Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools
Sections

Text Commentary

Banksy couch gag
by Critical Commons Manager `

After more than 20 years on the air, the subversive brilliance of The Simpsons has unquestionably ebbed and flowed. In an apparent effort to bolster its credibility in terms of social critique, controversial street artist Banksy was enlisted to design an opening title sequence to replace The Simpsons' long standing couch gag. The result is a very dark portrayal of the animation production process, which has been long outsourced by Fox to South Korea. Animators are depicted as working in toxic, dungeon-like conditions adjacent to a facility where kittens are shredded to create the stuffing for Bart Simpson dolls. The opening has been widely hailed as marking a return to the glory days of The Simpsons, which is known for poking fun at the Fox network and the CEO of its parent corporation, Rupert Murdock. While there is much serious commentary to be made about the realities of outsourcing and exploitive labor practices in the U.S. and abroad, the criticism implied by the Banksy opening is significantly blunted by the impossible extremes to which the gag is carried. A bedraggled unicorn being used to poke holes in DVDs and a giant panda being whipped like a draft animal undermines any potential seriousness of the critique. Of course, the ability of capitalist institutions to absorb and even thrive on that which seeks to destroy them is well-understood by critical theorists and corporate media conglomerates alike. The closing image of the iconic 20th Century Fox logo surrounded by barbed wire and guard towers would be a lot funnier if it gave viewers any real tools to critique Fox's ongoing, shameless support of some of the most irresponsible public discourse of modern times.

This Commentary is related to the following Clips:
The Simpsons opening by Banksy by Banksy (2010) The Simpsons attempts to regain some of its street credibility with a deliberately provocative opening by street artist Banksy