Maybe all we really needed to finally kill The Simpsons was Disney.
The animated sitcom has been in zombie mode for the better part of two decades now, but it seemed that neither contract disputes, a botched response to a documentary about a racially problematic character or allegations that the show’s creator, Matt Groening, got his “crusty” feet massaged on Jeffrey Epstein’s private jet was enough to derail the once-great series. In the end, only absorption by an entertainment brand that now holds a virtual monopoly on stuff we’ve been watching our entire lives — a soul-selling moment for the blue-collar satire that had long subverted Disney’s puritan ideals — could make apologist fans feel the sting of a final insult.
What I’m trying to say is, the Disney+ streaming service cropped The Simpsons in widescreen.
Does Disney know that The Simpsons is a TV show, and not, with one exception, a movie? That most of us remember it transpiring within the square frame of a distinctly non-HD device? Maybe they’ll fix this, but on the other hand, you can’t assume they’d bother. Control of intellectual property, not anyone’s satisfaction with it, is the point: Should you want to stream your favorite cartoon, which happens to be the best primetime comedy aired in the 1990s, there’s nowhere else to (legally) go.
And while the loss of a few familiar sight gags is no great tragedy in the scope of our dying civilization, you’ve got to love that the brains behind Disney+ are completely oblivious to their ultimate selling point: nostalgia. If you don’t even know why people like the thing they like, or just how much attention they’ve paid it, you’re going to mess it up. Ask the poor folks who had to fix their grotesque movie version of Sonic the Hedgehog.
Disney appeared similarly lost when performing a bizarre Twitter stunt that even the official Simpsons account was comfortable mocking: a thread of more than 600 posts revealing every single movie and show in its vast archive, including lots of forgotten dreck that wouldn’t excite the most fanatic Mouseketeer. Because, I guess, when your company becomes the monoculture, you forget which products made you popular in the first place. But never mind: They have Star Wars, y’all! Yes, the franchise has had some ups and downs, internal strife and backlash from toxic sectors of the audience, but at the end of the day, they can’t ruin the original, classic trilogy. Unless, like, George Lucas made a weird edit to a hotly debated scene back when he sold Lucasfilm to Disney in 2012, one that Disney+ is now obligated to preserve.
Right. Of course. Throw the word “maclunkey” in there to keep the online nerd battles raging for another half a century. It’s not as though Star Wars has been tweaked to death already, causing countless inane schisms among the obsessed interpreters of this sacred cinematic text. Again, whatever a guy in a cheap rubber alien mask might gurgle before Harrison Ford blasts him out of the picture is of little consequence — except to the viewers Disney wants. Anyone who’s visited the theme parks knows ol’ Walt was a stickler for detail and control, having the manic finesse to create a spotless fantasy. Disney+ wants to be where your home theater dreams come true, but they launched with technical difficulties, frequent crashes and missing content.
Yes, you might even conclude that the quality of tech and fidelity to source material are no more than afterthoughts when you’re locked in a suffocating bear hug with the executives who own your childhood and have only contempt for new, original ideas. But to those ponying up the $6.99 in monthly fees — a number the Disney team clearly spent more time thinking about than any other aspect of the thing they’re selling — I wish the very best. What rapture it will be relive Adventures of the Gummi Bears and watch the uncanny valley CGI reboot of Bambi from your couch while it’s still in theaters. Hype has never been wrong, and we can keep mining the past forever. Somewhere in a cryogenic jar, Walt’s head is trying with all its might to crack a smile.