Sunday, October 11, 2009

Marge Simpson Makes Cover of Playboy

That was the headline. While I can't speak for anyone else, this really makes me wonder about things.

It's always been an unsettling feeling in the first place, that some "cartoons" were created for adults. Maybe it's just me, but I automatically associate animated entertainment with childhood and the things that appeal to a child-like mind. When we buy or rent an animated movie for the kids I can sit and watch it with them and even enjoy it for what it's worth: children's entertainment. I have extremely large issues however when I hear adult style humor written into children's cartoons, or cartoons themselves that were never designed for children in the first place. Since the Simpsons first aired, plenty more animated shows have come along that were never designed for children, but 100% designed for the childish adult. While the visual appeals to the childlike mind, the audio is completely adult (and often disrespectful, offensive and crude humor) oriented. And these are hugely popular shows.

I remember when the Simpsons first came out and I watched the first episode. It was abundantly clear that it was a.) aimed at so-called adults and b.) going to be a hit with the terminally immature. When the older girls later started hearing about it from their friends at school who watched it (which always made me wonder what kind of genuinely idiotic parents these poor kids had) they always wanted to watch it because... they reasoned with me from their childlike perspective: it was a cartoon and all their friends were watching it. From a kid's perspective, that makes perfect sense. I mean, what kind of horrible, mean-spirited mom refuses to let her kids watch harmless cartoons, anyway!? I always had to explain to them (because kids have a hard time grasping that grown ups can actually be quite juvenile in their thinking - they just assume adults think in a mature, responsible way) that just because it was a cartoon, didn't mean it was created for children. As little girls, they couldn't understand how a cartoon could possibly be created that THEY couldn't watch. No matter how many times I tried to explain it, the whole "this is not a child's cartoon" concept went completely over their heads. As children, they couldn't understand the idea that someone might take something that appeals to children and use it to appeal to adults with childish minds. It was a whole age/maturity reversal thing. I might as well have told them to go out and get a job and pay all the bills. Of course that would have seemed purely ridiculous to them since it's the grown up who is supposed to have the job, not the kid.

I always wondered how many parents caved in and let their kids watch it, and let them be exposed to things well over their heads. I've hated the show and the concept of "adult animated entertainment" ever since that first episode.

Fast forward 20 years, and those same terminally immature adults that have enjoyed this show and probably let their kids grow up watching it are about to be exposed to a new side of Marge. No pun intended. Frankly, it's embarassing and shameful that people of my generation are the people that enjoy this idiocy and let their kids grow up with it. It may be even worse that a nude Marge Simpson in Playboy was done to purposely and intentionally attract a younger generation of "readers" to the magazine. According to the article linked above:

"Playboy said the cover and a three-page picture spread inside was a celebration of the 20th anniversary of the "The Simpsons" and part of a plan to appeal to a younger generation of readers. Scott Flanders, the recently-hired chief executive of Playboy Enterprises, told the Chicago Sun-Times in an interview that the Marge Simpson cover and centerfold was somewhat tongue-in-cheek. It had never been done, and we thought it would be kind of hip, cool and unusual, Flanders told the newspaper. He said the magazine hoped to attract readers in their 20s compared to the average Playboy reader's age of 35."

It's as if there is an insidious drug being passed around that keeps the brain at a 3rd grade mentality on the one level, while the natural course of maturity takes place on other levels. This kind of sheer nonsense affirms the decision I made 20 years ago to NOT let my kids watch these kinds of "cartoons", despite all their protests and the fact that EVERY other kid at school watched the show, and I was quite likely the worst mom in the world for being so mean. Fact is, the very people that Playboy is now hoping to draw in as new readers, are the same people my older girls went to school with who grew up watching this "cartoon". No one would have imagined 20 years ago that a cartoon character would be used by Playboy to draw in younger subscribers, but here we are today and it's most certainly our reality in 2009.

Who will Playboy target ten or twenty years from now to attract an even younger audience, Strawberry Shortcake or Minnie Mouse? Just don't be too shocked when it happens, since this is just one more cultural boundary line that just disintegrated before our eyes.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe