The Simpsons, in its best days and long after, has always been pop-culture savvy. A hyperawareness of the culture of animation, film, and television has always been baked deep into the show’s DNA, from its episode-length X-Files parody to Leonard Nimoy on a monorail to the Comic Book Guy’s whole deal. But not like this.
Now that The Simpsons belongs to Disney, we’re getting new ways to watch it. Like its new home on Disney Plus, or these: a series of clip montages posted on YouTube. These montages, perfectly designed for light, nostalgic consumption, are supercuts of the show’s pop culture references. One for Disney, one for Marvel, and one for Star Wars. And like the Comic Book Guy before me, I declare these the worst supercuts… ever.
OK, maybe not the worst ever, but I’m not a fan. There’s something that feels particularly crass about parceling out The Simpsons this way, especially when it’s done so blatantly in the interest of promoting not only a new streaming service but Disney’s increasingly monopolistic franchises. Back in the day, the references The Simpsons made about these things—particularly about Disney itself—were biting. Itchy & Scratchy was used to comment on the cruelty, pettiness, and outright thievery of early animation with an extended parody version of Steamboat Willie.
The Simpsons isn’t Family Guy—its pop culture references were regularly used to comment on broader culture or mock fandom and corporate entertainment. No matter what The Simpsons has later become, it was, at least at first, incredibly cynical about the precise type of cultural reproduction that a series of YouTube gag videos produced as advertisement represents.
And yes, there’s no changing that The Simpsons was always already a corporate product, putting it in an awkward place as an insider jabbing at the hand that feeds it. And yes, it’s still hilarious that Ralph bent his Wookiee. The Simpsons were never pure, anti-corporate rebels. But these videos still feel like more of an insult to what the show was at its best than they do a compliment.