When did The Simpsons lose its cultural relevance?

Financial Panther

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Note that I’m not asking when the show declined; I’m asking when it was no longer in mainstream consciousness. As far as I know, its biggest cultural impact was probably in season 2, given Bartmania, but I’d have to ask some people who were around during that time to confirm that.

From what I can gather, it was still quite big for several years, though it never hit those peaks again. The last instances where I can think of The Simpsons being really relevant was during the movie hype and its release in 2007 between seasons 18 and 19.

Since then, it seems to have dwindled more and more. What was the last episode that mustered any attention at all among casual fans? Simprovised, maybe? It’s a shame, because season 33 was very good, but so few people know about it by now.

So when do you think the show exited the limelight entirely?
 

Padme Amidala

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Well the show stopped being seen as hip and fresh for most fans in the Late-90’s/Early-2000’s when Mike Scully took over as showrunner and with the popularity of Mike Judge’s King Of The Hill and South Park debuted on television for the first time and exploded into popularity and the original running of Family Guy aired on Fox.

But I think the show declined in TV ratings and stopped a big impact on American Comedy and Pop Culture until the Mid-2000’s.

However, The Simpsons has never stopped appealing to young children or stopped gaining newer and younger fans and it never will and no new adult animated show or sitcom will ever compare to quality of The Simpsons in it’s heyday, let alone ever have kind of impact on television and animation that The Simpsons did in the 1990’s and there never not be newer and younger people who start getting into the show by watching the golden age of the show.
 

CousinMerl

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Maybe I'm misremembering, but I seem to remember a thread with this question from a while back.

Anyhow, while I do think it still has relevance (in some form or the other), I think a significant drop happened some time after the classic era and toward the end of Scully's tenure. It wasn't just the negative fan reception to those season that signalled a change, but the show had at that point outlived its natural life expectancy (I believe a show shouldn't have more than 7 or 8, maybe 9 with great ideas, seasons at the most) and had gotten stuck in a rut where everything was way more over the top and cartoonish (a far cry from what it was before) & other animated sitcoms had started popping up, some directly inspired by the show itself.
 
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B-Boy

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I think its last gasp of genuine cultural relevance was in 2007 with The Simpsons Movie.
 

CousinMerl

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I think its last gasp of genuine cultural relevance was in 2007 with The Simpsons Movie.

I'd say that was more of a temporary sudden peak, as not a lot of people outside us fans cared about the prior Jean seasons that followed the Scully seasons (and a small part of me thinks that if they hadn't promoted the movie as well as they did, it wouldn't have had the same cultural footprint but recieved more of a collective shrug and a "'The Simpsons' got a movie, huh?" )
 

Frankbags

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I don't know what the most recent "meme" of the Simpsons is, the only one I can think of at the moment is the one from the movie where Homer tells Bart that this is the worst day of his life yet. I don't think the Simpsons have lost their cultural relevance, I still see a lot of steamed hams memes and that dates back from 1996, I understand the essence of the question but I like to think the cultural impact the earlier episodes had is still felt today.
 

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Well, I think a big part of it is just the circumstances the people calling the shots. Early on it felt very much like parts of the show reflected the experiences and frustrations that the middle class dealt with. And I just don't think Jean or a lot of the staff are in much of a place to relate to us lowly folks.

I mean usually the people that society would elevate above others were satirized a lot. Even if Lisa was smart, she was still pretty modest and had simple tastes and most of the people that did get treated like they were better were also varying shades of crappy or insufferable like Mr Burns not being some benevolent "job provider" but an abusive brat, the mayor being nakedly corrupt and phony, ect. And I think with Lisa especially, they tend to elevate some people without irony nowadays.

