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Decoder Ring: Bart Simpson Mania

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Nine Nancy overfilled was the head of marketing and special events for the Children's division of JC Penney her went to twenty New York I was young and ignorant so okay well I have to tell you just initially how I even got involved in early nineteen eighty art not because I loved the show so much and even watch it because he was just that cool but not everybody liked bar or the simpsons provocative attitude this is Dakota rang a show about cracking they were outraged that we would bring in something that sent a negative message to kids in quotes saying and proud of it man things are going along fine then they come out with an underachiever teacher and it was amazing quite so much it wasn't just JC Penney that was getting phone calls from aggrieved grandmothers the Simpsons Bart and his t shirts briefly became a chit in the Culture Wars Ben they'd only appeared in short segments on the Tracey Ullman show a critically acclaimed but low rated variety series airing on the then new Fox network but ten months after I'm Bart Simpson who the hell are you one in particular showed bar pointing a slingshot and whoever was looking at the T. shirt while he was standing underneath the word underachiever in his fresh language lackluster attitude and minor rebellions seems impossibly quaint I mean if only we were fighting about whether it was appropriate to print eight the credit card this grandmother called me to tell me that I was killing kids she explained to me that Nineteen eighty-nine America came down with far fever way more obnoxious badly behaved and oddly given that he was a four fingered cartoon more realistic Character Bart Simpson Bart and his family were still relatively unknown I really hadn't fully experienced the wrath of customers we've getting letters like what was letter oh my gosh people tore up the smart Alex of sitcoms past bar over the youth of this nation me included I was in elementary school in the simpsons premiered am I desperately wanted a barter ultra prescriptive powers its ability to shape the world just by showing it to us so today on decoder ring a surprisingly complicated history back match we are going to keep on trying to strengthen the American family to make American families a lot about ten floors on one floor it the doors opened and it's cost him characters hand came into the elevator to stop it right is it almost give a sense of like like how how much was the simpsons stuff selling my gosh journey heyday I mean millions and millions was afraid of Bart Simpson in some schools and department stores and held up by the most powerful people in the country as an example of America gone wrong thirty years later getting upset about Bart Simpson closing which annoyed all of us and then the hand came back and the door closed I looked at the guy next to me and I said what in the world was that and he said Oh more like the waltons and a lot less like the simpsons that's president George H W Bush speaking and cultural mysteries I'm willing passed and every month we take on a cultural question habit or idea crack it open and try to figure out what it means and why it matters millions of people a year are getting their cashback matched discover cash back match. What are you waiting for learn more at discover dot com slash cashback now just shirts but toothpaste pinball machine snow-boots butter fingers and talking dolls kids are going to do what Markson says and if he's an underachiever and he's sending that message they of course are not going to try in school rolling stone and already want a pair of Emmy's Bart Brilliantly voiced by Nancy Cartwright was the breakout star and he's old countless pieces of official and bootleg merchandise dog it was the biggest thing out there in one thousand nine hundred an estimated fifteen million bart t shirts were sold shirts that had bart saying things like don't have a cow man also sponsored by discover on here something amazing discover matches all the cash back you earn at the end of your first year automatically with no limit on how much they'll match action connecting you to local food culture and of course music check out the hot spots a hidden gems and local sounds in cities of Miami to Milan Boston to Bangalore and ever anywhere in between if you're ready for an exciting off the beaten path adventure get started with Hyatt centric booker stay now at Hyatt centric dot com underachiever and proud of it as been kicked out of classes from Orange California to Fremont Ohio reaction to the t shirt tempest is mixed the overfilled sub Bart in an elevator the simpsons premiered in primetime and the spiky-haired Smart Mouth Bart was suddenly everywhere Mr Burs did you get there literally sent veteran alley at the nineteen ninety-two Republican National Convention months before he would lose his bid for a second term to Bill Clinton at the time of this speech the simpsons have been on the air for three years averaging over twenty million viewers a week it was Fox's first top ten show its first top thirty show even it had been on the cover of Newsweek time and when everyone eats dinner together I mean they are trying to get their kid to say grace was the president of the United States attacking it anyway Bart's fresh mouth in my recollection and my mother does not corroborate this version of events by the way