O.K first up, who loves The Simpsons and Family Guy? Every teenage boy ever, forever young adults and anyone with a dirty, crude sense of humour. Whether you love or loath them, they get a reaction. Politics is a topic covered quite well by both shows and it ALWAYS causes a debate. There is even a Wikipedia page devoted purely on ‘Politics in The Simpsons’. The Simpson has been running for 24 seasons and is the longest running sit-com and animated T.V series on American television ever. Family Guy is a much more recent show with 11 seasons. Regardless of time, both shows cover recent issues concerning the general public, after all they depict the average American family.
Think of the mannerisms of the characters and where they live. The kids go to school, the mum (or ‘mom’ for the American audience) stays at home and the dad works, everyday activities turn into disasters and the family unit faces relatable issues.
Think of Homer going to Moe’s to have a beer after a long day at work. It is here you could say is the ‘Public Sphere’ of Homer’s world. Homer and the other guys at the bar discuss issues relating to them. It is like the American version of the Turkish coffee shop, the bar is where great minds meet to discuss issues relating to themselves. The American version of the public sphere.
So how has The Simpsons and Family Guy contributed to debate over their take on politics in our public sphere? Well where to begin! The Simpsons especially have been seen to be highly critical of American politics and also caused so much debate that they are either banned or censored in several countries. Such as with Willy the groundskeeper calling the French ‘cheese-eating surrender monkeys’.
Or the episode where George W Bush Senior moves in a cross from the Simpsons. This episode was backlash against George Bush saying “The next value I speak of must be forever cast in stone. I speak of decency, the moral courage to say what is right and condemn what’s wrong, and we need a nation closer to the Waltons than the Simpsons. An America that rejects the incivility, the tide of incivility and the tide of intolerance”. Well hello Bushs, you’re now living in Evergreen Terrace!
Family Guy takes on another whole dynamic with politics. The show is incredibly blunt, and raw with it’s opinions on every politic topic from rape to illegal immigrants. What makes Family Guy so successful in it’s political messages is that the writers push the boundaries. They script what the majority of the population is probably thinking, but is too afraid to say. Having a political opinion creates so much controversy if stated within the public sphere, but Family Guy successfully does that with a sense of humour. Even the baby of the family, Stewie, has something to say.
No area is off topic for either show, and with politics they have been able to contribute to the discussion within the public sphere. Love or loath them, Matt Groening and Seth MacFarlane have managed to create shows that discuss relevant modern issues surrounding politics successfully with honesty. And really, isn’t that what politicians need? A little honesty?