Think that's also reflected in Bart. Early on he seems very much like an underachiever written by underachievers. Not especially smart or glamorous but there was still a lot of sympathy towards him and made it apparent that he could still succeed and actually excelled when given some motivation. Then you get the guy who went to went to Harvard at 16 and going by a lot of Lisa eps, doesn't relate to or like a lot of people, it'd make sense that that's why he later got disregarded as a failure/sociopath. Instead of a kid that's not really good at anything trying to find a place in the world and more about how Homer is right to strangle him. And well, many other examples.

It's weird because society is probably more insane than ever yet I think it's still not got its relevance back because the creative team behind it just haven't been there, if that makes sense. And not terribly interested in learning either.

I think something small that might demonstrate what I'm talking about was the different between Noiseland arcade in eps like Moaning Lisa vs THOH XXX. The crowd in the former is pretty mixed while in the latter, the only girl present is at a DDR machine. I think the former was put together by people who were there and the latter feels like it was thrown together by people who weren't but going by second-hand stereotypes such as "videogames are for boys, dancing is for girls" it's a bit of a small point to bring up but I think it's a lot of little things like that which build up.

TL;DR I don't think the show is culturally relevant because it's no longer made by people who really understand the middle-class life the show is about and they don't seem to be trying to understand either.
 

Kangdos

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The Simpsons was still popular and still producing what we would nowadays call memes (meaning jokes and phrases from new episodes became widely recognized among people) during the Scully era. As much as I hate that era, there is no denying that show show was still more or less "cool" among audiences. The complete lack of culturel relevance for new episodes started around the same time that Jean took over, so around 2001-2002. It's true that The Simpsons Movie was indeed a culturally relevant event as late as 2007, but some younger fans who maybe dont remember the 00's seem to be under the mistaken asumption that the show remained relevant up to the release of the movie, and that the shows fall into obscurity (in terms of new episodes that is, the classic episodes are STILL relevant in terms of being common ground for entire generations of people) happaned after the movie. But no; in the summer of 2007 when the movie came out, most people in fact commented on how the show had already lost its relevance years ago, and how the movie was something of a (at least temporary) comeback for the yellow family in terms of mainstream interest and also quality.
 

dorian

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The Simpsons never really lost "cultural relevance" it's one of those shows that's so ingrained into our culture that somebody could have not seen a single episode and they still know who Homer and Bart are. What it has lost is a large consistent viewer base for new episodes which has been inevitable because of the current quality of the show and most of all the state of live TV. The Simpsons will always be one of those shows that everybody knows not everybody being a super fan like users here does not mean it's not longer relevant at all.
 

Kangdos

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The Simpsons never really lost "cultural relevance" it's one of those shows that's so ingrained into our culture that somebody could have not seen a single episode and they still know who Homer and Bart are. What it has lost is a large consistent viewer base for new episodes which has been inevitable because of the current quality of the show and most of all the state of live TV. The Simpsons will always be one of those shows that everybody knows not everybody being a super fan like users here does not mean it's not longer relevant at all.
This is very true, but I think everyone here is in agreement over this. The discussion is to be had regarding when new Simpsons content stopped being able to make any kind of impact.

Though granted, over the past few years the greatest releveance the show has had in pop culture concerns its supposed ability to predict the future, and this particular meme/conspiracy theory/whatver you wanna call it seem to draw from the entire history of the show, including the modern episodes that otherwise gets no attention at all (like that HD era episode that predicted some curling results or some crap).
 

Venomrabbit

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Oh yeah, there's no doubting that plenty of things about older Simpsons haven't remained iconic but then I think a lot of people just don't bother anymore and the flagging ratings kinda show.

I guess also from a standpoint of memes, there's nowhere near as many quotable moments. I think a lot of the old now-memey moments are just a bit more applicable. Like Marge's finding potatoes neat, you can stick whatever characters or animals or whatever in the potato's place. It's a mood. Or Homer disappearing in the bushes being a good metaphor for leaving an awkward conversation. A lot of those moments are just loose enough to apply wherever.
 

