Archive for January, 2010



28
Jan
10

Quote of the Day

There's No Disgrace Like Home4

“To save this family we’re going to have the make the supreme sacrifice.” – Homer Simpson
“No Dad, please don’t pawn the TV!” – Lisa Simpson
“Aw come on Dad, anything but that.” – Bart Simpson
“Homer, couldn’t we pawn my engagement ring instead?” – Marge Simpson
“Now I appreciate that honey, but, we need $150 dollars here!” – Homer Simpson

Happy 20th anniversary to “There’s No Disgrace Like Home”!

28
Jan
10

Bonus Quote of the Day

Homer's Odyssey3"Moe, I’m a little low on funds.  Do you think you could cover me just this once?" – Homer Simpson
"No. Sorry." – Moe
"Why not?  I think after all these years I deserve an explanation." – Homer Simpson
"I don’t think you’re ever gonna get another job and be able to pay me back." – Moe
"Oh." – Homer Simpson
"Don’t worry, we’re still friends." – Moe

Happy (one week belated) 20th anniversary to “Homer’s Odyssey”!

27
Jan
10

Simpsons Alumni Update: Brad Bird

Of all the people who worked on The Simpsons perhaps none have found greater post-show success than Brad Bird.  The man truly has the golden touch in that there isn’t anything embarrassing lurking on his IMDB page.  He worked on The Critic, left The Simpsons in Season 9, and of the three movies he’s written/directed since then only 1999’s The Iron Giant isn’t on the IMDB Top 250.  (Though it has a rating of 7.9 which is the same as the last twenty movies on the list.)  Oh and he’s a perfect 2/2 on Oscar nominations/victories.  This man has as impressive (and profitable) a resume as you can possibly find. 

And yet he is apparently having trouble getting his next movie going:

For a while now he’s been working on 1906 – a film detailing the catastrophic quake that rocked San Francisco in, guess what year? And it’s been a bugger to get off the ground.

Given recent events in the world, you can understand studios not wanting to green light anything to do with earthquakes…they seem to be fine with destroying the planet and re-creating terrorist atrocities, but not this. The film was set to be co-produced by Pixar and Warner Bros. Apparently, the latter studio has concerns over budget and the massive script.

I’m sure those are legitimate concerns, I’m also sure that this guy has never made a bad film.  And while I do not run a movie studio if I did I might look at that IMDB page and conclude that this guy knows what he’s doing.  Good luck, Mr. Bird.  If a recommendation from some guy on the internet will put things over the top, feel free to cite this as a reference. 

27
Jan
10

Quote of the Day


“And who could forget dear ‘Ratboy?'” – Homer Simpson
“‘Ratboy?’ I resent that.” – Bart Simpson


“Bart! I told you before, stop gnawing on the drywall.” – Marge Simpson

26
Jan
10

Marketing Horrorshow Coming Soon to a Vagina Near You!

Lisa vs Malibu Stacy3“I want you to hear what Malibu Stacy is telling a generation of little girls.” – Lisa Simpson
“Thinking too much gives you wrinkles.” – Malibu Stacy Doll

Are you female?  Do you like being marketed to by condescending idiots?  If you answered “Yes” to the first question then the people behind Simpsons merchandise couldn’t care less about your answer to the second.  Behold the unironically stereotypical marketing push known as “Ladies of Springfield”.  Fisking time! 

20 years on and The Simpsons is still going strong. We take a look at the Ladies of Springfield licensing drive.

It may be 20 years old, but The Simpsons remains one of the most groundbreaking and innovative entertainment franchises in the world.

“Groundbreaking” in the sense that there’s nothing they won’t merchandise, or “groundbreaking” in the sense that the show has been six feet under for a long time?  I agree with one of those definitions.  This is followed by some “quick facts” which can be summed up as follows, “People still like watching the show.”  Then we get to to the heart of the matter:

With popularity for The Simpsons showing no signs of abating, and a healthy licensing and merchandising programme for the main brand, Fox launched the Ladies of Springfield brand at Brand Licensing Europe in 2008.

