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Why am I discouraging my 11-year old from watching The Simpsons?


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I’m not sure? It’s crass sometimes. It contains a lot of stereotypes - the dumb dad, the bumbling cop, the disaffected teachers, etc. But it’s also sometimes brilliantly satirical (though much less so in recent years and their refusal to deal with the racism inherent to Apu’s character bothers me a lot).

It’s not intended for kids. I mean, I let mine watch, but teens and adults are clearly the intended audience.

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If they want a show that’s similar but less problematic, Bob’s Burgers is also intended for teens and adults, funny, sometimes a little crass, but the relationships and overall messages are much better. No serious stereotypes. Not really satire, so much less over the top. My kids much prefer it anyway. 

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1 hour ago, Farrar said:

It’s not intended for kids. I mean, I let mine watch, but teens and adults are clearly the intended audience.

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This. It's not for kids even though it's a cartoon. My 13 year old is always asking about shows that I find inappropriate. I usually tell her when she's 16 she can watch it. I figure by then she'll be more discerning in watch she wants to watch. 

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Before I had my kids one of my niece's (about 6at the time) had some behaviour and quotes that came from the Simpson's that were super inappropriate and embarrassing when I took her places.  I banned it for our kids even though dh loves it and he totally agreed.  When my youngest was about 15 dh  started introducing it in season order.  They love watching it together and rewatch favourite episodes frequently still. The exchange student one is pretty funny I have to admit......... They have some fabulous discussion topics that come from that show that I miss out on but a little Simpson's goes a long way with me.  ?  It's not a cartoon.  We own the DVD 's and have a huge stack, not sure how close to current they are.

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A kid would only get the stupid jokes and wouldn't understand the better ones. I would like to show my kids a few episodes of the first few seasons, but not until they are at least 14! It would be wasted sooner, and they might pick up the wrong things. It isn't really a cartoon; it's animated satire, IMO.

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when it first started - I discouraged dd because of all the biting sarcasm.   it just "wasn't nice", and I didn't want her to think it was ok to talk to people like that.

there is so much out of hollywood, that is presented as comedy, that wouldn't be tolerated in real life.

 

eta: I had to stop dudeling from watching curious george - as it was a horrible influence on him.  and 2ds . . . the rest of the kids were mad I took peter pan away becasue of the influence it had on him.

Edited by gardenmom5
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We don’t watch it with kids, though honestly I don’t think I’ve seen it since the 90s so I’m probably way out of touch.  It was never geared to kids though.  Teens and adults, all the way.  I nannied back in the day, and both boys (two separate families) were allowed to watch the Halloween episodes only.  Both families were single moms, one was a professor of Am St who specialized in media, the other was a practicing therapist.  I always felt like they were right on in that it’s fine for teens and up, but the satire is lost on kids.  Some cartoons are made for adults.

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I guess it depends on your kid, but by 11, I would be okay with it.  It IS sarcastic and does reflect attitudes and ways of speaking that are inappropriate to copy, but by 11, my kids were pretty darn sarcastic, would have gotten the jokes, and understood situational language.  They didn't watch "The Simpsons," but they did watch Futurama, which is similar.  I was really strict about media exposure when they were little, but by ten or so, I felt that allowing them to make their own choices about media consumption was a low stakes choice that I could allow them to make.  But, 11 year olds vary a LOT.  If they hadn't been able to keep media from influencing their attitudes/ ways of speaking or didn't understand situational language, then my answer would have been very different.  It is oriented more towards teens and adults than kids, but by 11, my kids were pretty teen-esque.  

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I think around age 11 was when my boys started watching Simpsons as well. We didn't have a hard and fast rule about it, but I know we didn't let them when they were little. They turn 14 soon... I can't imagine banning it at this age. I know they're definitely old enough to understand the sarcasm, satire, and jokes. But we're pretty liberal about what we allow them to see, especially if we're there to chat about it.

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5 minutes ago, heartlikealion said:

I really don't think it's the same show anymore. I mean, I was obsessed with it when I was a kid and had a Bart Simpson cake at my 8th birthday. My parents are fairly strict and weren't excited I watched it, but it wasn't banned, either. If they saw what I've seen the past few times I tuned in? There's no way they would have let me watch it. Again, some of it was maybe just not brought to my/their attention back then but I just have a hunch it's gotten more racy. My next door neighbor (who was 3 yrs younger than me) also watched it all the time back then.

I don't watch as often as I used to, but it is much racier now than it was two decades ago. I think just because TV is in general. There are more jokes about sex, drugs, etc. And more swear words. The satire is usually a lot less clever or biting. The humor is more absurdist in general.

Actually, though, that might be a solution for a family on the fence. Watch the first ten seasons instead of the recent ones. (Though I think the OP mostly wants to ban it regardless, but if there were someone who was sort of okay with it but wanted it to be a little tamer...)

