Cultural Revolutions

Controversial

The Simpsons is both the hottest and the most controversial program on television. At first sight, a cartoon show for children and adults is not promising material for "equality" TV (remember The Flintstones? The Jetsons?). Worse, the graphic style of the show is as disturbing as any drawing we have ever printed in Chronicles: The Simpsons themselves are only grotesque, but other characters, like the bartender, have sinister, bestial faces.

The most controversial aspect of the show is not the graphics, but the portrayal of a family of chronic underachievers. There are Simpsons T-shirts that bear the slogan: "I'M AN UNDERACHIEVER AND PROUD OF IT." Drug Czar William Bennett takes this seriously enough to lash out at patients in a Pittsburgh drug-treatment center. According to the AP story, when Bennett spied a poster of Bart Simpson, he exclaimed: "You guys aren't watching The Simpsons, are you? That's not going to help you any." A spokesman for the show confined himself to a dry rejoinder: "I am not aware of any one TV program that will help teenagers kick the drug habit." But, considering the impact of television on its young viewers, Mr. Bennett had raised a legitimate question.

The trouble is, The Simpsons may be among the most moral TV programs ever offered to family audiences. By "moral," I mean...

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