I must have missed that presentation at BLE 2008.  Shucks, and I thought I saw everything.

“The initiative was created due to the proven and researched popularity of The Simpsons amongst females of all ages,” explains Jennifer Buchanan, director of European licensing at Fox L&M. “The audience profile of the series shows an almost equal balance of males and females. Fox L&M identified an opportunity to harness the popular appeal of the show and target the female consumer by creating an umbrella brand that brings together the female characters with their own look and feel.”

That translates from Marketspeak roughly as, “Women weren’t buy as much crap as we thought they should so we’re going to cram girly stuff down their throats.  Get me my pink color wheel!” 

A style guide was developed featuring Lisa, Marge and Maggie – as well as the other key female characters such as Patty and Selma – with product launching a year later.

Style guide?  I’m intrigued.  Can I suggest one for the Zombie Simpsons writers?

“Fox has worked closely with licensees to drive the Ladies of Springfield initiative and with their ongoing support we have seen the programme steadily grow across the UK and Europe,” Buchanan continues. “We launched apparel into retail for autumn/winter 2009. This first wave of the brand initiative took us into tween fashion along with support in nightwear. Key retail partners were Bershka, Primark, Bhs, Tesco, George and Next.

This might just be me, but I find the juxtaposition of implicitly martial terminology (“first wave”, “brand initiative”) with “tween fashion” a wee bit telling.  Parents of Europe, we are about to attack your pre-pubescent daughters!  Surrender or be destroyed! 

“Bridging the gap between fashion and sport, a range of female specialist cycling shirts were launched in Evans Cycles.”

“Cycling shirts”, because nothing says “high end specialty fitness” like Patty & Selma.  But it’s about to get so much worse:

The programme will continue to roll out into stationery, soft furnishings and housewares.

Let me consult this copy of “Ladies Home Journal” from 1954.  Yep these are in there.

In 2011, Buchanan says that Fox is aiming to make Marge the ambassador for Mother’s Day – as Homer has become for Father’s Day – as well as driving opportunities for seasonal event POS for Mother’s Day, Valentines and Christmas.

Wait, wait, slow down there.  When did Homer become the “ambassador” for Father’s Day?  For that matter, what the hell does an “ambassador” for a made up holiday do?  Also, I’m pretty sure “POS” in this context is supposed to mean “Points of Sale”.  But it works much better if you use “Pieces of Shit”.  See:

as well as driving opportunities for seasonal event Pieces of Shit for Mother’s Day, Valentines and Christmas.

Not only does that make more sense, but it’s a more accurate description and reads better too. 

The strength of the main character’s personalities, their individual look and imagery are the main drivers of the LOS licensing programme.

They did it again!  This time I’m going with “Lots of Shit” instead of “Ladies of Springfield”. 

Marge, for example, is being positioned as a domestic goddess who keeps the family together, with product being targeted at over 18s. Lisa, meanwhile, is ‘Princess Prodigy” aimed at six to nine year-olds, tween/teens and adults, while Maggie has cute appeal and is aimed at the same demographics as Lisa.

Sadly 1-year-olds cannot make purchasing decisions on their own, so we’re going to target the baby at the same crowd as the 8-year-old.  And “Princess Prodigy”?  That’s an oxymoron.  While I understand the appeal of “princess” style marketing (because it means that your little girl gets to feel important and protected and oh-so-special) it might be useful to point out to her that in real life princesses are inbred dilettantes whose primary role is to serve as a unwilling family brood mare.  Just sayin’. 

Buchanan adds: “Maggie and Lisa both work well on apparel and accessories. Marge is ideal for Mother’s Day opportunities for gift, homewares and social expressions.

Social expressions”?  Like a sign that says “Fuck You And Your Sexist Marketing”? 

In addition, Marge’s recent appearance on the cover of Playboy is not only testament to the brand [it was the first time an animated character has been featured on the front cover], but a big statement for Marge herself. Not only is she a domestic goddess, but she’s a Playboy pin up.

