The House, the TV and aspiration
A house is a place we should feel safe and secure. It is where we are given space and time to grow during our human evolution. The family home is something we can all recognize in its various forms. It has been reinforced by media and physical spaces we grew up in. The house is widely seen as singular, a plot of land and among many in a neighborhood. It is a spell of aspiration to allow us to dream of one day having our own, a prophecy told since birth.
Family Guy House (for reference)
The Simpsons House (for reference)
When considering the media surrounding this concept, television shows have found relatable material in regards to family life and the life of friends in a city. It is suburbia vs metropolis. This is something that can mirror what we experience and feel on an innate level and in turn allows us to relax when we see these situations. They provide escape portals to a world we exist within. There is a particular mold that has been set for this representation and it’s focus on the middle / working class structure perhaps makes the TV shows appear more relevant to many rather than rich people in glass houses.
The people who occupy the speaking roles of these pieces are considered relatable characters and always begins with a Dad. Family Guy has Peter Griffin, an ignorant but entertaining character who appears in the same line of inspiration as Homer Simpson. A simple man who has a regular job and drinks beer as a character trait. They are there merely to fuel our entertainment among mediocre existence.
Beside him is his wife and they are the more reasonable character who tries to keep the husband in check when he spirals into absurdity and wayward danger that would affect the entire family’s well being without concern. (See Marge and Lois for reference here).
She is always represented as passive in many senses and only gains real power when she threatens to leave the husband due to his stupidity and shifts back to the patriarchal structure when they get back to their relationship as usual. The Children and pets do vary in influence but are more supportive side notes that add to the narrative structure. On a side note, there are no single parents, same sex couples, queer representation as a dominant character force. Queer and trans people do pop up in Family Guy but more as a side joke to comment on the “strangeness” of a transgender character, I.e. Joes Mum who transitions during the show. These elements of representation didn’t appear so prominently in the Simpsons, likely due to nature of conversation at the time and when the show became popular. There was however Smithers who is a gay perceived character, yet isn’t really fully labeled as such, although this character always finds love impossible to clutch as he is in love with Mr Burns.
What is interesting about both Homer and Peter and Marge and Lois is that they have similar roles within their society. Both Peter and Homer have the same level of job that is not important to the character development. During the episode (Season 13, Episode 1 of Family Guy), there is a cross over of worlds they discuss the similarities between the Simpsons and Family Guy, comparing and contrasting their lives. It goes as far to suggest and mock the fact that Family Guy is a direct rival and descendant of The Simpsons, which is obvious.
What is important to ask here, is why? And where did this concept come from? It is of course deeply touted as a reality for many in the western countries, specifically the UK, Canada and America plus many more. My mind wonders as to what a Spanish, French, German or Italian Family Guy or Simpsons reality would look like. Would the houses reflect the difference in lifestyle? Would this affect what they get up to?
The different roles of the characters would also depend on the wide spread and often stereotypical values of that society. Would the opener of a house become an apartment? Would they go to the cafe like in Friends or the bar like in Family Guy and the Simpsons? Upon reflection, these questions feel so clear and obvious for me to ask that it invalidates it’s reason to ask. Naturally, we live in a society where there are cultural patterns people follow but the question still remains and to me, unanswered. Why does the environment we live in sculpt us so much so it becomes us? Our environments are suffocatingly influencing our later lives and how we are made up as human beings navigating society.
II: Ghosts and the interior space
Is it hard to convince you that houses, in fact, look like faces? The windows being the eyes to the soul of the family itself. The intimate time spent in one’s home and how a house actually becomes a home, defines its purpose. Fascinatingly, a manufactured building influencing our comfort levels and protecting us from any outside warnings and issues defines us as successful or unsuccessful human beings.
It may seem a little off topic but relevant, but with Ghost inhabitation, they seem to manifest as a spirit indoors, not outdoors. They attach themselves to a four wall structure. Whether or not you believe in ghosts, the essence of a spirit we leave in our intimate spaces is a wide spread concept and I wonder frequently, why do they lend themselves so easily into the home spaces? It’s interesting that we are always referencing a ghost in the family home but never the bus stop next to it. This concept doesn’t appear to exist outside, unless it’s the woods and then it’s just another fear tactic.
It seems as though a ghost is only scary or intimidating when within the confines of a house environment. If we saw a ghost outside, chances are the fear would be considerably less and this is down to our intimacy of the space outside. We do not belong outside, we belong in our house.
You may wonder why ghosts have anything to do with The Simpsons, Family Guy or even Friends but in a sense, the spirit these characters represent exist within this reality of fiction and is the same spirit that would transfer once passed if it wasn’t fictional. These TV shows are merely vessels for us to fill out lives within. Our homes are vessels to our inhabited life. The consideration that the home is important for everyone, goes to define existence. For without a home, even one to borrow every month, we transcend recognizable human structure and without purpose we become unidentifiable. If we have no home, we have no life of note (based upon some ideas within society). The homes link to capitalism is disappointing as it seems that without a home you lose your identity, hence the term “homeless person” as opposed to “person”. Perhaps Homeless is a first name.
Something I have considered at length is the importance of the family home. I have studied my childhood houses and houses of many others as “a police officer photographing evidence” as my friend put it to me a decade ago. The home is everything and perhaps that’s the first subject we find. The home is marked in memory, it holds our life and activity and everything in between. It facilities our well being and health. It grounds us as self. And I wonder, how did a bunch of bricks, piping, water and objects create the structure that we essentially cannot successfully live without. The house is such an obvious subject, but upon reflection it can encapsulate anything that humans do, because everything stems from the home. Houses are everything and influence everything within human existence. Houses have played a role in the aspirational value that is attached to home owning and how that is meant to make us feel safe and secure in an environment. A house is the most important article of capitalism, according to these TV shows and the general consensus growing up in society.
And the fact these houses are all the same, the same family structure and the same feeling when watching them. It makes me wonder about housing structure. With a house it is made up of components; a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, lounge, garden, stairs and various other rooms for different purposes, yet all the houses are identical in structure. It is simplified for mass consumption. Only the rich are able to “dream up their home” it seems.
When considering neighborhoods they are, by design, a place to grow children until they outgrow their surroundings. Growing up in a neighborhood such as this I can feel an inherent fascination as to why we must take part in such a structure and how it begins to define you as a person.