Biting the Hand that Feeds You?
One minute and forty-four seconds. That’s all it took. What started out as a casual glance of a Simpsons special opening-credit sequence not only grabbed my attention, but made me ask the question – why would you make fun of the very organization that keeps your show on the air?
If you haven’t seen the video already, click here. Few companies are willing to take such a bold risk in the way that The Simpsons, in collaboration with a British street artist known pseudonymously as “Banksy” did. As essential as risks are to the success of a product, this gimmick walks a fine line between pushing the envelope for the sake of art and endangering your job by biting the hand that feeds you.
I give Banksy credit for his noteworthy display of dedication to his craft (using video production to mock successful enterprises) as well as the executive producers for standing behind the artist’s concept. What’s unfortunate about this piece is that the political/social commentary overshadows the nature of a high quality video produced by one of the leading video production companies in the industry.
This isn’t the first time that Fox has poked fun at themselves, nor will it be the last – but the timing is interesting given our current relationship with China and other Southeast Asian countries. Part of me says its classic Simpsons: Unapologetic, crass, and shamefully captivating. It’s the original ‘guilty pleasure’ animated series and this couch gag intro represents the product perfectly. But was it too far, even for The Simpsons?
The amazing truth in all of this? Everything down to the Fox logo surrounded in barbed-wire was approved by executive staff at Fox! Love it or hate it, this sensationally scandalous creation is a shining example of successful branding. For 20 years, Fox has developed a loyal fan base who never seems disappointed by the choice of subject matter. With more than 6 million views on YouTube, the positive feedback outweighed the negative criticism 38 to 1. I have to admit, the animators know their audience; what makes them laugh, feel entertained, and above all, what keeps them tuned in each week.
Al Jean, an Executive Producer at Fox and the brain child behind the stunt, recently made a comment about the controversial opening credit sequence:
“Obviously the animation to do this was pricey. I couldn’t have just snuck it by Fox. I’ll just say it’s a place where edgy comedy can really thrive as long as it’s funny, which I think this was. None of it’s personal. This is what made The Simpsons what it is.”
Ultimately, The Simpsons took a big gamble with Fox, its fan base, and casual viewers by broadcasting these opening credits. With the aid of social media and the press sensationalizing this story, it appears their venture has paid off. Well played, Simpsons. Well played.