Cartoons Should Serve the People!

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I have long hoped that the miserable, humorless culture warriors of the right—those who saw the Teletubbies as Bronski Beat for tots, yet mistook the homoeroticism of Judas Priest for an Albion-inflected brand of satanism—would concede defeat and allow the rest of us to carry on enjoying our GG Allin records. But let us not forget that our comrades on the left also have a Bozellian streak.

Example: Over at the Guardian, CampusProgress editor Ben Adler pooh-poohs the Simpsons movie not because it's a mediocre episode stretched out to 90 minutes, but because it isn't sufficiently left-wing:

It is almost a given in elite liberal circles that you are, or once were, a devoted fan of The Simpsons… The humour is so sharp-edged, and apparently liberal, that you wonder how they were able to get away with saying that on network television (Fox, no less)…


That's why it was so disappointing to see the hilarious new Simpsons movie engage in some weirdly illiberal gags. The plot device driving the action and denouement is that the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, named Russ Cargill, runs amok and isolates Springfield in a glass bubble to prevent a contamination from spreading.

When that fails he decides to simply blow Springfield up (and presumably kill everyone living there). Obviously it is meant to be hyperbolic. But the irony may be lost on the average viewer.

The anti-environmental thread runs throughout the movie. Lisa's presentation at a town meeting on the pollution in Lake Springfield is called "An Irritating Truth". Lisa and her new boyfriend are presented as self-righteous nags for badgering the town about pollution and environmental efficiency.

Digging trenches around the perimeter of the Center for American Progress in preparation for the next culture war and testing cartoons for ideological purity! Adler, who clearly knows from funny, suggests a few script changes:

Certainly there are jokes that liberals would find politically congenial. The president is Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger and his detached management style allows Cargill to take drastic measures without proper oversight (and partly to enrich himself: He owns the company that makes the glass bubble). The analogy to the current president and his relationship with Vice President Cheney is obvious. But wouldn't it be more accurate, and more effective, to make the bad guy, say, the secretary of defence instead of the EPA administrator?

Worst…column…ever.

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  1. The humour is so sharp-edged, and apparently liberal, that you wonder how they were able to get away with saying that on network television (Fox, no less)…

    Yeah, like the Halloween episode where Lisa wishes on the monkey paw for there to be no guns or weapons in the world, and then aliens take over the planet. Not to say there weren’t liberal themes sometimes too (“Homer’s Phobia”, anyone?), but it amazes me that people think there was any consistent political agenda behind the Simpsons.

  2. Like with the bible, there are things in The Simspsons cartoon series and The Simpsons Movie for everybody. The EPA decides to bomb springfield and create a new Grand Canyon, but it’s because the people at the top are republicans. From the series, there’s that great quote by Abe Simpson about receiving money for no reason (“I just thought the democrats were in power again”) and you have the RNC meet in Mr. Burns’ mansion. I thought that the movie was unpartisan, in its own way of reflecting different viewpoints.

  3. i was pleasantly surprised at how much i enjoyed the movie.

    i am sadly not surprised at all that people then move in with their penny ante complaints like “why couldn’t it be a giant faceless government bureaucracy that i *don’t* like as the bad guy?”

  4. I’ve seen the movie three times and this guy is clearly an idiot with an agenda.
    First of all, when did the left claim “The Simpsons”? Did he not think it funny when Grandpa Simpson said he thought he was getting money from the government for doing nothing “because the Democrats were in power again”?
    Second, there is clearly a shot at Bush’s “War on Terror” when a National Security Agency employee listens in on Lisa’s telephone conversation, stands up and loudly proclaims, “I found her! Can you believe it? The United States government actually found someone we’re looking for!”
    Fuck the left for thinking they own the Simpsons.

  5. Maybe the movie the just the right amount liberal, and Ben Adler is the one to is too far to the left.

  6. While I’ll admit that it’s a little less obvious of a route for the Simpsons, I don’t see it as being at all inconsistent. The Simpsons seem to embrace the idea that the average person (represented by Homer Simpson) is oblivious to those who try to manipulate/take advantage of them, and are easily distracted by trivial things. I don’t think it matters WHO the villain is… that’s perhaps the whole point.

  7. Indeed, crimethink. While individual episodes may commonly be somewhat biased (or occassionally even more so) in one direction or the other, one of the most endearing qualities of the show is the fact that it seems to stake out no discernable consistent agenda.

  8. You don’t stay popular for 19 (?) years by being partisan. You make fun of everybody.

    Adler is a humorless scold, however, who should be forced to watch South Park so he can find even more things he doesn’t like.

  9. I think Adler should stick to ??????? ? ??????? (Worker and Parasite). It seems like it’s more his style.

  10. i was pleasantly surprised at how much i enjoyed the movie.

    Me too, only because I was high…

  11. The humour is so sharp-edged, and apparently liberal, that you wonder how they were able to get away with saying that on network television (Fox, no less)…

    Pshaw. The Simpsons (Lisa excluded) are clearly middle American DontGiveaShits, being neither exceptionally left or right. Now Family Guy, that is a family that screams “Librullll!”

  12. Now Family Guy, that is a family that screams “Librullll!”

    I was under the impression that the only Democrat in that family is the dog.

  13. Quote from Peter Griffin on an elephant:

    “Hey look honey, the two symbols of the Republican Party: An elephant and a fat, white guy who fears change.”

    I think that was from the Stewy’s first Birthday episode.

  14. Cesar,

    Maybe you haven’t seen the one where they go to Texas.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3KS-zdRY7fE

    Dislike for Bush isn’t specifically liberal, but I have noticed a lot of progressive/liberal references throughout the series.

  15. family guy is all about the cheapest, easiest joke in the room, which is one of the things i like about it.

  16. What, no comments about the Bourne Ultimatum yet?

  17. Kenobi-

    Theres no doubt in my mind the series is liberal. But the family (Brian excepted) I think is Republican. Of course, they are also except for Brian either buffoons or evil (Stewie).

  18. family guy is all about the cheapest, easiest joke in the room, which is one of the things i like about it

    Indeed. But don’t forget that the show is written by manatees, so what do you expect?

  19. The fact that it was the EPA is the best part of the movie. Of all government agencies who would have black helicopters and SWAT teams, the EPA is the last I’d think of.

    The movie sucked, though. Not funny enough, not sweet enough, not coherent enough.

  20. That’s bullshit. Family Guy is a hilarious show, and everyone knows liberals have no sense of humour.

  21. Of all government agencies who would have black helicopters and SWAT teams, the EPA is the last I’d think of.

    I think that’s the point: they’re saying that anti-terror efforts have gotten so bad that even the frickin’ EPA is militarized.

    Perhaps Adler is too angry to think.

  22. Liberuls are humorless. I’ve been watching SNL (liberal) and Laugh-in (anarcho leaning), and Laugh-in is by far the funniest.

    Yes, there were some great sketches in SNL, but if you’re not watching the “Best Of…” DVDs, you have to sit through all the lame sketches as well. Laughing at any skit Al Franken wrote is a sure sign you need a liberaldectomy.

  23. Actually i can track my decent from no-nothing leftism to libertarianism from a Simpsons episode.

    In fact it was a specific speech by Mr Burns, as his justification for producing lil’ Lisa slurry.


  24. Yes, there were some great sketches in SNL, but if you’re not watching the “Best Of…” DVDs, you have to sit through all the lame sketches as well. Laughing at any skit Al Franken wrote is a sure sign you need a liberaldectomy.

    I haven’t seen a very funny skit on there since about 2000.

  25. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but after that great review, I’m more stoked to see it than before.

    He calls disdain for the EPA an “anti-environmental thread”. If you don’t like the gubment agency that scores political points pretending to give two wet shits about the environment, then you hate the environment? What is wrong with some members of the left that they only equate morality with government action? It boggles the mind. It’s the same disease some Christians have (or just about any sectarian religious belief, for that matter) that only Christians have morals. I mean, that can be forgiven if you are less than 12 years old, or missing a chromosome. But we’re talking about grown-ass folks here, saying mocking federal agencies mocks reality. Ugghh..

  26. I have one thing to say about people who have nothing better to do than nitpicking a cartoon on partisanship… GET A JOB!!!!

    It seems like our society doesn’t care about right or wrong, only which side of the politics.

  27. “”””I haven’t seen a very funny skit on there since about 2000.””””

    Oh come on Ceasar, you didn’t see the dick in the box skit? That was funny!, but a rare moment indeed.

  28. TrickyVic

    I feel sorry for my friends who are still locked in the fight for their preferred party (be it Democrats or Republicans). “Your team doesn’t give a shit about you,” I tell them, but they don’t get it. It’s like fighting someone who’s trying to shoot you for their gun, and after you turn it on yourself.

  29. “I haven’t seen a very funny skit on there since about 2000.”

    “Oh come on Ceasar, you didn’t see the dick in the box skit? That was funny!, but a rare moment indeed.”

    I kinda liked the Peyton Manning-United Way thing, too. But, yes, overall, SNL has sucked since early 90s.

  30. Yes, there were some great sketches in SNL

    SNL is horrible. MAD TV is the shizz, especially back around 1998-2000. Think Will Sasso as Kenny Rogers. Youtube “MAD TV Kenny Rogers” and look for Kenny Roger’s Jackass, Reality Show, Punk’d, and Fear Factor. You will laugh your ass off. Ignore the earlier, not-totally-insane Kenny Rogers stuff.

  31. Once they fired Collin Quinn and put on the very unfunny Jimmy Fallon in his place, it went downhill fast.

  32. family guy addendum: brian is also an alcoholic who had a severe drug problem in one episode.

  33. enjoying our GG Allin records

    and to think Jim Morrison got arrested in Fla for pretending to stick out his wee knee on stage. Or, maybe he actually did stick it out.

  34. “Once they fired Collin Quinn and put on the very unfunny Jimmy Fallon in his place, it went downhill fast.”

    Not that I think Jimmy Fallon is funny, but Collin Quinn is a retard. I can’t even count how many times he screwed up a punchline on that show. The guy has the comedic timing of an earthworm.

  35. You give Collin Quinn, way too much credit. My 2 cents on SNL, Eddie Murphy knew when to jump ship.

    Hot Tub
    Will it make me wet.
    Will it make me sweat.

    They have had some hits since the 80s but the show has pretty much sucked. Mad TV has been better. Remember Raging Rudolf?

    “””I feel sorry for my friends who are still locked in the fight for their preferred party”””

    Ditto.

  36. Not that I think Jimmy Fallon is funny, but Collin Quinn is a retard. I can’t even count how many times he screwed up a punchline on that show. The guy has the comedic timing of an earthworm.

    Exactly, and the thing was, Quinn didn’t have the ability to recover from a flubbed joke. Kevin Nealon’s jokes weren’t always that great and both he and the audience knew it, but he could usually get a laugh anyway. That’s the key skill for that position.

  37. Mr. Moynihan:

    Worst?link?ever.

    Try this link instead. It actually works…

  38. Hold on. Are you saying Bronski Beat was gay!?!

  39. I forgot how dam funny Comic Book Guy really is.

    Thanks Untermensch.

  40. The Simpsons Movie had some very funny moments, but was overall just an extended episode (and not from one of the good years, either). I think long time viewers deserved better, but maybe it is just impossible to satisfy everyone (anyone?) after 20 years.

  41. Not that I think Jimmy Fallon is funny, but Collin Quinn is a retard. I can’t even count how many times he screwed up a punchline on that show. The guy has the comedic timing of an earthworm.

    At least he had jokes to screw up. I have never, ever laughed at Jimmy Fallon, ever.

    Quinn isn’t great but much like George W. Bush, Fallon and Fey make their predecessors look better by comparison.

  42. There are actually fans of Colin Quinn? Really? Wow… I still think of Colin as that announcer on Remote Control.

    And for f*ck’s sake people, it’s Colin, as in Colon with an I.

