"The Simpsons: Reiteration of Racist stereotypes or Intelligent Social Commentary?

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Maysie Maysie's picture
"The Simpsons: Reiteration of Racist stereotypes or Intelligent Social Commentary?


Maysie Maysie's picture

I'm starting this from drift in [url=http://www.rabble.ca/babble/ultimatebb.php?ubb=get_topic&f=9&t=002090]this thread.[/url]

Some cogent quotes:


Originally posted by adma:
[b]"Me so solly"


Originally posted by bcg: [b] That's so not fucking funny.[/b]


adma: Within the original Simpsons context (the "Last Temptation Of Krust" episode), what you're now saying was exactly the point of the gag in question. Essentially, the audience was cringing the way we now are re the way this Rob Ford situation's shaping up...


bcg: I'm not cringing because of what Rob Ford said. I'm angry. He is an elected city councillor who doesn't care to apologize, even for political reasons, in a grown-up manner.

He stood there on the floor, and repeated every racist thing he had said previously, making it completely clear that these are beliefs that he holds. He tried to bully the Speaker into accepting his non-apology, and after 4 tries was politically out-maneuvered and had to apologize. It's what he wanted, so he can return to his constituency and tell them exactly that.

His muttered "sorry" was an insult.

He doesn't get what racism is, he doesn't get what it means to hold one group of POC (the Chinese, or all "Asians" as he was inferring) as being "hard workers", that this is racism. Google "model minority". This same racism upholds and supports the idea of other groups of POC (pick one) as being not hard-working, lazy, mooching off the system and a myraid of other offensive bullshit. The Chinese Canadians and allies who were there that day, who signed the petition, get this.

Your joke was offensive. A hint as to why, if not already obvious [let's start with cashing in on a centuries-old (and elementary-school level) racist construction of making fun of how people speak], is that The Simpsons is not known for having any analysis about race relations or racism.


adma: If you knew the gag and episode in question, you'd know that it does constitute such an analysis.


bcg: Maybe. But I actually don't know the episode. All I have is your words, a quote from the show, and Krusty the Clown in a racist drawing. Plus my knowledge that The Simpsons is known to do caricatures (eg. Apu) that reinforce racism, not analyze or break it down.

adma, if you want to continue this discussion I'd prefer that you start a new thread, so that this thread not continue to be derailed. Rob Ford may be committing more assholery as we speak dontcha know.


pk3: Apu is an expression of what Americans today are no longer. He is not a racist charector.

Apu is hard working. Within the Simpsons universe, Americans are lazy, as expressed by Homer.

Apu loves his children. Homer is at the most indifferent to them, esp Maggie who he can never remember.

Apu loves America so much he wants to be a citizen, so studies for the citizenship exam. He already knows more about the past 200 years of American history (Homer - There can't be THAT many!) than any other person in Springfield.

He has kept his heritage with his arranged marriage to Manjula, traditional Hindu wedding, reverence for Ganesha etcetera. Homer can't even remember the words to the US national song.

Like most convenience store owners, movie theatres, airports and sporting arenas he overcharges for basics like milk and bread. So what? Homer cheats on his taxes, steals from work, steals cable, steals from Ned Flanders, steals steals steals basically.

So BigCityGal please explain how it is that Apu is a racist caricature.

[ 02 April 2008: Message edited by: bigcitygal ]

Maysie Maysie's picture

In response to pk3: I don't need to explain how Apu is a racist character when you've outlined it perfectly.

remind remind's picture

I''ll say!


Of course Apu is a racist character. That's the point. Sometimes they're making fun of the stereotypes, and sometimes they're doing something even more than that - subverting the stereotypes and saying, even if this WAS true, what's wrong with that?

The Simpsons kind of reminds me of a bit more complex All In The Family. They do the same sort of thing as AITF did.

That said, I think I'm probably their target audience (although I know a lot of South Asians who watch and love the show too). It's easy for white people to "get" the "layers" when we're not the ones being hit in the gut with the stereotypes used to set it up. And of course, not everyone watches the show with the same mindset, and probably a lot of people just get off on the naked racism.

