Op-Ed Cartoon

stahler1.jpg
Does it mean anything that filmmaking icons Ingmar Bergman and Michaelangelo Antonioni passed away the same week The Simpsons Movie opens? Jeff Stahler’s editorial cartoon yesterday nailed the sad truth about current movie going tastes, and the general public’s ignorance of film history.

Update: Will Finn also notes the irony of Bergman’s passing and the Simpsons opening.


  • Travis Gentry

    He could have picked a film to mock that wasn’t from one of (if not the) most intelligent satires of our generation. How about License to Wed or Transformers?

  • http://www.electricminstrel.com Brett McCoy

    It’s very sad… Bergman made quite an impression on me in high school with films like ‘Wild Strawberries’ and ‘The Seventh Seal’.

  • Shmalex

    Nah, I’d say this seems more like a bitter Randian mumble. Bergman and Antonioni never hit the mainstream like Groening did, but of course Groening had a more accesible vehicle. How is the Simpsons movie the antithesis to the big two directors? I’d sat ‘Chuck and Larry’ is more like the antithesis… and people seemed to hate that.

  • Keith Paynter

    That editorial cartoon was spot on. I was actually discussing it following a television news report with my sister and father after a family dinner, and neither of them had ever heard of Bergman or his best-known films. I keep hearing this joke in my head, something like “wasn’t that Murphy Brown?” Sad.

  • John Ellis

    Because only dumb, ignorant people would go to one of those *shudder* animated movies. If you like those, then you must, must, MUST be a yahoo who knows nothing about the great live action films.

    Or something.

  • http://zvbxrpl.blogspot.com Jaime Weinman

    Is it really so surprising, or so bad, that lots of people go to see a comedy instead of renting Cries and Whispers? There used to be this film-snob way of lamenting that people would rather see a comedy or an action movie than a Bergman drama. But that’s always been true, even in Sweden.

    Instead of lamenting this, the cartoonist should be celebrating the success of a good comedy, whether it’s The Simpsons Movie or Smiles of a Summer Night. You can never have enough good comedies.

  • Matt

    It´s a joke they would easily make on the Simpsons themselves, concidering their references to `obscure´ filmmakers

  • Chuck R.

    As much as I love Stahler, (He’s from my hometown) I can’t agree that there’s anything particularly surprising or even sad that this generation is more familiar with the Simpsons —a high quality show that was written for them about the world they live in.

    Be honest, Jerry. If Fanny and Alexander opened the same weekend as the Simpsons, which would you pony up 9 bucks for? If it helps, Shakespeare, Michelangelo and Strauss were all once adored by the masses.

  • http://blackwingdiaries.blogspot.com Jenny

    This kind of juxaposition used to bug me but no longer, as I’ve noticed it seems all cream(including many movies dismissed as fluffy nothings in their time long ago)rises to the top over the years.

    I’d hazard that the filmgoing public was more ignorant of Bergman when he was releasing “The Seventh Seal” than today-so that’s something, at least. And there were definitely better-known/megahit things in theatres back then just as goofy as any Matt Groening project could ever be.

    Bergman had an incredibly fruitful career and lived to be a very senior statesman of international film, with more influence than most directors save a tiny group can claim. He’ll survive as a legacy as long as films do.

  • Mark Lansing

    As someone who happens to love both “Wild Strawberries” and “The Simpsons,” I’m not sure what the cartoonist is supposed to be getting at.

  • Lute

    So wait… We’ve finally got a big 2D movie into the theaters, but suddenly we’re Bergman snobs? Crap– I must be on the wrong site.

  • red pill junkie

    Hey Travis, just don’t you dare call The Simpsons a “classic”, or you’ll make Amid’s blood boil! ;-)

    Just kidding dude. Peace

  • George

    Travis Gentry has a point. It’s as wrongheaded as the late Paddy Chayefsky, the otherwise brilliant writer, having picked an improper role model to disparage for the Faye Dunaway character in “Network” – the line was something like “…she learned life from Bugs Bunny!”) – a false moment. Holden shoulda said “…she learned life from Rocket Robin Hood!”

