Predicting the Future While Being in the Future: How Futurama Boldly Predicted Race and Gender roles in 1999

In 1989, Matt Groening devised his cartoon masterpiece The Simpsons. The Simpsons was (and still is) a groundbreaking animated sitcom that targeted not only children but adults as well. The show’s purpose was to satirically portray working class families in suburbia; in The Simpson’s case fictional Springfield, a town is meant to be anywhere USA. All the characters within the show have extremely stereotypical roles that conform with the culture of the time. Homer, the father in the show is the breadwinner for the family, but would rather go to the bar rather than associate with his wife and troublesome kids. Marge is a stay at home mother who cooks, cleans, and prepares the kids for school. And the Clerk at the convenience store is Indian and talks with a heavy accent, trying to sell year old items for a quick dollar. These traditional roles resonate with the audience and have led to the show’s popularity and longevity. The show has been on the air for 28 seasons and does not show signs of ending anytime soon.

In 1999, ten years after the conception of The Simpsons, Groening created Futurama, a show that enabled him to be more expressive than in his previous show. Futurama touches on topics that include women’s rights, environmental advocacy, disabilities, and racial prejudices.  Set in the year 3000, Futurama follows a motley crew of misfits. There is Phillip Fry, a delivery boy who had been cryogenically frozen for 1000 years, Leela, a mutant who captains the company’s ship, Bender, a rude, womanizing robot, and Zoidberg, the ship’s physician. Matt Groening has never been afraid to voice his liberal agenda. In recent years, Groening has created a series of shorts directly insulting Donald Trump and his surprising rise to becoming President of the United States. Setting Futurama in the future enabled Groening to break from the stereotyping that that has brought The Simpsons such acclaim and notoriety

Groening put Leela, a powerful woman in a high-ranking position (Space Captain); back in 1999, an unconventional move for that time. Leela often finds herself in situations where she must use quick thinking, and dominant fighting moves to escape from near death situations.

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His bold heroine Leela also has a disability seeing that she only has one eye. Leela is a female, Cyclopes, mutant. By making her the leader, Groening took a proactive stance on equality using race, gender, and disability. Although Futurama was canceled in 2013, the show remains one of the most proactive and forward-thinking sitcoms of all time.



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3 Responses to Predicting the Future While Being in the Future: How Futurama Boldly Predicted Race and Gender roles in 1999

  1. Delaney Broderick says:

    I haven’t seen all of Futurama or the Simpsons, but I definitely think out of all of the animated sitcoms I have seen they are the best ones. I liked Futurama a lot more than I thought I would, because of the wide range (and even profound) topics it covered, while also using humor. It definitely is interesting how the Simpsons in particular did predict a lot of things, such as Donald Trump’s presidency (which the show joked of in the 90’s). I think it definitely backs up your opinion that these shows were really groundbreaking and ahead of their time!

  2. marymdalton says:

    Don’t forget to sign your post next time (and email me to let me know who you are so I can give you credit)! Good ideas, but break these long paragraphs up to make it more readable (more journalistic style). Also, proofread carefully before posting (’90s not 90’s, etc.).

  3. mediaphiles says:

    I love that you commented on Futurama. When I was younger, I weirdly loved Futurama. It was such a good mix of being weird, funny, and dumb, while also creating situations that somehow feel relatable to the viewers. I think it was very important that Leela was the smart, brave, character in the show, while Fry and Bender are just the dumb boys who are always making mistakes and thinking irrationally – it’s definitely a meaningful juxtaposition for the time. That being said, it always bothered me how Bender and Fry could be running around making big mistakes that often Leela would warn against and then either they would end up fine on their own or Leela would come in to rescue them. It always made me feel like there were no consequences to their actions – but I guess that’s just another topic to explore!

    -Adrienne Henderson

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