You know what else she is?  A cartoon.  But never mind that, ladies please commence comparing your bodies to a drawing. 

From all accounts we are in the age of the ‘cougar’ and Patty and Selman who “Will Marry for Money” are perfect for humorous product applications to capture this current social trend.”

Okay, “Selman” is probably just a typo.  Even if we set aside the stupidity of the “cougar” as a concept, it’s not exactly Patty & Selma that would spring to mind as examples.  But no fad can go unused, I suppose. 

This year will see the Lots of Shit programme roll out strategically across stationery, bags and homewares, with other categories to follow. International Greetings is due to launch new back to school lines, DNC will have lunch bags and drinkware ranges available from spring, while Character World has developed Maggie duvet sets.

I made one change the quote above.  See if you can spot it.  

Moving on, and Fox L&M is looking to sign new partners in creative play, housewares and gift, as well as developing the healthcare, beauty and jewellery sectors. There will also be a strong focus on Marge for Mother’s Day in 2011.

Now we’re talking.  Let no effeminate product category escape!  Though I must admit I am curious about “creative play”.  Is that like art supplies and card games, or is it more like sex swings and dildos?  And can’t it be both?

“The continued TV support and worldwide recognition of The Simpsons characters is a firm foundation from which to grow the LOS in terms of new product categories, style guides and breadth of appeal and market,” says Buchanan. “Marge, Lisa and Maggie have the potential to be as popular as Homer and Bart, creating a fun male-female brand offering.”

Oh that first sentence is a dagger, “continued TV support”, the true motivation behind Zombie Simpsons.  Though I can’t help but be amused by an ostensibly equality minded goal like “a fun male-female brand offering” being achieved through rapacious exploitation of every conceivable female stereotype this side of a lesbian biker.  

So, where does Buchanan see the Ladies of Springfield in five years time? “Lisa and Maggie will be firmly established as leading girl characters from teens and tweens across key market categories such as toys, electronic, gifting and apparel, while Marge inspired gifting, homewares and greetings ranges will be firm favourites at retail for Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. Licensing opportunities for secondary characters Patty, Selma and Edna will also have been developed.”

I don’t find any of the above any more or less offensive than the rest of the crappy merchandise FOX has cranked out over the years.  In the end it’s all just more overpriced landfill fodder and I see no point in worrying about it.  But with the exception of the bizarrely out of place “cycling shirts” every single product or category of products mentioned here is as nakedly sexist as you could make it.  Which is not to say that “housewares” and duvet covers are illegitimate, or even that women are less likely to buy them, only that the exclusion of any other kind of product is as unsurprising as it is lazy. 

It’s all the more tragic when it comes to slapping Lisa’s image on these things since she’s as feminist, scientific and skeptical a character as you could ask for.  Where are the Lisa Simpson beach microscopes?  Or the Lisa Simpson saxophone stuff?  Or the Lisa Simpson hockey pads?  Or the Lisa Simpson line of “I like you as a friend, now please leave me alone” merchandise? 

Lisa Simpson is a globally recognized symbol that could, with just the tiniest bit of creativity, be used to market an enormous number of products that don’t often see branding of this type.  But the FOX licensing people have instead chosen to stagger forward and do the same lame old shit that has always been done.  I didn’t really expect anything different, and the show always had a tense relationship with all the crap that it was used to sell, but this is beyond parody.  Or at least it would be if The Simpsons hadn’t viciously parodied it already sixteen fucking years ago. 

26
Jan
10

Quote of the Day

“More cream corn, Jimbo Junior?” – Bart Simpson
“This cream corn tastes like cream crap.” – Jimbo Junior
“Watch the potty mouth honey.” – Bart Simpson

25
Jan
10

Quote of the Day

“I said ‘Step pause turn pause pivot step step,’ not “Step pause turn pause pivot step pause!’ Oh, shudder!” – Choreographer




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