16 January 2015

The Simpsons: Animated Ambassadors of Free Speech

The Simpsons-- Animated Ambassadors of Free Speech   

 Five days after the horrific massacre in Paris at the offices of Charlie Hebdo by radical Islamist terrorists, the Simpsons showed a short tribute to support free speech.

Maggie Simpsons flag waving was a homage to the iconic painting Liberty Leading the People (1830) by Eugene Delacroix along with the social media meme #JeSuisCharlie (I am Charlie). Or perhaps the pose was inspired by Cosette in Les Miserables.

Even after 26 seasons on American television with nearly 550 episodes, the Simpsons shows that it has the pulse on what animates the public.

This is not the first time in which the Simpsons has sought to make serious points with ancillary scenes.  In 2010, the Simpsons kept it real for their twentieth anniversary season with a title card sequence inspired by the graffiti artist Banksy.

The typical close to the Title Sequence of the Family watching the boob tube revealed itself to be a plasma television image in a grim Asian sweat shop churning out images of the Simpsons.  As the camera focused on the toxic slim dripping below, it shows lower levels of commercial exploitation.  The surreal sweat shop infused humor in its dark comedy, as a pooped panda hauled a cart of plush dolls, which were stuffed of ground kittens.  A decapitated dolphin sealed boxes of this Simpsons merchandise. 
The picture of the Simpsons watching the boob tube reveals itself to be a plasma television image in a grim Asian sweat shop that is laboriously drawing images of the Simpsons. As the POV focuses on the toxic slime dripping below, there are subterranean layers of exploitation. Busy sweatshop seamstresses sew Simpsons licensed garments, worker stuff Bart plush figurines and a DVD duplication production line.

 Banksy’s contribution seemed reminiscent of Salvador Dali on a dark day. But the sequence may have been meant as more than a dark fantasy.  Show runner Al Jean may have been protesting outsourcing animation offshore overseas by illustrating intolerable production conditions which feeds the public's hunger for inexpensive entertainment.

The Simpson's standing in solidarity with the Paris Shooting protesters demonstrated that they are animated ambassadors of free speech.  While the Les Miserables motif was apropos, an even more poignant pairing would have been to mash up the Simpsons with operatic Les Mis anthem "One Day More".

No comments: