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Children have the purest minds and souls. Within the first years of their lives, they are isolated from the cruelty of the world, and they go through a period of adaptation that prepares them to face reality. The values parents serve during this period are extremely important for their development. TV shows and characters have huge influence over children's thoughts and behavioral patterns. For me, The Simpsons was the show that made an impact. My parents were a bit hesitant to let me watch the show, but they were hooked after few episodes. Soon, those 30 minutes spent on the couch with pizza and ice-cream became our favorite family pastime.
What was it about The Simpsons that mesmerized all members of the family? For me, the mere fact that it was a cartoon was enough. It was fun and playful, and it always had a new adventure to show. When I think about it, this show marked not only my childhood, but my adolescent years as well. It is the only part of my life that remained a constant: the satiric characters that present American society in its true light. The satire and sarcasm were the aspects that attracted my parents. They laughed and talked for hours after watching a new episode, but sometimes the authors of the show threw them into total despair. I vividly remember the episode when Homer quit his job at a nuclear power plant and decided to start working at the bowling alley. I can't remember the exact words my father said at that moment, but I'm sure it was a life lesson about following my dreams. He told me that Homer did the right thing because money was not important if they made us deeply unhappy.
When I observe the characters of this show from a grown up's perspective, I realize they don't only represent people's personality; they also depict ideologies. Homer conveys the principles of idealism, and Lisa is the force of rationalism that brings him to balance. No matter how unreal these characters and situations seemed when I was a child, I now understand that their personalities have been developed through slight exaggeration of the real, typical examples of American people. This aspect of the show has inspired many serious essays and studies of the characters. When I tried reading them, I realized the intellectualization of this show was ridiculous. Although it's supposed to make us think where our society is heading to, The Simpsons is still just a show whose main purpose is entertainment. And "it's funny "cause it's true."
When I try to identify the reason why this show was so important for my childhood, I can find only one justification: it showed me how important family was. This fictional family proved to me that the fights between my mom and dad were completely normal. I saw Homer and Marge fight over random things, just like my parents did. As it turns out - never-ending harmony was never part of the definition of unconditional love. These characters made mistakes, but the family stayed connected through the hardest times. The diverse characters appeal to different members of a real family, since everyone gets to identify with an individual from the show. The authors of the show took an average American family; they exaggerated the aspects worth mocking on, and served the American Dream back to us. We saw our dreams, passions, and materialistic nature mocked in a way that didn't seem offensive. We saw how ridiculous those things were, but we still loved the idea of a family brought together by superficial values.
For me, Lisa Simpson was the most striking character from the show. She elevated the values of the family and showed that stars could arise even from mediocre surroundings. An animal-rights activist, feminist and vegetarian, Lisa was the one who brought a healthy dose of idealism into the depiction of an average American family. When I think about it, there has to be at least one such individual in every family I know. Since Lisa has always been my favorite part of the show, my parents are not surprised I grew up respecting the same values she stood for. Lisa the Vegetarian, an episode aired in 1995, made a real change in the way vegetarians were presented in TV shows. The Simpsons didn't show a vegetarian as a one-dimensional hippie character; she became the center of morality around which the family gravitated.
The Simpsons was the perfect TV show that appealed to all generations within the family. The cultural references, unrealistic scenes, exaggerated characters, and striking criticism of the modern American family were intertwined in fun, engaging episodes full of humor and wit. The Simpsons is something more than a cartoon for me: it is the most notable stamp of my childhood and adolescence.
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