‘The Simpsons’ Gets Its Edge Back – For a Minute

I honestly couldn’t tell you how long it’s been since I last watched ‘The Simpsons’ with any regularity. A decade, at least. Once a paragon of incisive social satire, the show long since fell into a rut of repetitive gags and dumb slapstick antics. While I’m sure that long-time viewers will argue that the series has had its ups and downs like any other, none of the bits I’ve sporadically caught over the years have been interesting or compelling – or even just plain funny – enough to make me start tuning in again. As such, I didn’t watch last night’s episode. But the opening sequence is all over the web today and… Wow. I sure didn’t think the show still had this much nerve.

What’s so great about it? The episode, called ‘Money Bart’, had opening credits directed by the famous British… ahem… “street artist” (read: graffiti vandal) named Banksy. I have mixed feelings about Banksy, personally. While I can see the artistic merit or social commentary in some of his work, at other times he lazily tags his name on buildings or billboards like any other punk desperate for attention, and that’s just lame.

(Sorry, Fox keeps taking down YouTube clips. You’ll need to visit Hulu to view the scene.)

Anyway, the sequence starts out in standard ‘Simpsons’ form. Banksy’s name is tagged a few places and Bart graffitis up his classroom. Har har. Not so impressive so far. However, things take a very dark turn at the end. The scene shifts to a dank and dingy factory in Asia where child laborers churn out ‘Simpsons’ animation cels, shred kittens to make the stuffing for Bart Simpson plush toys, and use the horn of an emaciated unicorn to stamp holes in ‘Simpsons’ DVDs, among other disturbing imagery. The setting is then revealed to be a labor camp proudly emblazoned with the 20th Century Fox logo.

I’ve got to say, it’s pretty ballsy and subversive for a show that’s skirted by on such tepid excuses for satire over the years to so ruthlessly criticize its own status as a pop culture institution and merchandising enterprise. Not to mention the shot it takes at the parent company that has supported the series for the last 20 years. I’m kind of surprised that Fox let this air.

Because I didn’t watch the episode, I couldn’t tell you anything about it or whether it lives up to the promise of this opening. Probably not. I’m sure that the rest of the half hour was filled with more of Homer’s stupid pratfalls and Bart’s harmlessly precocious rebelliousness, just like most are.

Still, even if just for one minute, ‘The Simpsons’ proved itself relevant once again.

[via Boing Boing]


  1. motorheadache

    I agree 100% with your assessment of The Simpsons. It was right around 1999 or 2000 where I noticed the show was really declining, and I finally stopped watching. Every now and then I watch a new episode, and they just aren’t that funny.

  2. I have to admit, I dug that. I still won’t be watching full episodes any time soon, but that intro was pretty cool.

    Does it seem a bit disrespectful to parody the conditions of Korean animation studios though? It’s like a clothing company doing a sweatshop parody in a commercial for jeans :p

  3. I got hooked back on a couple of years back. There was deffinately a decline around the begining of the decade, but in the past year, it has REALLY picked back up. That being said, last night’s episode was rather weak – probably the weakest I have seen in years. But man, that opening was GREAT!

  4. Patrick A Crone

    I understand why FOX allowed the opening sequence. Both The Simpsons and Family Guy have taken shots at FOX over the years. I think by allowing the pot shots to stay in FOX is saying “You can hate us all you want, but you still gladly take the money we pay you to say it”.

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