Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

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As with so many things I loved when I was young—the church, democracy, delicious Coca-Cola—I have an extremely complicated relationship with The Simpsons. Most days I just pretend it’s off the air. This may seem a bit surprising, especially given that for most of high school and college I had entire conversations (and occasionally newspaper columns) consisting of nothing but Simpsons quotes—but this actually appears to be the nearly universal experience for people in my particular demographic. Somewhere around year twelve or so we all suddenly realized that the show was no longer funny—and though I’m periodically assured by people I otherwise trust that it’s somehow become funny again, I’ve never taken the bait.

The idea that they’re still beating the dead horse after six additional years is more than a little inconceivable.

The Simpsons Movie, which Ryan and I saw today despite our better judgments, is a Simpsons movie only in the very limited sense that the characters in the movie look and sound like the Simpsons you remember. But this is in every other sense a kids’ movie; anyone looking for the grand satire of the glory years will be as disappointed as we were.

Afterwards we tried to figure out what went wrong, how this ever could have happened, and we think it might be this: The Simpsons always had a problem with the gooey family stuff, even in the best of times, unnecessarily cramming it into nearly every episode in a way that always threatened to crowd out the funny, subversive moments which were the only reason to watch. They needed the family stuff to sell the show to a mainstream audience, but having gotten the mainstream, they then needed to keep it, which meant more family stuff, which meant less subversion, and so on and so forth—which is how a show that I was forbidden to watch when it first came out has now put out a movie that’s just barely more adult than Shrek.

It’s a shame, and honestly something of a minor cultural tragedy—but then I suppose an earlier and equally cantankerous version of me might not have understood what happened to The Flintstones, either.

I sure do miss it, though.

Written by gerrycanavan

August 2, 2007 at 1:21 am

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