A family like "The Simpsons" wouldn't raise many eyebrows if they walked into a family therapy clinic.
In fact, Fox Broadcasting's rambunctious cartoon family, now in the Thursday night time slot opposite NBC's "Cosby Show," is a mild bunch compared with some of the families seen at the Parent Child Center of the Palm Beaches Inc. in West Palm Beach, Fla.
"For one, they don't beat each other up," one of the clinic's psychologists explained. "The family is still intact. They aren't drug addicts. They've got a lot going for them."
Just for the fun of it, 13 Parent Child therapists took a closer look at America's famous cartoon TV family, the Simpsons, at a recent staff meeting. The quotes below reflect the consensus opinion of the therapists.
The Simpson family includes: Homer, who works as a safety inspector in a nuclear power plant; Marge, a concerned and loving mother; Bart, about 10 years old, who is in danger of failing fourth grade and gets his kicks being naughty; Lisa, a second-grader who is musically talented and quiet, and Baby Maggie, who sucks her pacifier and seems to exist unnoticed by the rest of the family.
Fox Broadcasting calls "The Simpsons" the American family at its wildest. Here's how the therapists described them:
"There is no intimacy between the parents. Marge is like a single parent in that Homer leaves all the parenting to her. In fact, Marge mothers him. She is more intelligent than Homer and probably was a first child who did well in school. She sees her role as taking care of everyone, but essentially she is cutting off Homer from having any attachments to her."
"Homer is totally insecure and has problems with authority. The only time he relates to his son is when Bart misbehaves. That's Homer's way of reacting to authority."
And what does this do to Bart?
"Bart's in a bind. He can't be a good boy, because if he did well, it would blow whatever closeness there is between him and his father. As a result, Bart is a little sociopath, a typical underachiever who looks for negative attention."
Not that Bart doesn't have his good points.
"He's intelligent, cute, athletic and creative, but he needs behavior modification and a positive male role model, not a father who wants him to watch TV when the child is trying to do his homework."
Bart also is probably reacting to Lisa, his overachieving sister.
"Lisa is the good girl. Bart has no alternative but to be bad if he wants to get any attention."
The therapists see Lisa headed in the same direction as her mother if she doesn't get therapy -- "She'll grow up to marry a schlep."
The therapists said Lisa has too much adult responsibility. She needs to be more of a child. They recommend putting her in a creative school that would challenge her intellect and musical talent.
"I can see her cutting loose at 16 and getting involved in the music scene," one therapist predicted. "She'll hang around the bars and find some loser, probably a drummer. He'll be a sort of musical Homer."
Therapists disagreed on Bart's future.
"DC," said two, "Detention center."
The majority, however, thought Bart was too smart to get caught.
"Honestly, I could see him practicing law," said one. "He'll figure out that lawyers can get people off."
And what about Maggie, the infant who crawls about, sucking on her pacifier?
"Unless something changes, you are going to end up with an adult who is cute but has no real personality -- a sort of Barbie. That's how she'll cope."
The therapists offered only a fair prognosis for the Simpson family -- even if they have intensive therapy.
"Does Homer have good insurance?" asked one, laughing. "They will be in therapy for years."
They recommended finding ways to empower Homer and to find outside interests for Marge.
"Homer needs to become an adult," they said, "and Marge needs to let him."
'. . . Homer needs to become an adult, and Marge needs to let him . . . '