The Simpsons: Hypergamy, and Male Disposability in “Life on the Fast Lane” and “Homer’s Night Out” (1990)

The series debut, “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire,” could have stood alone as a one-off episode. The Simpson’s pilot told the story of a father striving for a positive male identity by maintaining an idyllic home life that mirrored the classic television sitcoms he was raised on. Homer Simpson found this hallmark impossible- real life could never replicate television, and this inevitable failure lead to a lack of respect and appreciation from his family. His normal, boring, every day struggle to keep food on the table was rendered meaningless.

The reality of emasculation and disposability was heavy for men at the tail-end of the last decade at all concerned with family values. The new role of father was to be something of a bumbling and dutiful employee of his family; open to their intense criticism at his slightest misstep.

Although The Simpsons first-season writers, nerdy Hollywood outsiders, were acutely aware of the changing value of Fatherhood, they happily accepted the modern definition of marriage as relying entirely on the fickle whims of female happiness. While Homer deserved more than his family had to offer in exchange for his struggle with modern Fatherhood, he rightfully was a slave and workhorse for his wife.

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Dwight Schrute and the Uncanny Valley Between Beta and Alpha 

“How would I describe myself? Three words. Hard-working, Alpha male, Jackhammer, Merciless, Insatiable.”

What if I told you that I worked with a guy who owned his own farm, had a vast amount of hunting knowledge and experience, practiced martial arts, was adept at weapon usage, abides by a deep code of honor and integrity, speaks with an inherent confidence, and is a killer salesman?

Seems pretty admirable, right?

On paper these qualities command social respect yet on NBC’s “The Office,” Dwight Schrute serves as the butt of jokes for both the characters on the show and the television audience watching at home.

Dwight is routinely a target of ridicule due to these aforementioned qualities met with his lack of an attractive masculine appearance and his severely inept social skill-set. Had he made these transgressions while recognizing and abiding by the social limitations of the beta-male his presence would not be met with such intense scorn.

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“Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” (1989) and the Diminished Respect for Fatherhood

The very first episode of The Simpsons, “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” debuted the series on December 17th, 1989– roughly twenty-five years ago (I was there watching it live), launching the series and the family into the forever consciousness of pop-culture. I recently re-watched the episode and it shocked me how different the series was when it initially aired.

Watching an episode of today’s Simpsons reveals an entirely different show. The Homer character, while likable and endearing, is emasculated, negligent of others, and mentally handicapped.

Upon re-watching the first episode, Homer is instead presented as a sympathetic, under appreciated father whom, despite his best efforts, finds tremendous difficulty in providing a perfect family life for his wife and children.

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