  • http://www.stupixanimation.com Jonathan Lyons

    For those who haven’t seen animator Mike Judges live action feature film “idiocracy”. It takes place in the future in a vastly dumbed down America.
    The most successful film of the time is “Ass” which is 90 minutes of a guy’s ass.

    The fart joke taken to it’s logical extreme.

  • uncle wayne

    I think t’s even more sad that children today don’t even know what a “song” is….and cannot sing a MELODY!!

  • http://www.carbonalley.com Jeff

    I agree, Wild Strawberries is one of my favorite films. And I agree, isn’t that kind of a GHW Bush era attitude toward the Simpsons? That rapscallion, underachiever Bart, bringing down society.

  • http://www.jjsedelmaier.com J.J. Sedelmaier

    I’ve actually lost count of how many times I’ve mentioned Charlie Chaplin and received, “Oh yeah, Robert Downey Jr. !” as a response. . .

  • Matt Sullivan

    Oh, so suddenly we should feel “uncultured” if we enjoyed “The Simpsons movie”? That’s crap and you all know it.

  • tom

    Not to be an ass, but Bergman’s work never meant that much to me, save the fact that the Seventh Seal is such a cultural touchstone and is so widely parodied and quoted. I always thought that the “chess with Death” concept was so obvious and simplistic as to be almost childlike. Like an old political cartoon by Herblock or something.

    I always found the stuff to be overwrought. Beautiful- very beautiful to look at, but very melodramatic and basically too abstract emotionally for me to connect to much. That is in no way a dig, but I wonder how many people who “love” Bergman have actually had that much exposure to his films.

    As for the cartoons here, I’m with Travis.

  • Robert Schaad

    I have to agree w/ the above comment by travis. The editiorial cartoon has a ring of truth to it…too bad The Simpsons was chosen. Compared to a lot of the movie fare out there, Simpsons is indeed highbrow…but obviously not on the level of Bergman.

  • http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Styx/8512/ Andrew Lee Hunn

    I don’t think there’s anything sad about someone having a long and storied career and dying an old man. We should be celebrating! And there are many, many thoughtful films being made and being seen these days, certainly more than just a couple of decades ago, and many of their makers (and fans) are well aware of their debt to people like Bergman. As for all the crap that people watch, that’s always been the case, and I wouldn’t count The Simpsons among it.

  • Jorge Garrido

    Oh, I forgot, we’re not allowed to make fun of the great SIMPSONS. Please… If I hear one more person say it’s one of the greatest shows of all time I’m gonna lose it…

    At least Transformers was well executed. Those CGI transformations are hard to figure out. The movie had craft. Even though it sucked, it was definitely hard to pull off.

  • Jenny

    Just for the record not all Bergman films are chilly, b&w angstfests–try watching the edited, theatrical(much better imo than the longer swedish TV version) UNdubbed version of “Fanny and Alexander”( which is my favorite of his films). And “Smiles of a Summer Night” is lovely.

    The editorial cartoonist is going for a bigger point here, sure–but it’s one that would work better to choose a real turkey for his
    illustration rather than picking on “The Simpsons” which is at least an honest, earnest comedy in the sense that a lot of people labored long and hard over it. It’s not “Jackass 2″(which I enjoyed, mostly, btw).

  • http://cinemahustle.blogspot.com alexander

    The Simpsons movie was funny, but as a piece of art it was a disaster. Everything about is tired. Making this film was like making a cigar out of cigarette ash. These characters have been dead for years and hopefully now their creators are ready to stop playing with their corpses.

    It could be ironic if this really is a changing of the guard, if the future of cinema is just the future of recycling and the last waves of artistic entropy. Or the malformed children of artistic inbreeding.

