Of all the ways to mark the decline of The Simpsons, this is one. I recollect a commentary from the Season 2 DVDs (I had a lot of free time in college) on "Itchy & Scratchy & Marge," where the people who had made the show were praising themselves for refusing to spell out an answer to that episode's central dilemma, about whether the attempt to censor in some instances had to carry over into others (it matters, for example, that the kids really are better off without cartoons, but it also matters that serious art be taken seriously). That seemed to me to be entirely appropriate self-praise, since the episode was funny and it made its various points and was content with that. Somewhere around the episode that ends with them all singing the Canadian national anthem (they really hated George W. Bush, y'all!), the people associated with the Simpsons lost the interest in being subtle, or creating work that is orthogonal to political disputes, and started telling people what to think. It's not that anyone has to listen, but the fact that "haha my side is right" qualifies as worthwhile political commentary--amusing rather than cringe-inducing--is certainly a sign of a decline in something or other, from a show that used to know better.
Labels: general musings on culture