Monday, October 11, 2010

Weigh in, if you please

Tony and I are debating this in emails today. Well, it's not much of a debate. More of a "can you believe this?" back and forth. And I wanted others to weigh in on it while you can still view it.

Watch the clip below while you can. It's only on Hulu for now and who knows for how long. Let me know what you think. It was designed by Banksy, the increasingly famous graffiti artist with more street cred than Jay Z, and is pregnant with a not-very-thickly-veiled message.

So, our debate: is this funny? I'll go ahead and say the unicorn gag is, but you know me and my hatred for endangered, magical creatures.


  1. Big question mark.

    It made me feel a little guilty, because, though clearly exaggerated, there's probably some truth in it. Guess I won't be buying Simpsons merchandise anymore?

    Come on Simpsons, you're supposed to help me laugh at social contradictions, not make me feel bad about it.

  2. So there are two questions here.
    1. Is it funny--no.
    2. Is the real message valid? Sort of. A lot of Chinese really want these types of menial manufacturing jobs because they are better than the alternative--subsistence agriculture and peasant squalor. In either case there will be child labor abuses, but at least in factories it seems easier to regulate. South Korea went through a sweatshop stage and is now a great developed economy. Actually so did England and probably every other modern economy. I don't think it's avoidable.

  3. Oh, but the unicorn WAS funny.

  4. thanks for chiming in, holmeses. that's a great perspective on asia from one who knows something about it (rob). and i'm glad to see that the farm hasn't totally warped your sense of humor because that unicorn thing is still making me chuckle (when i can separate it from the rest of the clip in my mind).

  5. I've said this to Jed and I'll say it here. I was dumbfounded by this. I watched it 4 or 5 times in a stupor wondering what was happening. I sort of admire the complete and total moxie for putting something like this on, but the severity of the message is jarring to say the least.

    I think The Simpsons is one of the best satires there is. The gentle pokes and jabs they take at the monotony of politics and government, the greed and shallowness of the entertainment industry, and the shortcomings of parents all intended for laughs, but I think also intended to provoke thought in the viewer about the topics. I think most of the satiric elements are lost on many viewers because of the humor, but this is quite different.

    The intent seems to be to shed some light on what we're watching. Perhaps there are people, cogs in the machine, who are exploited for our entertainment. Certainly not to the extent of the clip, but perhaps treated worse than we'd like to admit or notice.

    I don't think this means we stop watching The Simpsons, or buying merchandise, but perhaps we should become aware of the labor practices of the institutions we give our money and attention to.

    I'm gonna stop myself before I go on even LONGER, but I appreciate how much thought this 1 minute of footage provoked in me. It'd be too bad if Fox yanked it and never let it see the light of day again.

  6. Right, I think it was meant to be thought provoking more than humorous--and it definitely succeeded in that aspect.

  7. This is...odd. The unicorn joke was right funny, but I don't quite understand why the Simpsons would show their own practices in such a negative light. It would be like Nike showing commercials of their sweatshops in print ads and commercials. It just seems so incredibly counter intuitive to everything I've ever seen. It's not like it's something that makes me want to go out and buy it because they had the balls to have a huge downer in their opening about how the do what they do (exaggerated, obviously). If they showed someone else's sweatshops, then I could see the commentary. It's just...odd.

  8. I thought it was odd, but funny.

    Weird especially since this is similar to a joke that they made earlier (Itchy and Scratchy Land - 2F01), saying that the Itchy and Scratchy cartoons were made in South Korean sweatshops. At the time, The Simpsons were illustrated in South Korea, and they apparently offended their Korean illustrators (this is from the DVD commentary).

    I immediately thought of that when I saw this -- this is one of the rare Simspons episodes I've seen recently -- and chuckled, thinking they were being cheeky.

    Looking at it now, it's maybe a little extreme, but it has the hallmarks of Simpsons satire, like when they showed the Republican party meeting in an evil castle, with Bob Dole reading from the Necronomicon and M. Burns asking "what act of unmitigated evil shall the Republican Party undertake this week?" (Brawl in the Family - DABF01)

    It's over-exaggeration that's not meant so much to make a point, but to be funny.

    Should we be worried about immoral environmental practices that bring us our cheap, cheap products, sure. But mostly, putting bunnies through a wood-chipper for doll-fluff is just plain funny. I think this particular joke is at Fox's expense, not the Simpsons specifically.

    And that's my treatise on this 1-minute Simpsons intro.