I wasn't allowed to get the Bar t shirt I wanted ray says eat my shorts which means they won't graduate which means they're going to turn to drugs and then they were overdosing guy wow okay and had to settle very disappointingly for one where he says Cowabunga Dude while hanging ten I rarely wore it Bush insulting the simpsons aspirational this time it is Bart's wise cracking t shirts that are in trouble this one has been expelled from some schools for its profanity another before we get going this episode of Dakota is sponsored by Hyatt centric Hyatt centric hotels put you at the heart of the the big three networks who are richer and more established at their own game so decided to counter program long before cable net flex Fox started out by trying to find because the story of the simpsons is also the story of Fox the Fox Broadcasting Company Co founded by Ruby was drawing on all of this the way the show had become in certain circles a short end for how popular culture was leading the American family astray the simpsons and ad libbed? You guys aren't watching the simpsons are you that's not going to help you first lady Barbara Bush had called the show the dumbest thing I've ever seen there were stance had soft not double hockey sticks on a t shirt but what's not so quaint is what's lurking underneath the bark panic a set of ideas anxieties in this case about popcorn acidic demographic Jonathan Gray professor of media and Cultural Studies at the University of Wisconsin Madison and he wrote a book about the simpsons rather than just sort of gently as an example of a degraded and degrading American family. Bush wasn't the only one William J Bennett the national drugs are had walked into a rehab center seeing a poster previous attempts to create a fourth network failed Fox at the start was operating at a deficit it was only available in eighty percent of homes it was never going to be able to beat to begin to understand how the simpsons now an American institution could ever have seemed like such an alarmingly bad influence a man I look at the network it was airing on hear about a parental group disdain for the parental group was very much on display in Fox's I two primetime series one of which was the Raunchy comedy opened after Marge Simpson had written her a letter response principles all over the country band Bart Simpson shirts for containing the word Hell and potentially making underachiever nece is or is it something tangible relax given how famous the characters are and how widely style has been adopted it's really hard to understand recalling forgot Simpson's was Fox's first real hit a ratings smash but it was also a merchandising machine Murdoch and Barry diller began airing its first primetime series on Sunday nights in April of nineteen eighty seven at the time. ABC CBS and NBC Dominated Television and was Edgy Adult Referential Satirical Anti Earnest and it assumed that people watching at home could keep up Hari Kondabolu is a comedian and he grew up loving the though the simpsons was boundary pushing reverend would you like to say grace dear God powers-that-be could be stupid or worse it was skeptical of Everything Dad's principles bosses religion and the TV Sitcom itself but still build upon the we pave roller stuff ourselves so thanks for nothing it was also a show about an intact churchgoing nuclear family where the father works the mom stays at home anew the simpsons was when it first premiered but one at arrived it was unprecedented for one thing it was a cartoon the last cartoon to Aaron Primetime had been the flintstones the show was such a sensation that in one thousand nine hundred record called the simpsons sing the blues went to number three on the billboard charts led by do the Bartman which we I'm Mitch Fox when they launch a pretty bold interesting strategy up thinking that they're not going to be a big umbrella they're going to go after a very married with children which thumbed its nose like crazy at the uplifting family sitcom the other it was the tracey ullman show which featured short interstitial videos of googly eyed jerkily made it okay to have an inside joke it made you want to learn more the show was also uniquely disrespectful on the simpsons Jio loving African American family the huxtables instead of acting disappointed because I'm not like you maybe you can just accept why am I love me anyway because I'm your son the simpsons along with married with children in and we won't act if you're underachieving shouldn't be proud of it and there were plenty of parents not conservative ones even who are a little weary family called the Simpsons Well Goodnight Shun Dad aw what is the mind is just a system of impulses the simpsons for one thing we're not aspirational at all in the fourth ever episode of the show Dufy Dad homer it becomes so upset big tent gentle humor who wants edge it's really going after that group and what that means it sending clear messages that it just doesn't about his family's embarrassing bad behavior the brings them to a therapist the therapist after trying everything including having the family administer electric shocks to each other gives up backup vocals by Michael Jackson Fan of the show she talked about everybody flicked between the simpsons and the cosby show was made explicit at the start of the simpsons second season when Fox moved the show would air at exactly the same time as cosby after that demographic they're going to actively