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I haven't watched it in years, but even the early episodes really were pretty inappropriate.

One issue with these types of shows that I have is best summed up by a visit my Girl Guides (ages 9-11) had with the nearby Pathfinder Company (ages 12-14) back in the 90's.  The Pathfinders were working on a badge requirement, in which they were discussing the merits/cons to various TV shows.   The Pathfinders' comments about both "Rosanne" and "The Simpsons" were about how they reflected 'real life' and showed 'Good family values'.

Yup, these 12-14 year old girls said they saw these shows as a good example of good families.

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I think you can say all the things above. They swear, they make jokes about sex, you don't think he's old enough to get the difference between what's humor and what's real, they employ stereotypes that are sometimes hurtful, the show is mostly just absurd these days and doesn't have any greater point to make.

As for making it less appealing... I don't know if you can. Eleven is a real in between age for media. It sounds like he wants to be watching more grown up stuff. I'd make sure he has the opportunity to do that with something. He's probably outgrown a lot of the kid shows he used to like. Or you decide it's not a hill to die on? That's around the age our kids started watching it sometimes, with dh. I did think - as long it got a bit of discussion - that they were old enough to understand when behavior was being mocked and not promoted. Like the example above where the kids thought that The SImpsons was such a good example of real life... I find that truly baffling. None of the middle schoolers I see regularly would have thought that it was a show that had "good values." They would all be able to pick out that it was essentially parody.

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Can you just tell him it contains a lot of things you object to, coupled with the fact that even many former fans have found it is not really funny anymore?  Maybe flip it around and ask him to give you reasons you should allow him to watch something you disagree with when he is 11 and you are in charge.   (Not being snarky!)

It is going to be hard to convince a kid that something forbidden is not as great as it may be in their heads.  

 

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I agree that he should have a reason. He's eleven, not two. But if he doesn't agree with your reasoning, again, he's eleven - not sixteen or seventeen! I'm not entirely sure that "The Simpsons" would be my line in the sand*, but it's still okay to say "Look, even if you don't agree with my reasoning, I'm going to put my foot down over this show." If you really feel strongly about this, so be it.

* Actually, I'm certain it wouldn't. When it comes to media, I prefer to give guidance rather than to set rules unless it's REALLY not appropriate for minors. But that's the method that works for my family with our values.

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It is going to be hard to convince a kid that something forbidden is not as great as it may be in their heads.  

 

That's why I, personally, am cautious about the banhammer. I find that the kids are more likely to trust my judgment when I don't forbid things willy-nilly, and that even if I have a few weirdly arbitrary rules they can accept it because it's just one or two things, not EVERYTHING. But I have no context here, and I'm guessing that if the OP is thinking this hard about it then it really is just this show and not everything. So if it's only this one thing, it's probably not a big deal in the grand scheme of things.

Edited by Tanaqui
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I would let my kids watch it at 11, but when I introduce something that has language or behavior I don't tolerate I preface it with, "I'm letting you watch this because I think you're old enough to know not to act like this in real life, if I find out you're speaking/behaving in appropriately like you'll see in this show I'll go back to treating you like a baby and only letting you watch little kid shows." Now I know good and well kids don't do everything their parents tell them, but they need to have a sense of not saying and doing some things in some situations, so this is a good example of that.  They figure out not to do that around the us and other adults, so they're getting it.

I get that social commentary and satire often show undesirable behavior to demonstrate why it's undesirable. Examples of what not to do/be can be very useful, instructive, and entertaining. A kid unable to grasp that should skip it.  The kid who can grasp it is a possible candidate for watching it.  

At my house when they're too young for something that the rest of the family is old enough for and mentions we also say, "You can't watch that show yet, but we have a whole list of more mature shows we're going to watch with you when you're in your teens: Firefly, Freaks and Geeks...."

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47 minutes ago, katilac said:

That was a really interesting (if too long) blog post. His follow up responses were also really interesting.

I have seen the premise before that Lisa is unfairly punished by the narrative way too often, but wow, that was extremely detailed and compelling in convincing me. I wasn't convinced of the other point - that the golden age was somehow not about characters while the new ones are. I mean, sort of? But he literally gives counterexamples to his own point repeatedly in that. I don't think it's the one and only trend. It's always been absurdist and nihilistic to varying extents. I would argue that the plots actually hung together better back in the "good old days." But the Lisa thing and the anti-intellectualism? Yeah, totally.

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Because in the 80's, prior to Beavis and Butthead, it was the most obnoxious and rude show around.

 

No one needs to be on tv 24-7. With tv time limited, Simpsons does not need to be on the menu of choices. It does not have to be the worst thing ever to be off the list.

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