Thursday, February 23, 2017
Episode 590 of The Simpsons reinforces dominant ideologies about gender roles with exaggerated portrayal of society’s gender stereotypes shown through a comedic lense. This is apparent in the actions of the female characters, in private conversations about women between male characters and in interactions between male and female characters.
The Simpsons promotes dominant ideologies about gender and gender roles through the actions of female characters. When Homer finds he is too fat to sleep comfortably in his space pod, Marge adjusts it to fit obese people. Marge figures out how to be a scientist by relating the experiment procedures to household chores. She says,
“Mom’s spend their whole lives obsessing over unlikely catastrophes. In space, that’s what you’re supposed to do”. This rhetoric propagates the stereotype of the women as the nurturer. It depicts women working in STEM fields as a laughable concept and irrational as their proper place is in the private sphere.
The Simpsons promotes dominant ideologies about gender and gender roles in private conversations about women between male characters. The men are stupid and clumsy, but ultimately, they are in control. Homer and Bart “support” the women in their lives through the same robotic support scheme despite the differences in their relationships (wife and sister). As they are alone throwing a ball in the backyard together, Bart says to Homer, “That listening to women junk you taught me really works!”, Homer responds by saying, “The trick is in the nodding”. Bart then delivers a more explicit commentary on gender roles and gender stereotypes. He says to his father, “Dad, after seeing mom and Lisa go at it, I’m glad our relationship is about physical abuse, not psychological”. While this line does outline one of society’s gender stereotypes, it presents the stereotype through a sarcastic and comedic lense framing it as something that it laughable and insignificant.
The Simpsons promotes dominant ideologies about gender and gender roles through interactions between male and female characters. During the scene on the Martian colony, the men in charge compliment Marge because she can do chores more efficiently that the robotic arm. This is an example of comedy being used to promote gender roles and gender stereotypes. It perpetuates the notion of the woman’s proper place being the private sphere. Portraying a woman as being able to do household chores more reliably and more effectively than a robot not only reinforces the dominant ideology of the woman belonging in the private sphere, it also objectifies women. Later, during the rocket launch, Homer and Bart freak out over the idea Marge and Lisa going to Mars because they don’t know how to survive on Earth without a woman to go grocery shopping, cook and wash dishes for them. This joke, while at the surface appears to present the importance of women in the lives of men and how stupid and useless men can be, the fact that the men are worried about tasks as simple as dish washing and grocery shopping demeans women and asserts that they are inferior to men.
These are examples of dominant ideologies about gender being reinforces through comedy. While The Simpsons appears at the surface to be an innocent comedic cartoon, underlying the comedy is a more sinister system of reinforcement of society’s dominant ideologies of gender and gender roles.