Kangdos

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That's a good point. A lot of modern Simpsons memes dont even require people to have any familiarity with the scenes that they are taken from. As such, I think we should make a distinction between Simpsons moments that have actually been well remembered since they first aired and Simpsons moments that have only become part of the common culture when they years after their inital appareance were brought to a largely younger generation that often appreciate those moments without their original context, and in fact have often never seen those moments in their original context/episodes. The Simpsons have in this regard joined certain other properties that have almost in their entirety become memes. Like, say, Sonic the Hedgehog, or He-man (...or at least Skeletor. Kids who've never seen an episode of He-man in their lives loves to meme the shit out of Skeletor). Or what Lazytown used to be back in like 2007-2010. Nobody remembers it but me, but anything that came out of Lazytown was considered meme-worthy back then.
 

Venomrabbit

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So something else that just came to mind. one of the other things that made the show irrelevant (and their attempts to be relevant getting treated as desperate) nowadays is that the staff and the tone of the show is exactly what the classic episodes punched up at. I did already say about how it used to punch up at our supposed "betters" but I missed off how Jean & Selman basically see it the opposite way around.

When Principal Valiant rolls up near the start of The PTA Disbands, we're meant to be on Skinner's side even if it's also a joke at the pitiful state of his school. When Bart goes to the smart-kid school, not only are his classmates worse jerks than the regular kids, the teachers were stupid enough to not suspect that maybe Bart cheated on the test. Dr Pryor had his head lodged firmly up his ass in thinking he found a new Einstein. Even the likes of Martin and Ned were meant to be at least a little bit punchable.

On the other hand, Jean & Selman's Simpsons says "actually, they are better than you" the snobby upper-class was treated as something for Lisa to be in awe over. The snobby rich kid school is a utopia. And that the celebrities and wealthy elite like Elon Musk really are the golden-gods they make themselves out to be. It's probably also why characters like Mr Burns were made as nuanced as AOStH's Dr Robotnik. They just don't get what made Burns work as such a despicable man, that his evil was directly because of his wealth and power letting him freely abuse everyone. He's just evil because he's evil and not because he's rich & a criticism of the rich and powerful... after all, that'd mean criticizing the "good" rich people too and not just the low-hanging fruit.

Compare the entire "satire" of the Angelica Button bit in A Made Maggie being that theme parks are overpriced to Family Guy actually having the teeth to make fun of JK Rowling and her obsession with ruining her legacy. That's right. Family Guy. Though given how trans women have been portrayed on the show, maybe they didn't take the obvious satire because they agree with her. Which just proves the point even more.

It's pretty obvious how they see the world when it comes to Lisa episodes. They usually boil down to "Lisa is super special and exceptional and everyone else is trash except for one or two other 'exceptional' people". One of the reasons "Panic on the Streets of Springfield" fell so flat for me is that even when the show tries to call out this mentality... it doesn't. It's not like Lisa's ever wrong about anyone but Marge in these episodes. Otherwise everyone else really is trash unless they're exceptional like her... or I guess a child-predator like Shauna. Ick.

Anyone remember The Oblongs? The TL;DR is that Jean and Selman's Simpsons is basically if that show kept siding with the hill people over the valley folk.
 

John Smith 1882

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I've said before that the show was virtually unchallenged as the premiere adult animated show until 1997, when King Of The Hill and South Park debuted. Prior to that, most attempted competitors were utterly pathetic. Have you ever heard of Capitol Critters, Fish Police, or Family Dog? I hadn't, until I read that they were created to compete with the Simpsons. Needless to say, they failed miserably and didn't even last a full season. The closest things that I can think of that gave The Simpsons a run for its money were Ren & Stimpy, and Beavis and Butthead. But they were relatively short lived.
 

TheNewestMoron

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In Australia the show never lost its cultural relevance. In fact its probably more relevant here than in America.