    At least Bergman’s death reminds us of what film used to be, and maybe still can be, while maybe we’re making a big deal out of movies like The Simpsons.

  • tom

    Jorge Garrido – uhhh…yeah. Rrright. Hard to pull off stupidity trumps well executed inspiration every time.

  • uffler mustek

    it’s simple. the use of the simpsons (and a simple image of homer) makes a quicker (and more clear) point.

    you all should know that.

  • http://www.davealertblogspot.com Dave

    Yeah, what a great career (with ups and downs of course) but sad to see them go.

  • red pill junkie

    it’s ironic, if you think about it, how a program like The Simpsons can be labeled as dumb or uncultural, while I read recently many of the writers have a science background. Some are mathematicians actually, that’s why they try to add science jokes as often as they can

    http://www.nature.com/news/2007/070723/full/448404a.html

    “Lisa, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!” (Reply of Homer when he finds Lisa trying to build a perpetual motion machine).

    Comedy has this quality of delivering a message more easily and almost unconsciously (e.g. Sesame Street). I believe in the end bufoons and comedians have had more cultural impact throghout civilization than philosophers or poets… for better or for worse. The end result maybe what we are currently experiencing in our society: the reign of the ludocracy, when actors, musicians and sport athletes are celebrated as demigods and scientists and intelectuals are often underpaid… but that’s something for another thread.

  • gene schiller

    “The Simpsons happen to be where pop culture is at right now, like it or not. But, the fact remains, if you haven’t seen Bergman’s “Fanny and Alexander” or “The Seventh Seal” – that’s a serious gap. Every filmgoer should know who Ingmar Bergman is.

  • http://animationwriters.blogspot.com Steve

    I would doubt the artist even cares about EITHER of the subjects. It was just an easy way to do a cartoon about Bergman’s passing, and used the Simpsons as a reference.

    It’s lazy, hack editorial cartooning by an artist desperate to get his stuff published, and not indicative of any valid opinion at all.

  • http://www.aaronneathery.com Aaron Neathery

    Gotta agree with Steve here.. It’s a cheap point, cheaply executed.

  • http://www.kyleink.com GloriousKyle

    Mmmm… Wild Strawberries…

    Does anyone know if there has ever been a reference to Bergman or one of his films on The Simpsons? I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they’ve acknowledged him in one way or another over the past 10 years or so.
    MST3k did it all the time, and that was just a silly puppet show to most editorial cartoonists.

    The sophistication and cultural awareness of the show shouldn’t necessarily be underestimated, after all, they did get George Plimpton once and Thomas Pynchon on TWICE- what other cartoon can boast that? EVER.

  • http://drgrantz.deviantart.com/ revned

    I think it would’ve been a better commentary on popular culture and the limited intelligence of the movie-going public if the couple was leaving a multiplex showing a vaiety of movie titles on the marquee (Underdog, …Chuck & Larry, Harry Potter 5, Hot Rod, etc.), as opposed to singling out just one movie title.

    Come to think of it… wasn’t that already done on The Simpsons?

  • Simone Tse Tse

    The panel comes across as if Bergman was mentioned in the movie. THAT would have been funny (He had to have been mentioned in the series). For those of you who don’t remember, the Simpsons reference is a throwback to early 90′s when Dan Quayle & The Simpsons were blamed for the “dumbing down of America.”

  • GhaleonQ

    “The Simpsons” is far less clever than most people insist, but it’s hardly the idiot’s counterpart to Bergman. Still, if the world was made up of religion majors…

  • Adam

    There’s a Simpsons movie? I must have missed it while I was away at the art house taking in the newest offering from someone you philistines have probably never heard of.
    hmph!

  • http://www.eccentric-illusions.com Dave

    Ingmar Bergman passed away? When was this?

    Geez, this is what I get for refusing to watch broadcast tv, not bothering to listen to the radio, not caring about the newspaper, and basically getting my weekly info from Slashdot and Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me

  • Bryan T.