exclude instead of capitalize upon the exclusion of other demographic and what demographic is that like what older dozens of series like this full house growing pains family matters but the best example was the dominant sitcoms of the nineteen eighties the Cosby show starring the affluent he can't fix them they are unfixable he eventually refunds their money which of course they used to buy a new TV excuse me dear should we be heading down they're having a row with a winker there was nothing like that on prime time TV or late night TV Bill Oakley a comedy writer became a staff writer on the simpsons in his third season Eliza toppling the huxtables the pinnacle of highly functional domesticity. Theo could eat bart's shorts George Oh you Bush's remarks about the simpsons would have been a lot more current if he'd used the huxtables instead of the Waltons he didn't because for a number of reasons the huxtables nineteen sixty to nineteen sixty six which needless to say had a very different the simpsons in contrast was all about really formulaic things about like respecting you know like respecting your father in the family and not using profanity and there was an immense number of entirely as a fiction there were symbols and stand ins for the American family and here was the dysfunctional rude struggling Simpson's a thorn in the side of phony American ideal it was saying that America's future ought to be more like it's passed when the world looked a certain way families were still wholesome and respectful and times were yes Roseanne which began in one thousand nine hundred eighty eight on ABC with a direct challenge to the idealized family show. I think you'll find this will win you the respect of your family and friends ratings obsessed nine year olds because it was everywhere a business story but one freighted with meaning father take down the cosby show of was to Lucius British Sitcom App into better hard-drinking yet loving family of soccer hooligans if they're not having a go with a bird a period TV drama that aired in the nineteen seventies the Waltons was about a large close white family in Virginia in the Nineteen Thirties and forties it did not great when people talk about how the nation was great it was great for all sorts of people and the lie that was being told to us by represent exactly what Bush wanted to for one thing much of it was set during the depression and the waltons went through lots of hard times Caboche was attributing to it a Sunnier didn't conjure the nostalgic vision of the American past he was trying to ply his voters with the Waltons kind of did sends there was one thing where episode where I remember like Lisa was talking about Poplin Arruda Pablo said laughter is the language of the so I am familiar with the wherever you get your podcasts. The Simpsons was a rebellious show on a rebellious network challenging the way things have been done oddly with its merchandise the simpsons merchandising situation was not just robust it was unheard of in ages of different backgrounds and a big chunk of that merchandise wasn't even official product. I am each of the late eighties early nineties he's not just that families don't look like this but then they never looked like this now's the time we'll talk about a sponsor Bambi and it was multicultural diverse and instead you know we get Bart Simpson in the face off between the simpsons and the Cosby's neither was understood were at best it in the overnight ratings this story it was a very big deal at the time like such a big deal I remember talking about it with my classmates and that's not because we were I'm in high school actually Phillip Cunningham as an assistant professor of Media Studies at Quinnipiac University and I am the owner of at that time of several bootleg ooh the one thousand nine hundred eighty s generally speaking time of Cute Tame Middleclass family shows full of sage grownups adorable equipping kids moral lessons there were boring people I mean are there excluding and what who they're going after sort of younger folk who who get it who are sick and tired of the the like believing that leave it to be actually is health things looked in the fifties which they didn't so yeah back in one thousand nine hundred eighty two the president of the United States Weird Nostalgia for the fifties and I say weird because it's an established that's always kind of been based in fact upon sitcoms and suggesting outkast explores the fun messy confusing delightful aspects of being a parent do personal stories and broader insights from relevant experts. Make sure to listen and subscribe to how to raise absentee shirts at the height of Bart Mania Bootleg Bart Simpson t shirts were everywhere the most common of these reimagined Bart Simpson as a person of color there have been some kids TV shows like teenage mutant Ninja Turtles that it sold a lot of merchandise but the simpsons sold more to different kinds of people from different places of allow. These sitcoms is precisely what the simpsons are making fun of and I think that's why the simpsons could be recognized as threatening because what the simpsons are saying is join host Mallory Kasdan as she talks to parents and experts about what makes kids so fearless creative and good at making friends and we as adults can learn from them this Kabar is like Santa Claus no one really knows what color he is what is it about Bart that was appealing for example the flattop hairstyle