Operation Enduring Occupation

The Simpsons have never shied away from politics – they have pilloried politicians left and right, taunted and fought presidents. Mr. Burns runs the Springfield Republicans and Mayor Diamond Joe Quimby embodies the worst of Democratic corruption, but I’ve never considered the show to be particularly partisan. Tonight’s Treehouse of Horror episode changed that.

In the final segment, The Day the Earth Looked Stupid, my favourite aliens Kang and Kodos invade Springfield after a War of the Worlds-esque radio show leaves the townsfolk with their guard down. Three years later, after the pair has reduced the town to ashes, they begin to have second thoughts:
Kang: "The earthlings continue to resent our presence. You said we'd be greeted as liberators."

Kodos: "Don't worry. We still have the people's hearts and minds." (Holding up a heart and a brain).

Kang: "I don't know. I'm starting to think 'Operation Enduring Occupation' was a bad idea."

Kodos: "We had to invade. They were working on weapons of mass disintegration."

Kang: "Sure they were."
A less than subtle message, airing just days before the U.S. mid-term elections. The message was loud and clear and was likely the reason producers left out the line: "This sure is a lot like Iraq will be,” was left out. It wasn’t necessary.

Seeing as the Treehouse episodes take a year to produce, it’s amazing to see such a blunt political message – I would have been surprised to see something like this air in 2005. It is an indicator of the mood of a nation that has been at war for years.

The Simpsons weren’t the only primetime-animated family to take on the Iraq war. Family Guy enlisted Stewie and Brian and sent them through basic training, in full Stripes style. After arriving in country, they end up shooting each other in the foot to get sent home with Purple Hearts. No luck, until remarkably democracy kicks in and Abu Ghraib prisoners turn into frat boys and burka-clad women turn into bikini-wearing car washers.

The next scene shows George W. Bush “the one guy who predicted this” trying to get a slinky to work on the White House stairs. Two popular shows directly tackling the war on the same night? It is quite an indicator of the mood of a nation that has been at war for years.

9 comments:

  1. The Simpsons have made quite a few political jabs in the past, but yes, I have to admit that probably the most pointed they've ever been.

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  2. The only other time it seems to me that The Simpsons were very partisan was in the episode where Sideshow Bob ran for office...on the Republican ticket!

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  3. That certainly isn't very subtle on the Simpsons part! I don't care one way or another what they say, as long as it's funny.

    Politics is already so crazy, I feel like nothing can match the hilarity of real life! I'm really enjoying the Tennessee senate race, love the ads, how nasty can you get!

    I really want to see that Family Guy episode, that sounds pretty good.

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  4. I usually skip The Simpsons but I did watch it last night and is was excellent. Not to be ignored was American Dad! and Family Guy both of which also dealt with issues that I'm sure are of importance coming into the election. It was a great night of television.

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  5. I was also a little surprised at the episode...

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  6. It was an interesting evening of TV for sure. The Simpsons go after the Iraq war, American Dad supports gays in the Republican party and Family Guy takes on military recruitment - and all on Fox!

    What interests me is how these issues can be raised on primetime TV when just 3 1/2 years ago the Dixie Chicks recieved death threats when Natalie Maines said she was ashamed the President was from Texas. I haven't heard of anyone burning Bart in effigy or telling Stewie Griffen to to move to France. How times have changed.

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  7. Sunday night was definitely polticial night for those programs. Personally, I wasn't too happy with how The Simpsons ended. I don't know why I wasn't as bothered by AD and FG but something about The Simpsons getting a little too political just seems off. I don't mind the jokes where they make fun of politicians but the Iraq war is still a pretty touchy subject.

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  8. The Simpson's has always been political. Every episode that features Mr.Burns is a jab at the rich republican establishment. Episodes about France and Australia re-inforce the sterotype of America's ignorance of other countries.

    Although it was political, in the context of pop culture, it wasn't edgy at all. If anything, the WMD joke was so tired that it was safe. The Daily Show makes a joke along the same line at least once a week.

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  9. I will concede it wasn't edgy for pop culture, but it certainly was for The Simpsons. Their politics has always leaned towards the generic, not topical. That's what made it stand out so much. Then again, perhaps it worked...

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