The Simpsons Movie

One of the ongoing debates over The Simpsons refers to the location of Springfield, the city in which the series and film take place. The name of the town was chosen by series creator Matt Groening because during his childhood in Oregon, Springfield was always the “next town over.” The name is common enough that Springfield could be in any number of states. The show’s playful nature, however, makes any serious analysis pointless. In reality, Springfield is a city which abuts a coast, mountains, a lake, a river, a desert, and a forest. As Ned Flanders says in the film, Springfield itself borders 4 states– “Ohio, Nevada, Maine, and Kentucky.” No state borders all of those, and while this was a clever joke which plays on this debate, it points to one clear allegory– Springfield represents all of America.

The Ultimate American Satire

Many artists have attempted to capture the spirit of America within the confines of media. Norman Lear, Norman Rockwell, Bruce Springsteen all spring to mind on the topic, but nothing has come close to the scope or detail of The Simpsons. The film, like the series, is brutally honest in its depiction. Homer, like many Americans, is overweight, lazy, obsessed with getting rich quickly and solving problems with the least amount of effort. He adopts a pig, and uses it almost as a toy, giving it the love and attention he should be giving his children. In retaliation of that, Bart seeks out another father figure– Ned Flanders, who provides the kind of compassionate nurturing fatherly presence that Bart and so many children desperately seek. Ned shows Bart unconditional love, something he is unfamiliar with, at least from men.

Through this, Marge becomes obsessed with the doomsday ramblings of Grandpa. While his ranting prophecy is fulfilled, Marge still invests all her time and belief in the first, craziest thing she encounters in the film. She is looking for meaning in her life, and an end to the inane practices of her day to day life with Homer.

Lisa is perhaps the most normal character in the family, attempting to warn the town of the evils of pollution. As with contemporary feelings, the dangers of unchecked pollution are considered “annoying” and “inconvenient” rather than dire and important. The town does not take Lisa’s warning seriously, and in a combination of their unwillingness to solve the problem rather than band-aid it, and Homer’s laziness, Springfield faces its ultimate destruction. This is perhaps a warning, a very serious one, placed in the script of what is normally light-hearted fare. America’s greatest enemy is its own sloth, apathy, and predilection to violence.

When the town is sealed off from the rest of the world, the town turns violent, and comes to find and kill Homer. Friends, family, and neighbors all turn vicious and seek vengeance. Instead of attempting to rectify the problem that doomed them, or to attempt to bypass the barrier they now face, they are content to dole out vigilante justice. Another fitting allegory for America– for perhaps all of humanity.

We could write essay after essay about other ways in which The Simpsons skillfully satirizes America or the entire world, but that’s another story. A lot has been written about this subject, and rightfully so. While a lot of what could be written would focus on the community aspects of Springfield, redemption for the town and its people is found in the individual triumphs of the Simpsons themselves. They overcome selfishness, greed, and apathy and in doing so empower themselves to overcome tremendous odds.

Pushing the Envelope

One of the more noticeable things about this film is the writers and producers increased willingness to use more graphic content. While what is seen is all benign nudity and some foul language, it is edgy enough to distinguish the film from the series.

Simpsonic

The music of The Simpsons has always been particularly special. Danny Elfman wrote the main title, and Alf Clauson has done an amazing job writing for the incidental music in the series. It is known for switching format and tone with ease and skill, and the series is famous for lavish musical numbers performed expertly by the cast. Veteran film score composer Hans Zimmer produced the music for this film, and the difference is palpable. The soundtrack is a lot more “cinematic,” using cleaner sounding orchestration over the series signature style. But what is truly remarkable is the amount which Zimmer quotes American composer Aaron Copland. Several pieces sound like Simpsons-style remixes of Copland’s famous works like Rodeo, giving the film a very organic and decidedly American feeling. It is bouncy, exciting, clever, and full of emotion. The background music can still slide effortlessly between the sweet and serene to more humorous or bold flavors.

For Plot’s Sake

The film’s plot is fairly unimaginative, but does its job. Change the details around and it could be easily transplanted to any franchise. The film takes the pulse of America, just as the series has for more than a decade. The Simpsons is the most important satire of the last 50 years, and will probably remain so for a long time to come. For now, people will enjoy the humor, the commentary, and the amazing voice acting which has made the series famous. In the future, people may look back on this as an important indicator of what life and attitudes were like at the turn of the century.

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