The SimpsonsLatest News and Opinion
Posted Wednesday 4/18/18 at 6:54AM EDT
Recalling when Barbara Bush was pen pals with Marge Simpson
The former first lady and mother to President George W. Bush, who died on Tuesday at age 92, left her mark on pop-culture in 1990 when she found herself embroiled in a controversy with The Simpsons, which was in its second season. The then-first lady, speaking to People magazine, said of the Fox cartoon, “It was the dumbest thing I had ever seen, but it’s a family thing, and I guess it’s clean.” That quote ended up being shortened to the much harsher sounding "the dumbest thing (she) had ever seen," which prompted a letter from Marge Simpson to the first lady. "I recently read your criticism of my family. I was deeply hurt," wrote Marge. "Heaven knows we're far from perfect and, if truth be known, maybe just a wee bit short of normal; but as Dr. Seuss says, 'a person is a person.'" Barbara Bush responded with a "Dear Marge" letter. "How kind of you to write. I'm glad you spoke your mind; I foolishly didn't know you had one," the first lady wrote. "I am looking at a picture of you, depicted on a plastic cup, with your blue hair filled with pink birds peeking out all over. Evidently, you and your charming family — Lisa, Homer, Bart and Maggie — are camping out. It is a nice family scene. Clearly you are setting a good example for the rest of the country." Bush added: "Please forgive a loose tongue," ending her letter with "P.S. Homer looks like a handsome fella!"
- Today's Jenna Bush Hager pays tribute to her grandmother: "I already miss this FORCE of a woman— the “enforcer” because she was the glue that held our family together"
- Watch Barbara Bush hold her own in a 1994 visit to David Letterman's Late Show
Posted Tuesday 4/17/18 at 1:41PM EDT
The Simpsons writer reveals what was cut from the Steamed Hams episode
Former Simpsons writer Josh Weinstein has shared the second draft of the famous episode.
Posted Monday 4/16/18 at 11:31PM EDT
The Simpsons' Apu controversy is what happens when a show is stuck in an eternal 1990
"The show seems to take pride in the way it hasn’t changed since 1989, even as change is a fact of life," Todd VanDerWerff says of "the horrible way" showrunner Al Jean has reacted to the controversy over Apu. "And for a show that likes to satirize everything, its inability to talk about aging, about shifting political opinions, about how different America has become, ends up miring it in a past it could so easily escape." With the Roseanne revival in mind, VanDerWerff wonders what would've happened if Bart, Lisa, Homer, Marge and Maggie had grown up? What if they were 29 years older? "I keep thinking about a Simpsons where everything had changed, and just by its very nature, such a show would have had to deal with Apu slightly better (though (Hank) Azaria would probably still be playing him)," he says. "When things can change within your fictional universe, it’s only natural for the characters to grow and change with them. "
Posted Monday 4/16/18 at 11:31PM EDT
Here are the best Tax Day TV episodes
The Simpsons, Roseanne and All in the Family had some of the greatest episodes about paying your taxes.
Posted Saturday 4/14/18 at 12:07AM EDT
A journalist of South Asian descent says "most of us happily embraced Apu" in the 1990s, but The Simpsons can fix its most controversial character
"For those of us with low expectations, starving for any representation, Apu was a breath of fresh air," says Wajahat Ali, the son of Pakistani Muslim immigrants who grew up near Silicon Valley. While other portrayals showed brown people as cab drivers or terrorists, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon "was an integral character in the Simpsons universe who was able to be a co-protagonist of several episodes," he says. "Only in a cartoon, we thought, could people who look like us achieve such a feat." But that doesn't mean Apu or The Simpsons "get a lifetime pass to perpetuate lazy stereotypes," he says. "Any piece of art, no matter how well intentioned, harmless or silly, is not above reproach or critical examination... Instead of engaging with the issue of representation, which would have made for a more satirical and topical show — you know, the type The Simpsons used to do years ago — the writers responded with the worst creative sin: laziness." What The Simpsons shouldn't have done, he says, is "hijack your show’s most intellectual and empathetic voice, Lisa, as a foil for the writers’ unwillingness to be self-critical and engage their blind spots when it comes to listening to people of color who feel silenced and misunderstood. Thus, the show engages in another major sin: omission. After Lisa’s finger-wagging, the camera pans to a photo of Apu with the inscription 'Don’t have a cow!' Apu, who is a supporting character, is robbed of lines, rendered mute and frozen in a suffocating frame, smiling as a token prop. That’s exactly how so many people of color feel in real life — all the time." Ali adds: "What The Simpsons should have done was a stand-alone episode centered on Apu, who, after becoming a citizen many years ago, is confronted with an immigrant travel ban...Nobody would have a cow. But we would have an intelligent, critical, satirical show that at least confronts problematic issues instead of running away from them."