    Someone told me that there’s a reference to Bergman (and Swedish cinema as a whole) in the episode about the Springfield Film Festival. At any rate this is a show with a major character named after the films of Satyajit Ray, I hardly think it’s fair to use it as a symbol of American ignorance about world cinema. It seems like this guy jumped back two decades to the era of kids having to wear their “Bart Simpson: Underachiever” t-shirts inside out at school.

    Plus, I can’t figure out why this couple that never heard of Ingmar Bergman is randomly talking about him as they leave the movie theater.

  • Sara

    Bryan T. makes a good point; there seems to be a missing newspaper box with the headline “Filmmaker Ingmar Bergman Dies” that would prompt the couple to muse about the man. Perhaps it’s a couple of feet off-panel.

    Count me among those who don’t quite get it. The cartoonist seems to be taking the view popular with the media back when “The Simpsons” was in it’s early days: that it’s just a cartoon about drinking and swearing and badly behaved kids and that it represents the height of crassness in our society. Some people have a tendancy to mistake the stupidity of the characters on “The Simpsons” for stupidity in the show itself when it is in fact, on its better days, a smart show about stupid people.

    I just fail to see how “The Simpsons Movie” neing number one at the box office is more of a slap in the face to Bergman than your average brainless live-action comedy. Comparing “The Simpsons” to a Bergman film is like comparing a horse to a Corvette. While they are both forms of transportation, the pleasures you get from each are distinctly different, and it’s not impossible for one person to enjoy both from time to time.

    I don’t think the fact that this is an animation website means that we should always favor any animation over any live-action film. But shouldn’t we at least be able to recognize “The Simpsons” as something more than lowest common denominator humor? Yes it’s sad that more people don’t know Bergman, or many of the other great filmmakers. But I hardly think that would no longer be the case if “The Simpsons Movie” had never been made.

  • Jorge_Garrido

    >It seems like this guy jumped back two decades to the era of kids having to wear their “Bart Simpson: Underachiever� t-shirts inside out at school.

    Maybe *gasp* he doesn’t think highly of the Simpsons and was just making fun of it! But how could this be? It’s such an intelligent satire! The writers are all Harvard graduates! They reference the Oliver North Trial! Which character was that again, that referenced how dashing Oliver North looked at the Iran-Conta hearings? Oh, wait, I forgot, it doesn’t matter, the characters aren’t characters, they’re mouthpieces for pop culture references and awkwardly worded, timed, performed, and constructed “satire”. But despite these MINOR flaws, who could hate THE SIMPSONS.

    Lisa: Dad, you’re burning the roast.

    Homer: Oh, I’m burning the roast? The way WILLIAM SHATNER was burned at his Comedy Central Roast?

    Marge: They WERE a little hard on him, weren’t they?

    Leonard Nimoy: Seems logical, Marge.

    Marge: How did you get into the house?

    HAHAHAHAH! BRILLIANT!!!!!!!!

    If the Simpsons was in live action, they’d call it the worst movie in years. Oh, wait, they did that, it’s called The Rocky & Bullwinkle Movie. The only way people can stand over written “comedy” that crams too many “clever” and smug lines into their interchangeable characters is if it’s in animation. Maybe Aaron Sorkin should write one.

  • http://pupick.blogspot.com/ PCUnfunny

    red pill junkie: Just because THE SIMPSONS throws in a scientific knowledge in a joke, which really isn’t funny anyway, dosen’t make it smart. It just shows that the writers are smart.

  • red pill junkie

    “Just because THE SIMPSONS throws in a scientific knowledge in a joke, which really isn’t funny anyway, dosen’t make it smart. It just shows that the writers are smart.”

