The proliferation of pathetic characters

mr. broom

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Gil
Kirk Van Houten
Milhouse
Skinner
Willie
Moe
Barney
Krusty, to a lesser degree

This isn't a complete list. My question--why has the show got so many characters whose lives are full of failure and embarrassment? Sure, they vary it up a little sometimes (Barney sobers up, Skinner gets engaged) but for the most part, these characters are portrayed as being unable to succeed at anything.

Do we need more than, say, two characters like this? Really, I don't see why we need more than one. It's a tired joke as it is, and while it can be useful for the occasional side-laugh, lately it fails more than it succeeds (Barney's R-E-L-A-P-S-E made me feel sad more than it made me laugh).
 

chiefdan

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Mr. Broom said:
My question--why has the show got so many characters whose lives are full of failure and embarrassment?

Why does the show have NOTHING BUT characters whose lives are full of failure and embarrassment? I think that's a more accurate question.

On the other hand...Skinner finally gets engaged. Moe saved Maggie's life. Krusty became a congressman (or was it a senator?). All episodes in which these secondary characters succeed...and the episodes succeed as well.

I'm afraid I don't understand your argument all that well...maybe you can be a bit more specific?
 

Bort328

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I say this in no way as a joke: failures are funny! It's natural human desire to be better than others, but usually we have enough self-restraint and conscience to not feel that way about real people (at least outwardly). However, with characters in a T.V. show (look at any TV show, not just The Simpsons), there's nothing holding us back from laughing at their failure.

I'd say that there are two things that excite people most: seeing others fail, and vicariously living their victory. This is why soap operas, sitcoms, and sports have been so popular for so long, and it's why reality shows have become so popular now.

The Simpsons doesn't completely thrive on failure. Certain characters are chronic failures (Skinner, Barney, Moe, etc.), and certain characters are winners (often, Homer, Bart, and Lisa are used in the way). The two character types are used for different kinds of humor, and in my opinion it works fine. Let's face it: failure is funny, when it's a fake person! (and sometimes when it's a real person you don't like :devil: )

(Is this some kind of record? 24 posts in 24 hours as a member? :lol: )
 
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chiefdan

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Failure may be funny, but when there's nothing but failure, it's the most depressing thing ever. Recovering from failure is exciting to see, in my opinion, and I think that this is a big part of The Simpsons. This is one element that makes many of the characters lovable to me; their ability to recover from overwhelming adversity. And can you name one Simpsons episode in which a main character doesn't eventually triumph from adversity? I can't think of one.
 

mr. broom

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I'm not saying it thrives on failure--I'm saying it has way more of this kind of character than any show needs. It's beyond redundant. Likewise, I'm not saying that this sort of comedy isn't funny. Lenny's "Don't tell anyone this is how I live" made me laugh. That doesn't mean we need a half a dozen other characters like that.

It's like the writers got bored of giving those lines to the same character, so they started giving them to lots of different characters, like that would make it funnier.
 

Channel Surfer

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To be fair, even if there is a common ground with all these characters being a loser, it'd be silly to suggest they all overlap one another perfectly as being complete failures, and that they are redundant of one another for that reason. For instance, I would argue that both Milhouse and Skinner are very different characters. Milhouse is that dorky kid that we all knew at school, who had every medical condition known to exist, and is just an all around complete misfit - who's over time developed psychotic and gay tendencies. Skinner, on the other hand, is a loser because he's so stiff and straight, without any persistent ambitions, and allows himself to be a doormat for others. Both are very different characters to me, even if both are can be labeled "failures". Sort of like saying Homer and Ralph are the same because they are dumb, or Lisa and Martin are the same because they are smart, or Burns and Sideshow Bob are the same because they are evil.

Though yes, you are right, there are a fair chunk of losers in Springfield. I don't think it's a big deal however.
 
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George Cauldron

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It's part of the show's dark, subversive humor, to have a crowd of people who don't always achieve in life. It's much more realistic than a fake plastic "everybody's happy" scenario. Besides, the viewer is more likely to identify with the loner, the loser, the outcasts.
 

Sloppy Jimbo XOX

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I'm siding with Channel Surfer and to a lesser extent George Cauldron, and I'd also like to add that while yes, The Simpsons does have more pathetic characters than other shows on TV, it also has more characters than other shows, period. Ten or so pathetic losers out of a regular cast of a hundred and something isn't bad at all, really. And as Channel Surfer pointed out, they're all pretty different characters.

Mr. Broom said:
It's like the writers got bored of giving those lines to the same character, so they started giving them to lots of different characters, like that would make it funnier.

Would you prefer the same exact character show up every time somebody needs to be degraded?

Mr. Broom said:
Gil
Kirk Van Houten
Milhouse
Skinner
Willie
Moe
Barney
Krusty, to a lesser degree

But all of those characters were either pathetic from the beginning, or flat and undeveloped, and were later assigned the characteristic because it suited them. From your list, the only character whose failure actually gets on my nerves is Gil, simply because his only characteristic is being a pathetic, one-dimensional failure, and that IMO is unfunny. Also, I should remind you that Bart Simpson is easily the show's most prominent failure, so don't forget to list him.
 
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prince jafar allah

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i agree with Channel Surfer. To just throw all these characters into one big basket labeled "failure characters" is an incredibly glib oversimplification. for instance, the Lenny joke that was mentioned could never be transferred to Milhouse or Skinner - the idea that "they started giving them to lots of different characters" doesn't hold up.

and all of them have been losers since at the latest the first half of the classic era anyway, apart from Kirk Van Houten. And as has been mentioned, Skinner and Barney have become less failure-ridden in recent years.
 

Disgruntled Goat

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Re: Re: The proliferation of pathetic characters

chiefdan said:
Skinner finally gets engaged. Moe saved Maggie's life. Krusty became a congressman (or was it a senator?). All episodes in which these secondary characters succeed...and the episodes succeed as well.
Well, that's your opinion.

It doesn't matter if there are a lot of pathetic characters, they're all pathetic in thier own way.
 

Tibor

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It probably has a lot to do with life being full of losers and failures. ;)

and all of them have been losers since at the latest the first half of the classic era anyway, apart from Kirk Van Houten. And as has been mentioned, Skinner and Barney have become less failure-ridden in recent years.

Yeah, it's really all in how they handle their patheticness, i.e. Kirk tries to maintain that he's a big shot ("I sleep in a race car!") Barney's completely indifferent to his loserness, Skinner tries to hold up an authoritarian facade, etc. Just like real life.
 
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Sideshow Joe

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It is not a tired joke!!! All these characters are funny as hell especially Gil and Moe, they are the most pathetic of all.
 
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