The Simpsons is a TV show of which people feel nostalgia for, but at the same time forget that it’s still being produced after 20 series. Pretty forgivable; as the general consensus amongst many viewers is that for many years the show has been pretty lackluster. A recent reminder that new episodes of the long running animated sitcom are still being churned out came with a special opening sequence courtesy of the mysterious graffiti artist Banksy. It can viewed on a number of online video streaming sites, though probably not easily due to Fox’s lawyers, who even had it removed on Bansky’s own YouTube page. Here is one that currently remains.
In depicting an assembly line of oriental slaves painting animation cels and manufacturing merchandise of the show in drab conditions, it seems clear that Bansky’s intended statement is a comment on today’s addiction of outsourced mass produced items. But how potent is it when it was created by the same system that he protests against?
Indeed, the animation (and previously the ink and paint work, as depicted in Bansky’s opening; the show is now coloured digitally) for The Simpsons is in fact produced in South Korea. This is not an uncommon practise, the majority of animated shows make use of outsourcing, for purely economical reasons as the East-Asian artists work for a lower wage than their American counterparts. It is not the first time that The Simpsons have satirised the practise either. An earlier episode included a more subtle Korean sweatshop scene in which news anchor Kent Brockman was reporting on the making of an Itchy and Scratchy, in which the animators were forced to draw at gunpoint.
In both examples the working conditions of Korean animators are highly exaggerated, in reality they appear to be anything but inhumane. The irony, whether or not intentional on Bansky’s part, is interesting in how it turns the opening into a commentary of its own production methods as well as being a general statement of outsourced assembly line workers.
It may also seem surprising at first that Fox actually paid for this to be made, considering how it rails against the cooperation. But it shouldn’t be too surprising considering how The Simpsons is one of the media empire’s biggest earners. If there’s one thing that Bansky has succeeded in is reviving interest in a TV show considered by many to have finished its hey-day long ago. Despite this not being a business decision, having an notorious outside artist like Bansky have a hand in producing something for the show may suggest that its real intention is publicity through the guise of a provocative statement.
But perhaps this video does a better job at explaining Bansky’s art. As he’s pseudonymous, its perhaps not quite so unreasonable to believe that its his own genuine work…