    Instead of having a lousy underpaid job teaching on some university, they have beverly hills offices and work for what’s probably the most succesful television show in history (remember, The Simpsons is popular WORLDWIDE). Bottomline: OF COURSE they’re smart!!! ;-)

    The Simpsons is all about satire, pure and simple. And you gotta admit they have had some brilliant comments when criticizing everything from the nuclear family, religious institutions, the government, whatever. But I understand Jorge Garrido’s position: the show relies mainly on the dialogue and spoken jokes. I guess what the writers of this show exploit the most is the fact that, being a cartoon, they can come up with the most far-fetched scenarios and it won’t affect the budget for the episode. It costs the same to place Homer drinking beer at Moe’s tavern than to place him riding the space shuttle or travelling through time or meeting Jesus Christ. You couldn’t possibly pull that off with a live-action sitcom, but that doesn’t mean The Simpsons is the best example of how to use the truly full potential of animation as an art form to convey emotions or expressing ideas. I know that.

    But I like The Simpsons just the same ;-)

  • http://pupick.blogspot.com/ PCUnfunny

    “(remember, The Simpsons is popular WORLDWIDE). Bottomline: OF COURSE they’re smart!!! ;-)”

    It’s popularity means it’s smart ? Wow, I guess Baywatch must have been brillant !

    “And you gotta admit they have had some brilliant comments when criticizing everything from the nuclear family, religious institutions, the government, whatever.”

    Again this is an example of a writer using the characters as vessels to make political commentary, it dosen’t make THE SHOW smart or funny. You just know what the writer is thinking and get nothing from it. What could make THE SIMPSONS smart is if they approached the humor in a smart way and take advantage of the medum of animation. The Ulman shorts actually did this better then the show ever did. For example the short were Bart and Lisa were watching TV and the moment the program they were watching went into a commercial, they started fighting. Then later, when the entire family was sitting down, Homer talked about how it was so good they were spending quality time together and then Bart silenced him because the commericals were done. Here is the short:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Jxc35YJ2oY

    The commentary was clear and had a witty delivery, American families are controlled by television. Also, funny drawings so our eyes will be pleased.

  • http://elblogderg.blogspot.com Roberto González

    Man, John K. really put people against The Simpsons, didn’t he?

    I love The Simpsons and I love John K.’s stuff and I don’t think this editorial cartoon is all that brilliant or spot on.

    HOWEVER I would agree that The Simpsons MOVIE was funny, but not a piece of art. And I am one who still enjoys some of the new episodes and still have confidence in the original writers that scripted the movie. But , I don’t know exactly why, it seemed to me that they played safe in the movie. They made a lot of really funny jokes, an entertaining movie, but the whole thing lacked structure, risk and , unlike the series, it didn’t make a point about anything. There were a couple of satiric jokes here and there but mostly it’s an entertaining but shallow comedy that doesn’t have quite the wit , identity or the bitter commentary best episodes of the series have.

    Still I mildly happy they did it, cause I enjoyed seeing these characters in the big screen and it was entertaining and not a total disaster. Also Silverman did use some funny animation here and there, especially during the Itchy and Scratchy short. And yeah, I liked to see a 2D animated movie in theatres and one with designs that were quite different to Disney’s.

    Actually it didn’t have as much cultural references either. It would have been more weird to see a reference to Bergman in the movie than in the series (and yeah there is actually one in the deleted scenes of A Star is Burns).

    So I don’t know what the cartoonist wanted to say exactly, if he wanted to say something, but I would mildly agree if we were talking ONLY about the movie, which I found it was kinda superficial and lacked sincerity and structure, but not about the best episodes in the tv series.

  • red pill junkie

    “It’s popularity means it’s smart ? Wow, I guess Baywatch must have been brillant !”

    C’mon, you are missinterpreting my words dude :-)

    “Again this is an example of a writer using the characters as vessels to make political commentary, it dosen’t make THE SHOW smart or funny.”

