Character Analysis, The Mind of a Character

How the Simpsons Created Comedy Through Character

There are a lot of problems with the modern Simpsons that hold it back from the greatness it once had. Honestly, I don’t care to go into detail. I’d just get depressed. Instead, we’ll focus on one aspect: the characters.

Modern Simpsons characters are exceptionally simple. Homer is the stupid dad. Marge is the can-do mom. Lisa is the smart one. Bart is the trouble-maker. Maggie is the baby who knows more than you’d expect. They are the simplest, most one-dimensional characters you could possibly come up with for a family sitcom.

“But Jonah!” I hear you screaming. “That’s what the Simpsons have always been!” And yes, you’re right. Those have always been the core aspects of each member of the family.

Key word being core.

Back in the day, Simpsons characters were like a delicious lasagna. Each layer worked in tandem with the others to create a unique flavor of comedy. The characters weren’t just one-dimensional joke dispensers. They were actual characters.

Let’s look at Homer, for example. Homer has always been a dim-witted and lazy glutton with anger issues. But he always had heart. Despite his flaws, he cared deeply for his family and friends. When he made a mistake, he’d put in every effort to fix it. Even if he only made it worse through his sheer incompetency.

The writers didn’t manufacture cheap jokes by focusing exclusively on one or two traits. Rather, they put the characters in an interesting situation and asked themselves “How would they react?” So, no matter how bizarre a situation got, you could always rely on the characters to be themselves. To act as the characters would.

Take the episode where Homer went to space, for example. In any other family sitcom, that situation would be so outlandish that it would immediately take the audience out of the story. But they made it believable and entertaining simply by having Homer act like Homer.

This same level of depth applied to every character. Mr. Burns was a rich psycho, but he wasn’t without his silly side; at times, he was a harmless senile old man or an actual boss who wanted his incompetent work force to do better. Barnie was an alcoholic, but he also had a smart and responsible side. Flanders was constantly upbeat and pleasant, but he had a hidden anger that put everyone else to shame.

It was this depth that made the show truly interesting to watch. It wasn’t just for the humor. It also lead to some truly heartfelt moments. By presenting the audience with a cast of truly deep characters, we got a show that was entertaining in more ways than one. It wasn’t just funny. It had a depth that the modern seasons have completely lost.

Dammit, I got depressed anyways.

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