By: Thomas Horvath

When a franchise begins running for a long time, it becomes more difficult to write new ideas and develop characters. After a character has served their purpose in the story, they usually tend to be written out. This could include retirement, moving, or dying. However, with long-running series, it is also common for real-world events to affect the show. Usually, an actor passes away or quits, and their character has to be recast or be written out. A very recent example is Johnathan Majors, who was cast as Kang the Conqueror for Marvel Studios projects. Kang is set to be the main villain of the current saga, but he has been charged with beating his girlfriend, which, if found guilty, would be major trouble for Marvel. They could recast him, but we have already seen in Marvel projects that all of Kang’s variants are supposed to look like Johnathan Majors. 

But what happens when a character has no end in sight after ten-twenty years of being in movies or a series? That is where flanderization comes into play. Flanderization is when a trait of a character gradually becomes their defining trait. This term comes from Ned Flanders, the neighbor of the Simpson family in the iconic animated sitcom The Simpsons. Ned’s religion was initially just one of his many traits, but that has become his personality more and more as the show continues. But Flanders isn’t even the worst victim of this in the show, with that title  having to go to Homer Simpson. Bart Simpson, Homer’s son, was originally the main character, but due to Homer’s popularity and the writers’ ability to write more emotional and meaningful stories with him, Homer became the new main character after a few seasons. Some might say that Homer began to change when his voice did, but this was due to the actor being able to record longer sessions and more vocal range as the show progressed. Homer has never been very bright, but he always meant well with his actions. He showed that although he makes the wrong decisions time after time, he truly loves his family and wants to provide for them as best as he can. We see this with him quitting drinking for Marge, going back to his old job for Maggie, and being supportive of Lisa with her music. Although he fights the most with Bart, they have both shown a great love for each other. But nowadays, Homer is depicted as a bumbling loser who only cares about beer and donuts. This is not the Homer Simpson many audiences fell in love with, but with the show running so long and new writers joining the show, they just exemplify what they find funny. 

This is not an exclusive issue to The Simpsons. Another long-running cartoon starring a naive but well-meaning yellow character has also fallen victim to the effect. That of course is Spongebob Squarepants, who has always been goofier than The Simpsons but did have very smart writing that could be enjoyed by all audiences. However, with the tragic passing of creator Stephen Hillenburg, the flanderization has never been more apparent. Patrick went from being Spongebob’s best friend that would always be there when he needed help, to a selfish glutton so stupid that when the entire town’s brains regress to that of a baby’s, Partick is the only one not affected. Mr. Krabs has always been money obsessed but still cares about his workers. Now, he’s completely apathetic to his two employees and charging money to breathe in his restaurant. And of course, the main character, Spongebob was naive but never imbecilic. He has become a major crybaby over everything who seems to enjoy annoying Squidward until he goes insane.This is a far too common problem in long-running shows and is most likely why shorter series with foreseeable conclusions are becoming much more popular. People prefer a show like Breaking Bad over one like That 70’s Show. Flanderization is becoming less common with these types of shows, and it seems like the older writers are going to have to adapt.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s