  43. enjoying our GG Allin records

    Michael, you are such a liar. Nobody has ever really enjoyed a GG Allin record.

  44. self-righteous nags

    At least the writers of the simpson’s movie got this part right.

  45. From the article: But fundamentally the movie shows environmentalists as aggressive busybodies, starting on a slippery slope to mass murder in the name of the environment.

    Yep, that sounds about right.

  46. Uh, huge difference alert: this guy wishes the movie was more liberal, but gosh, all political writers do that sort of thing (Reason digs down to find the libertarian and un-libertarian themes of pop culture, and, yes, laments the latter when it rears its head). The religious right condemn the whole project as satanic, form a boycott, and burn some things…
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/arts/1735623.stm
    Not that there are not liberal busybodies who try (usually ineffectually) to exert pressure on pop culture (and some, like certain feminists who would gladly use the law to impose their will), but this guy doesn’s sound like that to me. Again, what seems to be my chorus here, I just think it is very unhelpful to say “well, those liberals and those conservatives are so equally bad.” I think liberals are currently here in the US better friends of liberty thatn conservatives (and I stress currently and here, another time and place and they are clearly the worst [I’m thinking of Canada’s nutty feiminist inspired anti-porn and anti-hate censorship laws]). And that certainly has to do with the fact that we have a religious right so wedded to our conservative party (I don’t see the same nuttiness in the Conservative parties in Canada and Europe).

  47. GG Allin – even though he’s long dead, I still might feel kind of guilty giving my money to him or his estate(?!). I bought one of his albums once. “Ass Face” was all right. I don’t remember much else.

  48. One thing that you guys have to understand is that people on the left label anything that deviates on one point in a thousand with left-liberal ideology as “right-wing”.

    This is why libertarians are branded as “right-wing” by lefties, even if we never cast a single vote for a republican.

  49. the last good snl was, oh, maybe 1979? “let’s kill gary gilmore for christmas”

    the simpsons movie was perfectly cromulent.

  50. I think liberals are currently here in the US better friends of liberty thatn conservatives

    Which part of “all Democratic presidential candidates are pushing socialized medicine” do you fail to get? The Democrats are worse on fiscal issues, the Republicans are worse on social issues — neither is a “friend of liberty”. If you were to say that Democrats were slightly less worse about taking away our freedoms bit by bit, perhaps that might be a defensible position depending on which kind of freedoms you most mourned losing.

  51. “I get jokes.”

    -Homer Simpson


  52. Michael, you are such a liar. Nobody has ever really enjoyed a GG Allin record.

    He did a good cover of Charles Manson’s “Garbage Dump”- better than the original!.

    This is why libertarians are branded as “right-wing” by lefties, even if we never cast a single vote for a republican.

    The lefties are right here. You don’t have to be a Republican voter to hold “right wing” political views such as libertarianism.

  53. Re: Right/Left Democrat/Republican and liberty

    “Political correctness” is as much,if not more, a threat to liberty than Christian fundamentalist political activism. Visualize a feminist “Porn Czar” for example.True far left socialism is a poor fit for American culture but an anti-liberty center/left communitarian State(I think we are already in one) is more likely than any sort of a Theocracy

  54. Remember that the left/right spectrum began with the French Etates Generale, where the people to the left of the King were the revolutionaries and the people to the right were the Old Order aristocrats and clerics. How to distinguish between either “wing” seems to depend on your point of view, but for me the mental visuals for Left-Wing are the totalitarian Reds, the bomb-lobbing anarchists, the Black Panthers and communist hippies. My visuals for Right-Wing are the Inquisition, the Roman Catholic Church, the Taliban, protectionists like Pat Buchanan, and the Southern racists. How does private property, free enterprise and individualism fit into this picture? It doesn’t. Those all denote forms of collectivism, violence and reactionism.

    The Simpsons Movie had the family on the run from the government’s militarized environmental bureaucracy, which is run by Republicans and corporate MIC type characters. Fun for the whole family. I still thought it was alright. It definitely contained way less “please kill me” moments of political commentary than say, the last Star Wars movie.