You cannot go to a single Australian-Centric forum without seeing a Simpsons reference in the first 3 minutes of viewing it. People quip lines in the show all the time, and its even played a significant role in Australian politics.

No seriously, The Simpsons has sort of become a symbol for the Australian left. Any political page that bashes the Liberals (right-wing) is bound to have at least 20 Simpsons references tucked into it. And that's without mentioning Friendlyjordies, one of the most important political influencers in Australia who just happens to know every (classic) Simpsons episode off by heart.

I am genuinely serious, The Simpsons may have played an important role in kicking Scott Morrison and the Liberals out of office.

This became a bit of a rant but I just want to share how important the Simpsons is in the weird Kangaroo land
 

Kangdos

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In Australia the show never lost its cultural relevance. In fact its probably more relevant here than in America.

You cannot go to a single Australian-Centric forum without seeing a Simpsons reference in the first 3 minutes of viewing it. People quip lines in the show all the time, and its even played a significant role in Australian politics.

No seriously, The Simpsons has sort of become a symbol for the Australian left. Any political page that bashes the Liberals (right-wing) is bound to have at least 20 Simpsons references tucked into it. And that's without mentioning Friendlyjordies, one of the most important political influencers in Australia who just happens to know every (classic) Simpsons episode off by heart.

I am genuinely serious, The Simpsons may have played an important role in kicking Scott Morrison and the Liberals out of office.

This became a bit of a rant but I just want to share how important the Simpsons is in the weird Kangaroo land
All over the world the show is still culturally relevant in the way that people still constantly quote and reference old episodes. So I wonder, are people in Australia familiar with newer episodes? Or is it the same way as in other countries, where pretty much all of the common reference points that the population has to the show comes from before season 15 or so?
 

TheNewestMoron

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Yeah you do have a point, much of the cultural relevance comes from the first 13 or so seasons. Still, Australia probably loves the show more than most I reckon
 

John Smith 1882

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The classic era episodes have not lost their cultural relevance by any means. It's really just Modern Simpsons that has.
 

B-Boy

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In Australia the show never lost its cultural relevance. In fact its probably more relevant here than in America.

You cannot go to a single Australian-Centric forum without seeing a Simpsons reference in the first 3 minutes of viewing it. People quip lines in the show all the time, and its even played a significant role in Australian politics.

No seriously, The Simpsons has sort of become a symbol for the Australian left. Any political page that bashes the Liberals (right-wing) is bound to have at least 20 Simpsons references tucked into it. And that's without mentioning Friendlyjordies, one of the most important political influencers in Australia who just happens to know every (classic) Simpsons episode off by heart.

I am genuinely serious, The Simpsons may have played an important role in kicking Scott Morrison and the Liberals out of office.

This became a bit of a rant but I just want to share how important the Simpsons is in the weird Kangaroo land
I can attest to this. "The Simpsons against the Liberals" Facebook group is a huge (and hilarious) source of anti-right political memes.
 

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This is the first time I hearing about 'The Simpsons' being that huge in Australia (let alone that it's used as a weapon by the left against the right, enough to help kick "Mr Prime Ministah" out of office. What? That sounds quite crazy), though it would explain that movement (which I did hear about) to change the name of the Aussie dollar to Dollarydoo...

It's really neat to know that there's at least someplace in the world where the show still means a lot to a huge amount of people and continue to have relevance (to the point of ridiculous obsession, it sounds!) even nowadays, when most seem to scoff at it still being around (I do wonder what the consensus among the Australian fandom on the modern era episodes is, though).
 