For instance, in that other thread, I agree completely with BCG that the "Me so solly" thing wasn't a funny or useful contribution to the thread. Why? First of all, because you'd have to have seen that episode to "get it". Secondly, it was taken completely out of the context of that episode. Thirdly, it's long been a community standard (or at least we've tried to make it one) on babble that ironic racism isn't acceptable here. Fourthly, it is alienating to at least one person of Asian background who posts here, and that's reason enough not to do it.

[ 02 April 2008: Message edited by: Michelle ]

Makwa Makwa's picture

I thought that the portrayal of Krusty as a racist slug doing crude stereotyped caricatures was a reference to the character Sherman Hart from "Lenny" (1974), where the headligning, aging Jewish comic in the Catskills club circiut embarasses Lenny Bruce by doing a similar racist caracature. In any case, the cartoon tossed in without context was offensive and foolish, and the "Simpson" jumped the shark so long ago, I can't remember the last time I could force myself to watch it.

Le T Le T's picture

I always thought it was interesting that in the Simpsons people who are supposed to be white are bright yellow and everyone else is painted as a colour more similar to human skin tones.

Frustrated Mess Frustrated Mess's picture

The Simpsons play on all stereotypes. Italian, Irish, Scot, Jewish, Indian, etc ... I am not saying it is okay, I am just pointing out that they do.

Maysie Maysie's picture

Can we focus on the topic itself, that of racist stereotypes against POC?

Le T Le T's picture

The fact that the default colour in the Simpsons is egg-yoke-yellow and the only people who have a hue that diverges from the monolithic yellow are those characters who are racialized is telling. Matt Groening has essentially recreated white-centrism for what appears to be no reason. We are encouraged to look past the non-human yellow of most characters, in a sense the yellow is made invisible. But when they write a character who is supposed to represent a racialized person from American society they are painted a colour that is not-yellow. Why did Groening (a white American) do this?

Skinny Dipper

I still love the Simpsons. It's because the characters can be real; they can offend except for little Miss goody two shoes, Lisa Simpson.

Maysie Maysie's picture


Originally posted by Le Tйlйspectateur:
[b] Why did Groening (a white American) do this?[/b]

I'm assuming it was for the money.

I enjoyed "Life in Hell" for years, still do sometimes, and The Simpsons just isn't at that level of humour anymore, and in some ways never was, being for kids 'n all.

Akbar and Jeff's Tofu Hut! Akbar and Jeff's Wild Man Weekend! Young Bongo the rabbit doing the pledge of allegiance: frikking classic!

Edited to add: Damn the internet is amazing:


Bongo, love child of Binky the rabbit, doing the Pledge of Allegiance:

First panel:
Teacher: Class, let's recite the Pledge of Allegiance

Next few panels: Bongo:
"I plead alignment, to the flakes, of the United Snakes of A Merry Cow. "


"One nacho, underpants..."

(by this time, the teacher is standing behind Bongo, arms crossed, tapping is feet and looking quite angry)

"pizza delivery...."

"And jugs of Wine for Owls...hehehe" (as he sees the teacher)

Last Panel: Bongo is tied up with taped mouth in the corner

There are more. I'll find them.

[ 02 April 2008: Message edited by: bigcitygal ]

Skinny Dipper

I will add that conflicts can occur among characters who hold opposing viewpoints. When Krusty says, "Me so solly," do the other characters laugh? Crusty tries to be funny, but ends up falling flat on his face when he uses racist jokes.


In some sense, does the answer to this matter?

If I construct a brillant social commentary using biting satire and everyone here gets it and applauds me for it (as you all would *modest look*); does that make it legit if stupid fuckwit racist rednecks seize upon it and claim it as their own, mimicking my satire as literal fact and using it to perpetuate racism?

For that is what the Simpsons ultimately does, regardless of its intent (and personally i do think it is intended as satire). I cannot count the number of times "thank you come again" in a 'indian' accent has been mimicked to make fun of the immigrant running the Petro Canada, the 7/11, the security guard etc etc etc.

Maysie Maysie's picture
Papal Bull

Vis-a-vis the yellow colour of the characters.