    I disagree, because what I like about the Simpsons is that, in other types of tv programs, the kind of attacks they have made against all kinds of institutions would have been banned, and in some countries that kind of liberty would be punished AT LEAST with prison (A russian version of The Simpsons would assure the writers a nice dinner condimented with RADIOACTIVE POLONIUM no doubt). Whereas with The Simpsons some of the political satires go kind of “under the radar”. The writers found that if its delivered in the form of a cartoon, they have almost limitless freedom and can discuss anything from immigration laws to the crazyness of Creationism.
    Some times the attacks are very subtle, sometimes they are direct and even coarse, but after 18 years is only natural they tend to repeat themselves or not being that effective. And yes, sometimes it feels like the writers couln’t come up with anything to fill up an episode.

    Once again I admit: There are far better examples of the full use of animation to express ideas. The Simpson is mostly “ambient” dialogues. But nevertheless they have made a great impact and continue to entertain (and somteimes even educate and raise conscience) in the audience.

  • top_cat_james

    Wasn’t there a offhand reference to Bergman in the very first Simpsons episode, “Bart the Genius”?
    Homer:”…your mother wants us to go see a movie made by some Swedish meatball.”

  • http://www.geocities.com/athens/styx/8512/ Andrew Lee Hunn

    A couple of reminders:

    )The Simpsons were never meant to be a showcase for “quality” animation, whatever that is.

    )There was just as much garbage in the theater in the old days as there is now. Go buy one of those DVD collections, the ones with 20 old horror or westerns, or whatever. Those movies were made all over the world, and 90% were crap, just like today.

  • http://pupick.blogspot.com/ PCUnfunny

    red pill junkie: You’re making my case with your post. The writers are merely using the characters as mouth peices for there own political commentary and again you’ve pointed that out. They should just stick to writing columns in newpapers instead of mucking up a meduim that thay have no bussiness in.

  • http://davidmcg.net/ DavidMcG

    Hey… maybe…
    Maybe the Simpsons Movie was so GOOD that after watching it, Ingmar Bergman and Michaelangelo Antonioni could finally die at peace, knowing the film industry is in good hands!

  • red pill junkie

    PCUnfunny: But at least, you do admit they are SMART political commentaries? :-)

    And no, I don’t think it would be so effective if they turned to newspaper columns.

  • http://pupick.blogspot.com/ PCUnfunny

    “But at least, you do admit they are SMART political commentaries? :-)”

    That dosen’t matter, what matters is the entertainment.

  • red pill junkie

    It does matter, because we started this whole discussion when I commented that it was ironic that a show that has been labeled as a dumb form of entertainment for the dull masses, was actually written by men who had a background in science. And that they use the show to throw smart political satyres that are more effective because they are -at least intended- to be entertaining.

    Let’s agree to disagree on this one, shall we my friend? Saludos

  • http://pupick.blogspot.com/ PCUnfunny

    “And that they use the show to throw smart political satyres that are more effective because they are -at least intended- to be entertaining.”

    If you actually think forced dialogue is smart political satire, you are sadly mistaken. I am just going to repeat what I said earlier and hopefully you get it this time and realize the difference between satire and merely stating your views:

    What could make THE SIMPSONS smart is if they approached the humor in a smart way and take advantage of the medum of animation. The Ulman shorts actually did this better then the show ever did. For example the short were Bart and Lisa were watching TV and the moment the program they were watching went into a commercial, they started fighting. Then later, when the entire family was sitting down, Homer talked about how it was so good they were spending quality time together and then Bart silenced him because the commericals were done.

  • colawarmonger

    I don’t know what show Jorge_Garrido is watching, but it sure isn’t The Simpsons.

  • Lisa (Yes, I may be a little biased…)

    I am very glad to see that most posters have already reamed Jeff Stahler for this ridiculousness. Personally, if you’re too elitist for “the Simpsons”, you’re too elitist for life.

    “I don’t know what show Jorge_Garrido is watching, but it sure isn’t The Simpsons.” – colawarmonger

    His post makes a little more sense if you mentally replace “Simpsons” with “Family Guy”. :/