The uninitiated still assume The Simpsons is a children's comedy cartoon show, but in reality, it is appealing to both adults and children, to the "highbrow" and the "lowbrow". The Simpsons is chosen for analysis because it is popular and ambivalent, filled with endless signifiers. Its popularity makes its potential effects significant in that it has been broadcast to a large audience across a number of countries and its knack for making viewers laugh intertwined with its intellectual rigor and satire, making it a personal favourite of mine.
While The Simpsons is made and broadcast on mainstream media (by Fox TV which is owned by Rupert Murdoch) its content is alternative television, that is, it is radical in its content, mainly because of its insistence on telling the truth, about family life, about American culture and most of all about television itself. Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, says he deliberately tried to create an alternative program to the "popular culture" which dominates the television market (Rampton 1996 p45). According to Ang I (1993 p. 407) popular culture which produces and practices in the "American way" is so often synonymous with "bad mass culture". Whilst it is fair to say Groening has created an alternative text, which prides itself on being anti establishment, anti-punctilious and challenges just about every social discourse, the very fact that it is viewed by millions, on a conservative network, may in fact deem it popular/ mass culture. Regardless of the genre the program provides an interesting mix of the radical and the popular. Murdoch himself has commented on the irony of this, arguing that The Simpsons does not present the world as he sees it, but adding that "you have to admit it is funny" (Flew 1994). Perhaps more importantly, from Murdoch's point of view, it also rates, and thus attracts advertising revenue to his networks. .
Homer and Marge Simpson (hereafter Homer and Marge), and their three children, Bart, Lisa and Maggie put the "fun" in dysfunctional family life.