- Showrunner Al Jean explained why Lisa Simpson defended Apu, but why did she look at the camera?
- Jean criticized for tweeting conservative media in The Simpsons' defense
- Jean tweeted a link to the National Review piece: "Why the Apu Simpsons Controversy Bothers Me as an Indian American"
- Harry Shearer stuck up for the show, tweeting to Hari Kondabolu: "Bart, a pre-pubescent boy, is played by an adult woman. What's up with that?"
- BoJack Horseman creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg slammed The Simpsons response: "Imagine choosing to describe yourself and your work as 'applauded and inoffensive'"
- Bill Maher defends The Simpsons' response to Apu: "If you spend your time combing through old TV shows to identify stuff that by today’s standards looks bad, you’re not ‘woke,’ you’re just a douchebag"
Posted Friday 4/13/18 at 1:17PM EDT
The Simpsons boss: "I truly appreciate all responses pro and con" to our response to the Apu controversy
Showrunner Al Jean tweeted this morning that the show "will continue to try to find an answer that is popular & more important right."
Posted Wednesday 4/11/18 at 5:23PM EDT
The Problem with Apu will be re-aired on TruTV following The Simpsons' "response" to the documentary
Hari Kondabolu's one-hour documentary on the controversial Simpsons character originally aired last November and is available to stream on TruTV's website. But following this week's uproar over The Simpsons' response, TruTV has announced plans to re-air the documentary this Sunday at 7 p.m.
Posted Wednesday 4/11/18 at 1:11PM EDT
The Simpsons predicted its "bad response" to the Apu controversy in a 1994 episode
Animator Hamish Steele points out that this week's Lisa Simpson was unlike the Lisa Simpson of 1994. As Ramon Ramirez notes, "Twitter users have pointed out that the Apu controversy is basically that time Lisa wanted a less-patronizing Malibu Stacy doll for young girls. In 1994’s 'Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy,' Lisa fights for institutional change by pointing out that the popular, Barbie-esque Malibu Stacy doll is stuck in 1950s gender roles that emphasize homemaking. In the end, the toy manufacturers she protests respond by releasing a new Malibu Stacy: It’s the same doll, but this time she comes with a new hat."
- "The tragedy of The Simpsons is not just that bad episodes now far outnumber the good ones," says Village Voice film critic Alan Scherstuhl. "It's that when called out by a brash smart younger generation, the Simpsons writers exposed themselves as just as fuddy-duddy clueless as George HW Bush did when he called out The Simpsons."
- "Hands off Apu Nahasapeemapetilon": "Indeed, Apu is now problematic," says Kyle Smith. "Apu has been appearing on the show for 28 years, but only in the last ten seconds did he become offensive. There may be a bit of opportunism at work here. It’s easier to cry racism than it is to get laughs."
Posted Tuesday 4/10/18 at 7:15PM EDT
Indian-American Simpsons fan relates his story about his Apu-like father
Addressing The Problem with Apu director Hari Kondabolu, Amar Shah wondered if he had talked to actual Indian-American convenience store owners. To which Kondabolu responded that he did, and that that footage was left on the cutting room floor. Shah went on to relate his father's story, saying: "I agree with some of your points @harikondabolu, but this is much more than some stereotype. For some of us, we lived this life. It was our story. It's my story."
Posted Monday 4/09/18 at 6:11PM EDT
The Simpsons' response to Apu is what happens when a show loses its identity after being on for "a long damn time"
The Simpsons was once the rebellious outsider, says Jen Chaney. Now, it's the Establishment, incapable of grappling with Apu. "When it first dominated the pop-culture landscape in the early 1990s," says Cheney, "a lot of the show’s appeal stemmed from its skillful and fearless tendency to jam its thumb in the eye of the American Establishment, by highlighting white male laziness via Homer, the crass privileged class via Mr. Burns, and a whole host of other marks of ignorance — from sexism to intolerance of vegetarians — via the crusading Lisa Simpson, the show’s perpetual 8-year-old voice of reason. For all of the stereotypes he has embodied, even some of the jokes generated by Apu actually pointed a finger at the abhorrent attitudes that Indian-Americans have to tolerate from their Caucasian counterparts." Chaney adds: "One could argue that The Simpsons is now the Establishment, and has been for a while. Once you become the Establishment, there is a tendency become lazy and complacent, while also feeling fiercely defensive of one’s legacy. In my view, that combination of factors plays a key role in the show’s inability to fully own up to the Apu problem."