for example Bart t-shirts which now sell for hundreds of dollars on Ebay were so popular that Simpson Creator Matt groening commented on the phenomenon you have to have mixed feelings when you're getting ripped off he said except amidst just stuff like that like it was just so you felt cool kind of being on the inside of you didn't know the references you wanted to know the references elves and each other that's what how to raise a parent is all about learn how to shift your perspective as a parent to reconnect with the imagination openness that comes so naturally to kids different World Theo huxtable and Steve Urkel so black Bart was to some extent about scarcity about making the best of very paltry pawnshop TV that piece of junk forget it we're going to get a new TV what he wanted screen realistic flesh tones the goodnight children good night day professor Jonathan Gray again Bush's really trying to go to this sort of arrays parent a new podcast from Derry pure in collaboration with slate studios dairy pure believes that the world would be a better place we reconnected what's pure and innocent clock on it I know had the sort of roster bart one that was fairly popular in that's a welcome ones I can remember options but Bart and the simpsons did really seem to understand that authority could be corrupt stupid punitive the system could be merciless and narrow minded enough to label a four Akbar there were t shirts of Black Bart with Nelson Mandela of Air Simpson of Bart Marley a Bart and Maggie in front of an outline of Africa under the heading it's cool being I'm sure ahead more did you have any did you have any non absolutely have absolutely no legit Simpson's none whatsoever course with the rise of really rebellious hip hop at the time there was a huge deficit TV representations of people of Color Blackmail teams had to make do with the guys from it Emma's Co show runner of seasons seven eight one is a very hard to remember mostly coms were extremely corny and formulaic how was was not carrying it all and nineteen fifties issue sensibility vibe you do get from the most lasting thing about the series the sequence in which the Waltham say good night to one another not mama not be I mean I don't want to overstate that you know that the hairstyles importance to put I had a very high flats up at that time so reading him as Fox was of two minds about the whole thing unofficial merchandise lost them money but it did keep the show on the cutting edge it was a good and it was bad live from school I drew sort of Bar Simpson on my jeans and the public enemy symbol and so that was being rebellious. That's I'm an easy fit perfectly involve the skateboard culture there's no affinity towards hip hop at that time certainly but he was into punk you sort of get that again vibe rebellious listen that coalescence I went into the building got in the elevator on my gosh just like how many hundreds of people can sit in one elevator at one time after it stopped with grader and underachiever the talking back to all of that more than just being cool could be truth telling all of this which is why Bart was so threatening to the status quo in we know white at that time was somewhat difficult because he wasn't right he was literally yellow so that was endearing but I also just the general system rebelliousness he the first place is also why bart looking like flava flav on a t shirt made some sense he also knew what time it was this is the one time I got the bootleg stuff though and Black Bart shirts just like the official merchandise kept selling nothing ever got less cool for offending or alarming concern grownups after all and some of the shirts it should be said look pretty offensive one of the variations of the Bart Marley shirts for example looks like a racist caricature that wasn't true of most back the ones I can recall isn't it had one that Bart Simpson sort of just like flavor Flav of public enemy so you know in the cold chain with the Bard himself there was some hand wringing about Black Bart from within the black community articles about the phenomenon all quote someone who is worried that Black Bart like Bart is setting a bad example you got you got suspended because of Bart and yes and public enemy my own my own my only suspicion ever so you're like exactly whatever very canny about monetize it's black audience over the coming years would program towards black audience is even more directly incorporated elements of bootleg bar into the into Fox very early in the simpsons run where she oversaw the show's licensing then help add to the phenomenon in fact Fox which was really kept it relevant and an edgy. When we couldn't be edgy that's Nancy overfilled again who are work on the simpsons with J. C. Penney ended up going went some of our design graphics and our market blocked Bart proved Bart was so popular he had slipped the bounds of TV of ownership of officially it was a moment folks for like it like a social panicked mark? Anthony Neal is a professor of African and African American studies at Duke regained through wholesome version of American Shaw Bart March and actually we use that very very thing to determine what some of our big sellers were going to be and we actually use that information worried about Parkinson's exactly exactly little social panic actually pay though he corrupted a poor Ohio industrial tomboy as the Persian Gulf Bart the Persian Gulf War which started in August of nineteen ninety and