21 December 2011

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Do American Cartoons Reflect Real Life?

The Simpsons

The Simpson’s arrived on our screens in 1989 with a Christmas special and twenty-two years later it is still going strong. The cartoon was a breath of fresh air compared to the selection of dramas and soaps which had taken over the American television listings. The Simpsons was a huge success and after a few years several cartoons sprung up based on the ‘American family’ and their trials and tribulations through life.

Although creator Matt Groening developed the show with the typical modern family in mind there were many quirky elements to the Simpsons, separating them from the ‘average’ family. The fact they were yellow was one, Marge’s hair color was another and their pink Cadillac-esque family car was definitely out of the ordinary. Would any family really have a car like that? No, probably not. However, while these aspects were a million miles away from ‘real life,’ the message portrayed by the show was simple – family. Each episode centered on the events of the last few days and the drama which seemed to follow the family everywhere. However, each unfortunate situation they found themselves in was easily identifiable to viewers who more often than not had found themselves in that position at some point. This ability to relate to the characters was what propelled the series to success along with the contrasting ridiculousness of some aspects of their lives, such as Homers pink sedan. In fact Matt Groening once said, “I've always said it's a celebration of the American family at its wildest.”

Each of the main characters resembled a typical family member in American society and together they made a solid family unit. Marge was the despairing mother who spent her days tidying up after her husband and children. Homer was the hapless man of the house who, although rather useless in many ways went out to work to earn for his growing family and always meant well. Bart was the typical little boy, always getting into trouble and scrapes and Lisa, his older gifted and sophisticated sister, who was embarrassed by her brother and couldn’t understand why he had turned out the way he had. Altogether the characters fought, argued and disagreed, yet were always supportive of each other and felt nothing was more important than each other.

Family Guy

Family Guy, another satirical American cartoon, which first aired in 1998 also centers around American family life. The Griffins family are a typical dysfunctional unit consisting of parents Peter and Lois and children Meg, Chris and Stewie along with the dog Brian. Again, the family go through scenarios many American families will find very familiar and able to relate to. Their family car, a large red estate/truck is slightly a more sensible choice than Homer's but has also seen better days, looking rather old fashioned and tired. As with many men, Peter has the occasional midlife crisis and pops out to buy a sports car. It doesn’t take long however, before his trusty estate is back in the picture.

American Dad

American Dad is the 2005 successor to Family Guy and written by its creator Seth Macfarlane. It revolves around Republican and CIA Agent Stan, his dizzy housewife Francine and their two children. Stan is full of his own self-importance but has a wife so devoted to him she feeds his arrogance continuously, meaning he is completely unaware of his overinflated ego. His two children find him odd and rather embarrassing and his eighteen year old, left wing daughter, clashes and challenges him at every opportunity. Stan is the owner of a large, black SUV which is his pride and joy. He regularly washes and polishes it and has been known to stroke it when feeling particularly amorous towards it. The car is a typical example of the family vehicle many men acquire to meet the family requirements but are impressive enough for them to show off and preen at weekends.

Although, not as reflective of the average family as the Simpsons and Family Guy there are still elements of American Dad which represent many characters in society and the clashes they have with their nearest and dearest.

American cartoons in general are very closely modelled on real families, their homes, cars and pets. By picking out stereotypes in society and lumping them together, the writers of these shows have created over exaggerated, drama-laden families which make for great viewing. Peel away the layers however and we all know a Homer, Marge and Bart somewhere, probably with a Pink Sedan is lurking in their garage...

About today's Guest Writer:
This is a guest post written on behalf of Netcars.

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