- The Simpsons was "utterly dishonest" with its response since Apu isn't a central character: "His existence at the periphery — his very flatness, and his definition as a bag of signifiers meant to scream 'INDIAN!' is integral to what it means to write a racist stereotype," says Linda Holmes. "It's galling that writers will force a character to exist as funny scenery and then complain that they cannot change him without upsetting the emotional arc of the series."
- The Simpsons didn't have to address the controversy -- Apu has become "a genuine, multidimensional character" -- but last night's episode amounted to a "glib 'f*ck off"
- The Simpsons made Lisa Simpson sound like a "wealthy middle-aged white male writer"
- Molly Ringwald demonstrated how to address problematic past depictions with her recent New Yorker essay on her John Hughes films
Posted Monday 4/09/18 at 1:45PM EDT
The Simpsons dismisses Apu criticism, sparking backlash
The Simpsons' acknowledgement of the Apu controversy on Sunday's episode came nearly five months after Hari Kondabolu's The Problem with Apu documentary made headlines by delving into the hit cartoon's Indian-American stereotype. "On Sunday night, The Simpsons, a cultural staple and television’s longest-running sitcom, now in its 29th season, finally responded: with a dismissive nod that earned the show more criticism, especially from Mr. Kondabolu himself," writes Sopan Deb, adding: "The writers of the episode — one of whom was Matt Groening, the show’s creator — received immediate backlash. Some viewers found the response tone deaf, and criticized the choice of Lisa, often the show’s moral center, to voice it." For his part, Kondabolu sent out a series of tweets last night saying "The Simpsons response tonight is not a jab at me, but at what many of us consider progress." This morning, he added: "TO THE JOURNALISTS WHO HAVE ASKED ME FOR A PUBLIC STATEMENT ABOUT LAST NIGHT’S SIMPSONS EPISODE, I JUST WANT SAY: 'Congratulations to the Simpsons for being talked about & being seen as relevant again.'"
- W. Kamau Bell: Having Lisa Simpson make this "argument" was what it made it most ridiculous and toothless
- The Simpsons' response was petty and remarkably regressive
- It was a surprisingly glib response considering Hank Azaria's thoughtful response to the controversy
- It was remarkably tone-deaf and callous response
- Asked to comment, Showrunner Al Jean said: "No the episode speaks for itself"
- On Twitter, Jean defended Apu by noting that Hank Azaria won an Emmy for voicing the character
- Jean also retweeted a Twitter user who tweeted "I'm Indian" and "Loved how you guys handled this non-issue"
Posted Friday 3/30/18 at 9:30PM EDT
Homer Simpson will be part of a sperm-in-space experiment
Matt Groening helped design a Homer Simpson patch for an experiment going up Monday to study sperm in space. Groening is an acquaintance of University of Kansas Medical Center researcher Jim Tash, whose experiment will be launched to the International Space Station. The patch features an "astronaut Homer Simpson riding an angry-eyed, bull-headed sperm cell through outer space, complete with his tail a-wagging."
Posted Wednesday 3/28/18 at 9:54PM EDT
Yeardley Smith speaks for the first time about Ted Cruz's Lisa Simpson remark
Smith says it "wasn't about what he said, it was about the way he said it, which was he said it with such disdain" in saying that the Democrats were the party of Lisa Simpson.
Posted Sunday 3/25/18 at 1:59AM EDT
The Simpsons puts President Trump in a nightmare
A new short “A Tale of Two Trumps" tackles the president's recent firings.
Posted Friday 3/23/18 at 5:23AM EDT
Did The Simpsons predict the demise of Toys 'R' Us?
The 2004 episode “Marge vs. Singles, Seniors, Childless Couples and Teens, and Gays" shows the childless adults of Springfield turning around the "R" in the failed iconic toy superstore in an effort to destroy everything benefitting children in the city.