Marriage and family are common themes on many television shows and are often the basis for sitcoms, including animated ones like The Simpsons, which is basically about the exploits of one family, the Simpsons themselves, and their interactions with their community. The Simpsons television show depicts a completely homogenous town made of like-minded families who are all living according to a generally similar set of marital and familial expectations and values. Conflict in “The Simpsons" rests upon violations of these norms and thus the families in this show are so “normal" that they are actually parodies of the “typical" Western family. In short, as seen in the example of “The Simpsons”, despite the many options available to consider marriage and family relationships on television, the fact that Simpsons offers so many parodies of traditional families and communities makes it an excellent starting point for a discussion about family and marriage on television.
Before beginning this discussion of how families are represented on television as well as what marriage is presented as there are a few general points to address prior to involvement of “The Simpsons”. Families such as those on the television show “The Simpsons" can be studied on several levels since the term itself does not simply define one cohesive idea or theory, but rather a host of complex social, moral, economic, and other divisions and definitions. On the macro-level of examining family relationships and structure on television either on “The Simpsons” or on other television shows, one of the more significant aspects to examine is integration and the way families share certain sets of values and ways of living. For the most part, families on television or in real life share ideas about the meaning and values in life with one another as well as more general biological and other created kinship bonds. This is quite apparent in the animated family sitcom “The Simpsons" and even more importantly, this television show embodies the very idea of a normative family, almost to the point of parody, in fact.
Looking at the ways in which the Simpson family represents a host of “norms" in American and Canadian families is not only a useful task in examining this show on a more sociological and family-studies related level, but it is also worth recognizing how this is one of the main sources of humor. The show is, in part, funny because this family is entirely homogenous and represents the “typical" family to such a degree that it is bordering upon parody. One scholar terms the nuclear family unit depicted by The Simpsons as a “fable family" because they “do not look like anyone, but they are like all of us… their characteristics are what their roles are in the family, what goes on in their home, in school and in work but they don’t have the color, shape, or appearance of real people. In this sense, they seem to belong to everyone" (Kohn 2000).
The reason why they seem to be part of everyone is because in Western society, we all recognize there to be certain (albeit stereotypical to an incredible degree) essential truths about the normal or typical family. These are people who, like Marge and Homer Simpson, live with their nuclear family and have regular interactions with extended family as well, most notably in the form of grandparents and aunts. The “norm" represented by the Simpson family presents a traditional marriage where there is the requisite high level of interdependence with conventional gender and social values at work. Additionally, it is also worth noting that there exists both age and ethnic homogamy as both Homer and Marge share the same racial, ethnic, and age characteristics.