Published online by Cambridge University Press: 21 October 2021
This chapter analyzes the extent to which the series has become reworked and repurposed in the realm of contemporary remix culture. Most notably, the series’ semiosis has resonated not only with an avid fan community but with participatory culture at large. In particular, “Simpsonizing”—the art of translating people's physiognomies into Simpsons characteristics—has popularized a form of caricature and comedic representation. Besides examining Simpsons-related fan productions exhibiting nostalgic sentiments, this chapter looks into revitalizations of the show's characters and video remixes of The Simpsons’ intro sequence. Finally, I focus on Simpsons imagery used in political contexts in Germany to provide a more profound exploration of The Simpsons’ semiosis used in participatory culture's civic imagination.
Keywords: The Simpsons, remix culture, Simpsonizing, fan art, mashup videos, civic imagination
Over thirty years ago, The Simpsons stirred up the American media landscape. Today, the series has long become a part of the television establishment throughout the world, and its characters are global pop culture icons. According to the commercial logic that rules the entertainment media, the Simpsons franchise will be pursued as long as it is monetizable. The series and its merchandising empire, in other words, will be kept alive even though many fans have been decrying the death of the “real” Simpsons long ago, coupled with a steady decline in the show's ratings. Ultimately, though, The Simpsons will share the fate every TV program has to suffer one day: it will be discontinued as soon as the decision makers at Fox/Disney consider the brand unprofitable.
Within the realm of popular culture, however, The Simpsons will live on indefinitely. Alongside Disney's ducks, dogs, and mice, Charles Schulz's Peanuts, Hanna-Barbera's and Warner Bros.’ cartoon protagonists, and many others, the Simpsons characters iconography have long since joined the pantheon of pop culture imagery. Recognized and cherished by a large number of people in the Western world and beyond, The Simpsons represents a shared point of reference within the imaginary realm consisting of popular products the U.S. entertainment industries have provided.
In his article for Wired on The Simpsons’ parallel existence in digital culture, Thomas McMullan (2019) has pointed to the cartoon characters’ unusual split identity of representing both an ongoing television franchise and an online phenomenon, which is typically shaped by a nostalgic affection for the “original,” genuine Simpsons (that is, the 1990s, spanning Seasons 1–12).