The animated series “The Simpsons” has covered many serious subjects, offering intelligent insight into society's problems. One great thing about the show is that it uses nonstop humor to entice viewers who may not otherwise be interested in sitting through a social commentary on racism, sexual harassment, or the way our culture pushes constricting gender roles on young children.
“Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy” is a 1994 episode that is at least as relevant in today's world as it was when originally aired. I watched the episode twice, taking notes the second time and frequently utilizing the pause button on my remote in order to catch details that eluded me the first time around. The episode starts with Grandpa Simpson announcing to the family that he will give them their inheritance money early. Lisa heads to the local toy store and straight to the brand new display of Malibu Stacy dolls— the doll's name being the only thing separating it from the actual Barbie dolls the episode is commenting on.
[...] In a scene I have sadly experienced with a crowd much older than Lisa Simpson's elementary school friends, the mention of sexism incites laughter by those who think she is saying a dirty word, something more akin to or than something more along the lines of racism or ageism. Sadly, Lisa heroically continues her stance against the doll's message only to be met with further opposition. Her family sits in confused silence as she professes her beliefs, and she is verbally discouraged by her mother to pursue any quest to change things. [...]
[...] It is so important to take a look at the cultural force that is Barbie, simply because of her huge—not to mention international—fan-base. Dolls are often what provide children with their first instructions on what a female should be. They speak of what is loved, valued and considered beautiful. This can affect young boys as well as girls. But girls are most violently struck by the often destructive messages touted regarding what beauty female is. Due to her unrealistic proportions, Barbie would collapse if she were a real woman. [...]
[...] The DVD commentary goes on to say, “that ad is literally illustrating everything that this episode is criticizing.” “That's a couple of the fellow commentators chime in. The funny thing is that Simpsons” takes shots at the FOX network within its episodes. Sometimes the jokes are light-hearted, but others are very serious and critical to the point that perhaps the only reason they were allowed to air was because they were so intelligently written as to often be subtle or even unnoticed but to the most attentive of viewers. [...]
[...] That even though a lot of people will not see to the deepest messages of this episode, and many people who hold dangerously sexist beliefs may laugh at some of the gags yet not get the true feminist meaning, perhaps this episode's true themes will reach that one girl who needs it most. I am not a young girl who is influenced by toy dolls anymore, but this episode spoke volumes to me. And looking back on old episodes of Simpsons” such as this and others makes me very happy to see at least one positive light coming from the media. [...]
[...] Day, I received some confused stares as I thought aloud that perhaps the lack of overt racism in my immediate world—and even disgust toward racism by my young peers—was simply a result of the current messages we were receiving that racism is bad. If we had gotten an equal number of messages that racism is cool, would many my peers have as easily swayed in another direction? In comes the issue of sexism, which I came to understand far later in life. [...]
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