  55. SIV,

    You know what the #1 prosecutorial priority of the Bush administration has been? Hint: it’s a capitalized word in your last post.

    Feminazis and Puritans have an awful lot in common when you get down to it.

  56. “Visualize a feminist “Porn Czar” for example.”

    OK, what position is she in?


  57. OK, what position is she in?

    Head down Butt up

  58. Quinn isn’t great but much like George W. Bush, Fallon and Fey make their predecessors look better by comparison.

    To be fair, though, Tina Fey is not only hot, she’s a brilliant writer. Mean Girls was much better than it deserved to be, and 30 Rock is one of the best-written comedies I’ve ever seen. Whatever her problems on SNL, Tina Fey is brilliant.

  59. More on the Simpsons: Matt Groening is a Democrat. However the specific episodes usually fall into the hands of the series’ showrunner, and they may or may not inject their politics into the show.

    Their have been specific and memorable episodes that either bash left-wing positions or take non-left positions. For instance, the episode where the Springfield NRA chapter shuns Homer for being an irresponsible gun owner, then saves the family from a motel robber. The episode about Lisa becoming a “militant” vegetarian. Others which I can’t remember.

  60. Crimethink,

    I am aware the Bush Justice department has made porn a priority, but #1? Have you got a cite? I bet there is a lot of bs sociology behind it that is as comforting to feminists and those centrist “communitarians” as it is to religous fundamentalists.

  61. “Political correctness” is as much,if not more, a threat to liberty than Christian fundamentalist political activism.

    man, i hate to pull such an awkward cliche, but i swear that 1994 talk radio called and wants its boogeyman back.

    so just between you, me, the internet and the department of justice bot parsing this message: do you honestly believe this shit or is this runoff from a game of magic: the gathering that got way out of hand?

  62. Why do the Simpsons always blame whitey for everything?

  63. I enjoyed the movie but have to agree it was no better than their avg. TV entry. And “Ghostbusters” had the villain from the EPA (“Dickless”) before Simpsons ever aired.

    “I think liberals are currently here in the US better friends of liberty thatn conservatives (and I stress currently and here, another time and place and they are clearly the worst [I’m thinking of Canada’s nutty feiminist inspired anti-porn and anti-hate censorship laws]). And that certainly has to do with the fact that we have a religious right so wedded to our conservative party (I don’t see the same nuttiness in the Conservative parties in Canada and Europe).”

    Europe’s “conservatives” don’t have that kind of nuttiness, but they don’t have anything good going for them the way America’s do either. Meanwhile their “left” is mad with power, while America’s is just mad.

  64. It is almost a given in elite liberal circles that you are, or once were, a devoted fan of The Simpsons… That’s why it was so disappointing to see the hilarious new Simpsons movie engage in some weirdly illiberal gags.

    Well, it is almost a given in many (if not most) circles, liberal or otherwise, that you are a Simpsons fan. So Adler starts right off with a misstep. Also, I would suggest that there’s some ambiguity here with respect to “liberal” and “illiberal.” “Liberal,” as he uses it, means “leftist,” but being “illiberal” is typically understood not in the sense of “nonleftist” but in the sense of “antidemocratic.” There is nothing “illiberal” about spoofing the EPA or pointing out that, the truth about the environment notwithstanding, environmentalists can be irritating and self-righteous.

  65. Wow, what a jerk, complaining that a movie doesn’t serve his political agenda well enough.

    And on a completely unrelated note, can we have another thread about how Hollywood is too liberal, and never makes any movies that portray Communism badly? Those are always a favorite.

  66. Why do the Simpsons always blame whitey for everything?

    Juh?

  67. The guy can’t be much of a Simpsons fan if he has forgotten the “Screamapiller” episode, where the EPA forces the Simpsons to care for the endangered “Screamapillar.” Also, the many references over the years to outrageous stores reported by Fox news shows the Simpsons are neither left nor right, but libertarian. See episode where Maggie attends the Ayn Rand daycare center.

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