ended six months later overlapped exactly with Bart Mania licensed merchandise and he could belong to anyone and that included the members of America's armed forces another popular subset of Bootleg Bart merged at your podcast Oh grab your best headphones for this one there's a lot of base also sponsored by better help percent off your first month the Discount Code Decoder so why not get started today go to better help dot com slash decoder simply fill out a questionnaire to help me better help has licensed professional counselors who specialize in depression anxiety navigating family conflicts and so much more anything you share with a counselor is confidential and if you aren't happy for any reason you can request a new one at any time and no additional charge best of all it's truly affordable option the quartering listeners get online environment it's so convenient you can now get help on your own time at your own pace scheduled secure video phone sessions plus chat and text with your therapist part one all the way to the top anyway in February of Nineteen ninety-one President Bush posed with a Patriotic Bart Simpson figurine while sitting at his desk in the Oval Office could be put into the service of the US a matt grading disliked all of this he told reporters that Bart was quote very opposed to the war but Persian Gulf I got the sense that everything was dangerous roth handler is a professor of sociology at Grinnell College you know heavy metal was going to turn us into Satanists Dungeons test your needs it get matched with a counselor that you'll love that's better help dot com slash decoder when I think of my youth as a child of the eighties or something that interferes with your happiness preventing you from achieving your goals better help online counseling is there for you connect with their professional counselor in a safe and private and this season a mobile it will take you down south to tell the origin story of southern hip hop and one of the biggest music controversies of the twentieth century it's a riveting mix of Miami how bars rebellious streak his distrust of authority of tyranny was here interpreted as Patriotic Jingoistic pluck a devil-may-care attitude and violence-free for only to find themselves on a collision course with the US government you'll also learn about the world of Pirate Radio in here exclusive interviews with all your Miami favorites like trick daddy and so the the whole Simpson show is coming out of this context where there's all these fears about youth and this sense that correct Ross Trina Flo ride while she fire and more you can stream the entire season a mobile APP spotify now or listen to podcasts each and every Wednesday wherever ace beat and battles over free speech and definitely want you don't WanNa miss the new season mobile starts with the story of two live crew and how they made hip hop nastier than ever kind of retrenchment a return to order too old fashioned American values but despite it being morning in America there was still so much darkness somehow enact new policy somehow pop culture is is to blame for all the social problems that people perceive panicking about the civil rights movement the feminist movement the Vietnam War the Antiwar Movement Watergate had outwardly quieted down and Ronald Reagan had been elected president by promising pop culture can somehow be dangerous for youth the nineteen eighties was an anxious time the overt chaos of the nineteen sixties and seventies me the answer in part is the religious right now's the time we talk about a sponsor the podcast mobile he'd passed it onto then defense secretary Dick Cheney would promise to bring it to the President WanNa came across this picture I thought ha eighteen months before Bush or listening or playing with something else heavy metal prince lyrics ice tea songs two live crew married with children Marilyn Manson first person shooter Games anti-social resulted in congressional hearings and the Comic Book Industry Regulating itself with a comic book code but stressing about pop culture impact on kids television the problem was uninvolved parents. This is in stark contrast to now or the concern is the opposite helicopter parents who don't give their kids any space at all but no fault divorce working mothers and single parent households and so there are these kind of shifts going on in the society both culturally and economically residents own another kind of politician would have leaned into that Bush did not so why didn't Bush make bar into his political ally why do you make them into an the AIDS crisis the continued threat of nuclear annihilation the crack epidemic a stagnant economy and the large scale changes happening to the structure of the American family with the rise of I just feel like a kind of a dangerous time for kids and so what happens then is rather than really account for these changes pop culture's influence on children is not new in the nineteen fifties for example a widespread fear that comic books full of Horror Noir violence were making kid probably pretty incomprehensible to the adults in their lives anyway and over popular it is compared to network days it's totally niche not all about the parental dreamily skeptical Hollywood was this place where people were actively trying to indoctrinate your children with all became among other things a trusted watchdog Organization for Evangelical Families Looking for guidance about mainstream popular culture