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MingQui

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The topic about the end of the golden years has been there since Season 5 but the show endure it and was still in the top
I think the problem with the cultural relevance was more with Al jean return, yes it was a Renaissance for Homer who began to be less of a Jerk, but I think the problem was about Jean never cared about what Scully introduced:
-Barney doesnt drink beer? Boring let's go back to be a alcoholic
-Mod is dead and Flanders develop a relationship with a Music star? Boring lets put flanders in a relationship with various person and a marriage with Edna
-Ned and Homer Las Vegas episodes? He need to spent a chapter about this
-Krusty has a daughter?I know it was a guest actor but it was forgotten until Season 28
-Apu and Manjula romance and kids? Only plot point that Jean cared

And instead focus on those things, what he do is recreate and try to explore golden era things that everyone loves:
-Mona simpsons? Here is more episodes
-Sideshow bob? Here are more episodes, even tough his story and rivalry with bart ended in the episode he felt in a pit(again)
-Lisa being a vegetarian? There is a episode were Lisa explore a new thing
-Marge and Home has a problem in their love life? Made 10 episodes per season about this
-Edna and Skiner relationship with Agne being a problem? Explore this ending with Edna dyint and Skinner being his mom slave
-Episode focusing the Homer past? Here , take those That 90s show and others flashback episodes missing the point

Early Al Jean felt that they want to make us believe is different than Scully but in the end it take everything bad from the previous showrunner :
-Long gag and humour from Mirking season but bad executed and lame(compare cape fear or The Springfield Connectio with new season)
-Wacky episodes and character jerkass behavior from Scully but worse because with Jean it felt even more cruel and sometimes they don't have a comeback(Like that Lisa's teacher who bully her)
-Those emotional episodes that right now it felt more forced
Is a bad mix while ignoring previous plotpoints because it was from scully season plus flanderization plus Al Jean run being too long even before the movie, in the mid 00s(or even since 2003) it doesn't stand a chance against Family Guy who was in his peak of popularity, American Dad nor South Park.

Let's hope Selman or the next showrunner learn about this
 

rohank9084

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I've been watching through The Simpsons, from the wry start, and I'm up to season nine and it still seems pretty great. At what point should I consider not buying the DVD? (I buy the DVD a few episodes before the end of the previous one)
 

Dizagaox

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Nobody really watches Modern Simpsons

This thread is what is wrong with the fandom... People think the world revolves around them and their tastes, and ignore everything else.

Don't let facts like Season 33 being the #1 Disney+ show in Australia, and Seasons 29 to 32 repeats on 7mate being that channel's top-rated show, get in the way...
 
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Dizagaox

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Except he was answering someone else's question about whether people in Australia like modern Simpsons or not, so it wasn't even about his own personal taste.
Fair but that’s not even true. Granted my original post called 7mate Fox, but my point related to Austalia.

Season 33 airs as a Disney+ original series in Australia, and it is their biggest. Disney+ outbid previous home 7mate because of how popular new episodes are. It's the only animated 20th Century Television series they have done that too.

Separately, Seasons 29 to 32 re-runs still air on 7mate and are that channel's top-rated series.

So saying "nobody really watches Modern Simpsons" is a lie. It's not even close to true. If you only surround yourself with Simpsons meme culture or older people, I understand people thinking that because you're only seeing the oldest episodes referenced. But that's your personal bias influencing facts.

Not the same market, but Season 33 averaged 460,000 UK viewers on Sky Showcase, from broadcast-only airings on a paywalled channel (as Sky doesn't have on-demand or streaming rights to episodes, which impacts the numbers as if you miss episodes, you have to wait until Disney+ streams it the following November). It is their top-performing and most-watched series on the channel. So I would have exactly the same response to somebody said BS like "nobody in the UK really watches Modern Simpsons". Yes, they do.
 

CousinMerl

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@CousinMerl Nobody really watches Modern Simpsons and generally doesn't much opinion on it aside from "it's just not as funny".

Ah ok. At least it's better than actively hating the modern seasons, finding all the new episodes terrible and wishing they'd kill the show like many of us online do on a regular basis (not me and a bunch of us others, though).

But as the above poster @Dizagaox explained, the show still enjoy great ratings in both Australia & UK so apparently there are tons of people (at least abroad) who still really enjoy the newer seasons.
 
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