“We need someone so irritating that Ned simply will not be able to repress his rage. Homer, can you be that annoying?” – Dr. Foster
Over New Year’s, our old friend Denise du Vernay wrote a blog post about resolutions she’d like to see other people adopt here in 2012. The fourth item on her list was this:
4. Stop saying The Simpsons should be canceled, that it used to be better, or whatever mean thing you say about it. This one is going to be contentious, but hear me out.
First things first, Denise loves the show, knows all about it, and has written a ton on the subject, so she’s someone whose opinions are to be respected and who deserves to have her statements taken seriously. Obviously I don’t agree with that particular resolution, but she makes a number of points that crop up routinely, both around here and in other Simpsons parts of the internet, so I’m going to go through the whole thing. Let’s hear her out:
First off, I don’t go around saying that I think your favorite show should be canceled. It’s mean-spirited and moot. If I don’t like something, I mostly just turn the channel or leave the room. Its existence doesn’t bother me because no one is making me watch said shows just like no one is making you watch The Simpsons.
I know that no one is making me watch it, and believe me when I say that for a long time I did exactly that. Between late 2002 and early 2009 (Seasons 14-20, roughly) I don’t think I watched a single new episode from start to finish. I assumed that the show would simply wither and fall off the schedule at some point. But it didn’t. It just kept on going, all the while making the great years of The Simpsons harder and harder to find in syndication and tarnishing the original show’s reputation among fans new and old.
That’s what makes Zombie Simpsons different than any other show on television, and it’s why telling critics of Zombie Simpsons to simply not watch it is a hollow argument. Five years from now, no one is going to care about the Real Housewives of Wherever, Jersey Shore, Work It or any other wretched, forgettable crappy television shows. But five years from now people are still going to be talking about The Simpsons, and drawing a clear and bright a line between the good years and the bad years is the only way to offset the pop culture cost Zombie Simpsons imposes on my favorite television show.
Also, some of my friends work on The Simpsons, so when you say that, it’s actually hurtful to me because you’re saying that people I care about should lose their jobs.
If I had the power to cancel the show and I cancelled it, you’d have every right to be angry with me for hurting people you care about. But I don’t have that power, and neither does anyone else who complains about the modern iteration of the show. If fan criticism was going to end this thing, it would’ve happened by now.
Next, TV, like all art, is subjective. I have no interest in Harry Potter, but I totally get that the books and movies are terrific. I have a hard time with the violence in Tarantino films so I avoid them (except Pulp Fiction, of course), but I know he is phenomenal. Archer does nothing for me. Nothing. I thought Inception completely sucked. Now, I am positive that these are all my issue, my shortcoming. Thus, I don’t insult others who like these things.
To take the last part first, I don’t insult people who like Zombie Simpsons. Oh sure, I’ll tease them every once and a while, but I’ve never said that someone’s opinions aren’t valid or that they aren’t entitled to like Zombie Simpsons. I don’t think I’ve ever written that someone is stupid for liking it, and the simple reason for that is that I am keenly aware of all the low brow pop culture that I enjoy. I am in no way shape or form an arbiter of good taste, and I don’t claim to be.
For the first part, opinions on Tarantino, Harry Potter and Inception are irrelevant for the same reason as the “don’t watch it” argument. But as a thought experiment, what would happen if J.K. Rowling lost control of Harry Potter tomorrow and some publisher started pumping out crappy books by hacks to cash in? Wouldn’t long time Potter fans be completely justified in criticizing those books as long and loud as they pleased?
Are many of my favorite Simpsons episodes from the ’90s? Why, sure. But many of them are more recent, too. And how do I know that my affection for certain episodes isn’t because of the emotions, memories, and events surrounding them? I won’t know until I’m gray and post-menopausal.
I’m glad you like them, happy for you even. Everyone’s entitled to enjoy what they enjoy, and in a world where there’s often more pain and aggravation than there is relaxation and pleasure, I say take whatever joy you can. But if you can only enjoy things that no one else has ever disliked, then your list of awesome stuff is going to be awfully short. I guarantee you that every album, movie and show you love has a review on the internet by someone that hated the fuck out of it. That doesn’t mean you ought to let it bother you. Your reasons for liking or disliking things are your own, as are mine.
Finally, when you say mean things about The Simpsons, I know you’re full of crap. How do I know? Well, because if you’re not watching the show, then you don’t know how good it is and therefore, you’re full of crap and should be quiet. If you are watching it, you’re enjoying it (why else would you watch it?) and therefore, you are simply saying you don’t like it to sound cool, which also makes you full of crap.
I would submit pretty much the entire content of this blog as a refutation of that. We do watch it, and we do come up with a lot of well documented reasons why it simply isn’t as good as the old ones. Again, these are all opinions and you are free to disagree with them, but if there is one thing we cannot be accused of, it is being uninformed about the current state of the show.
It became cool for people to say they didn’t like The Simpsons sometime around 1994 because when something becomes widely popular, some early fans reject it. Happens all the time. It happened with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Swatches, tapas, Juno, and it might even happen to you.
This is an argument I’ve never understood. The only people saying that they didn’t like The Simpsons in 1994 were the deepest of computer nerds. And if we define “cool” as a few people taking a fashionable point of view before it becomes uncool when too many people jump on the bandwagon (e.g. Swatches), then disliking the current state of the show has crossed that boundary and gone back again several times.
More importantly, the popular opinion on the quality of The Simpsons relative to Zombie Simpsons isn’t very fluid. There’s a general and long established consensus that the show fell apart, and pretty much everyone will give you the same approximate timeframe for when it happened. There’s even charts and numbers to back this up. If being “cool” were a major influence on people’s opinions, I’d expect to see some swing in those numbers, some change in the overall tenor of conversation about the show over the last decade. But we could’ve started this site five or even ten years ago and we wouldn’t be writing things all that different than we’re writing about now.
I know there are a lot of people that like Zombie Simpsons, and I don’t begrudge them that. But there are real differences, quantifiable and identifiable, between The Simpsons and Zombie Simpsons; and I, for one, am not going to stop pointing them out. You are welcome to disagree or simply ignore me; but if my criticisms affect your enjoyment of the show, that’s on you, not me.
All that said, let me heartily endorse her fifth point:
5. Get off your phone when you’re doing something else. No matter how good you think you are, you actually suck as a driver when you’re on the phone.