of which the organization was I like the congressional threat to defend the National Endowment for the arts. Some of these concerns were bipartisan it was Tipper Gore the wife of then Democratic Senator Al Gore who led Reagan had recently brought into the Republican fold Reagan had won the presidency in one thousand nine hundred for broadening the conservative coalition to include evangelicals aligning himself with dragons was gonNA have US join a call rap music was going to spark violence video games were either going to rot our brains or turn us in the violent thugs all of these terrible values of like disrespect for parents and wanting to lake swear and smoke or something like that Eliza Wilkinson is a film oops like Jerry Falwell's moral majority James Dobson focus on the family throughout the nineteen eighty s focus on the family which was founded by Dobson in nineteen seventy seven the charge to get a parental advisory sticker put on albums with explicit lyrics after she listened to Prince's Darling Nikki with her daughter insult the simpsons at the RNC who's holding in his very hands proof that Bart had become so popular he could be used towards almost any political end including the press hang on a big TV the everybody could see media habits have changed so completely the kids can now watch screens anywhere often doing so alone whatever they're watching motivating and in some instances or just passively aligning with it and others with a heightened alarm about mainstream popular culture there was particular to Evangelical Christians who very concrete that outcome is assumed mental be disheartened by what they see onscreen kids will do what they see onscreen to go back to something I mentioned at the slobby you know loser Guy And I remember personally as a child hearing a lot about how all dead cricket vox and she had an evangelical focus on the family kind of upbringing would have never occurred to me to ask to watch it because I just knew instinctively that wasn't a thing we were going to do honestly it was still easier for latchkey parents to see and comprehend whether kids were watching even if they caught it only glimpses because it was for one network TV show and for the other CBS the world as it is what matters is the can make the world over in its image the simpsons being the simpsons is actually addressed this exact thing us the bartle dressed in camouflage and holding an American flag had been sent to a staff sergeant working on a base in Saudi Arabia by his grandmother who wanted to cheer him up ebbing assume the TV is both very powerful and very malignant instead of influencing a person and unpredictable harmless ways forget about positive ones people were worried that their kids were going to want to be like bar and I think another big one was that like homer is depicted as kind of a in the nineteen eighties fears about parenting or commonly expressed in terms of latchkey kids kids who are coming home after school letting themselves into the House and being raised by the fucking Maggie attacks homer with a mallet because you saw it on itchy and scratchy show televisions responsible Jerry Falwell and James Dobson's focus on the family we need a nation closer to the Waltons than the simpsons an America this world was more likely if it's Bieber and less like homer Simpson the concerns that elicit is discussed underachiever shirt was thinking along similar lines but evangelical specifically we're more preoccupied with mass cultures dangerous impact and also were ever tried out the simpsons line wasn't at the R. N. C. It was six months earlier at the convention of National Religious Broadcasters of professional organization that's members included it's on TV were depicted as stupid and as worth list you know isn't that discounting all the great dads who are out there you know don't we wish happened before the nineteen eighty s it also happened a lot in the one thousand nine hundred ninety s was anxiety about what was happening to our children when we weren't watching them but they were watching culture to be reflexively perverting unless it was actively uplifting and he was willing to take on mainstream popular culture's immoral influence because he also knew we're going on in this country it is a cultural war as critical to the kind of nation we shall be as the cool war itself beginning of this episode this is a deeply prescriptivism idea about how popular culture works forget whether our show is realistic funny clever whether it describes answering questions about his undies on MTV apart of pop culture not someone running against it in the battle between Bush and the simpsons the simpsons one josh lost the presidential election and the argument the simpsons became such a part of mainstream American culture that it was eventually embraced by everyone even the cultural concern christian-based didn't work as with Bush's Vice President Dan Quayle's near simultaneous attack on the TV character Murphy Brown in made the candidates trying to say -servative who had once despised it the week after the RNC The simpsons reworked the opening of the show responded directly to Bush's remarks would drift more paramount concern to the Republican Party when George H W Bush insulted the Simpsons these voters in particular that he's trying to signal in fact the first time that he mobile is a podcast from spotify given media all about hip

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