

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14 thoughts on “simpsons, gay marriage & kids

  1. Laura Vogel

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    Also, do you know how one might get her hands on the demo tape (of ani’s) from back in the day?

  2. todd x

    Here is something i find truly disturbing, Robert Knight is the spokes-man for the Concerned Women for America.

    The problem with Knight, Bozell, and the legion of intolerant bigots is that they use the First Amendment to hide behind and totlally ingore the Ninth Amendment “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” in case anyone forgot there civics lessons.

    It is really simple, they are violating the very document they flaunt in order to achieve their monoculture of idea.

    Could go on ad nauseum, this issue really pisses me off.




    Same-sex Marriage in the Philippines

    I was caught off guard when I read a Boingboing post about a gay marriage in the Philippines. In a country where divorce is not yet legalized, where GLBTs are still generally frowned/laughed upon, and where traditional Catholic values are


    Same-sex Marriage in the Philippines

    I was caught off-guard when I read a Boingboing post about a gay marriage in the Philippines. In a country where divorce is not yet legalized, where GLBTs are still generally frowned/laughed upon, and where traditional Catholic values are still

  5. Lorcan

    We’ve only seen pics in the paper about the episode over here, god knows how long it will be before we actually get to see the damn thing? Maybe it’s the comic geek in me (and I’m doing academic writing on sexuality and batman), but applying real-world sexual identity to fantastical characters is a bit odd. How do we know that Simpson character even have genitals? they may not be sexual the same way real people are.

  6. Stacey

    I thought the Simpsons episode was great. As normal the Simpsons have pushed the edge of “conventional” televison programing.
    But my question is…the only people that I know watch the Simpsons are people who are above the age of “child”. What parent in their right mind would let their child watch this show? Even if they did, what child is going to understand what it even means?
    But even if it did, would that be so wrong? Why do we feel the need to constantly shelter children? The Simpsons are honest, over-exaggerated and real. Not sugar-coated or edited.

  7. Jovino Guza

    I say Kudos to the Simpson’s & a bigger Kudos to Fox.

    America wake up and realize that your children know more than you did at this age. Whether you live in the clouds or are open to your children about social issues. Children are having sex or sexual conversations at 8 years old. This is nothing to do with your upbringing, or teachers etc. Some of these children are having babies and still are babies. If only life was the way it was when you were young. BUT IT IS NOT FOR THIS REASON I KNOW THAT GOD LOVES EVERYMAN IT’S GREATER FOR THEM TO KNOW LOVE THAN NOT TO KNOW IT AT ALL>

  8. mjsaetta

    Bravo Fox/Gruenig/Simpsons!

    The issue is not that big, really. Except to those who choose to make it big. Live and let live. Let the children watch a wedding. It isn’t pornography, for God’s sake. Our government is in the business of defining marriage right now, so why can’t we see TV about it?

    So would some prefer a lesbian “legitimately” marrying a man? That is worse to me than 2 lesbians marrying.

    I know gay people who marry the opposite sex for the wrong reasons – to fool others into thinking they are not gay/lesbian.

    Is that a legitimate marriage?
    Is that the preference for the religious right?
    Is that what Paul meant in the bible?

    If so, I disagree with that! I would not want my daughter to marry a gay man. I would rather see 2 gay men or 2 lesbians marry each other.

    I’m interested to see your response.

  9. mjsaetta

    …also, don’t forget the other gay cartoons – sponge bob squarepants, tinky winky and Barney. Well, maybe not Barney, but he sure could be a catholic priest, a hairdresser or a florist and we all know where their tendancies lie… add him to the list too.

    The warfare, murdering and hi speed car chases and available women in gaming and TV don’t seem to be on the religious radar – but the gay love is much more important to fight for them. Why?

    BTW – What religious organizations determine the sexual preference for non-sexual television cartoons? This is a great job for someone. It fills a valuable need in our cartoons. Can I get a paying job like that? I have a resume ready.

    Nuff said?

  10. Jeremie

    “Do no think that I came to destroy the law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy, but to fulfill…Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven…” Matthew 5:17-19.

    Paul was a charlatan. Paul subverts the law (by making circumcision unnecessary in Galatians) and makes it possible for gentiles to convert to Christianity without having their cocks mutilated. Circumcision is part of the law which Jesus “did not come to destroy”. Paul destroys it, in the name of Jesus and starts a worldwide religion based upon this perversion. Christianity and Paul are inseperable, but along the same token, let’s face it, the guy was a self-contradictory egomaniac who obviously would stop at nothing to see himself at the head of the new Christian faith. Dismiss him and his stupid writings on homosexuality, women and eating practices and you’ve got a better idea of what Christianity MIGHT have become.

  11. beka

    gay marriage is ok they should let the damn gay people get married already i dont see whats so wrong with it it should have nothing to do with religon the law said that religon and government will be sepprated and so far it hasnt and its pretty shitty of bush to do im sorry people but gays should be alowd to do what they want if we cant stop mixed marriages than we dont have the right to stop gay ones its you people shouldnt be so closed minded you assholes i hope you go to hell for all the hate you have in your hearts douche crackers!!

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