A devastating comic imagines 'The Simpsons' and 'Family Guy' characters as adults.

If Bart Simpson and Chris Griffin grew up and went to therapy, they might have a lot to say.

A lot of it would probably be hard to hear.


All images by Panic Volushka, used with permission.

That's the subject of a fascinating — and heartbreaking — new comic by a 25-year-old, Seattle-based artist who writes and draws under the name Panic Volkushka.

Both "Family Guy" and "The Simpsons" often depict over-the-top family violence. Volkushka, a graduate student in counseling and art therapy, told Upworthy that a class he was taking inspired him to imagine how that violence might affect adult versions of the shows' child characters in the real world.

"People [have been] saying, 'Growing up, I couldn’t watch these shows, because that’s what happened to me, and I didn’t understand why I was suddenly expected to laugh at it,'" Volkushka said.

"At the time I was taking a class on systems therapy, which is based on the idea that even if you’re doing therapy with individuals, that they exist within the context of larger systems — their family system, social systems around them — so you have to understand that to understand what’s going on in their life," Volkushka said.

"The behavior that you pick up in your family is so much of the behavior that you take with you for the rest of your life. And for a lot of people, they don’t realize they’re doing that. Sometimes, for therapy, a big part of that is just realizing, ‘Oh, this is why I’m doing this.'"


As someone who once benefitted greatly from — and currently studies — counseling, Volkushka also hopes to highlight the restorative value of therapy.

"I was bullied pretty badly when I was in middle school and ended up going into therapy when I was 13," he said. "And it was really, really helpful, and I had a wonderful therapist."

In casting the therapist, Voshka attempted to contrast "The Simpsons," "Family Guy," and their casual depictions of abuse, with a show which he feels presents a far healthier family dynamic: "King of the Hill."

"Hank really doesn’t understand Bobby," Volkushka said. "There are times Peggy doesn’t understand Bobby. And Hank definitely discourages Bobby from things that he thinks are 'too girly,' or 'not the things that boys should do,' but ultimately, he loves Bobby, and when Hank is trying to discourage Bobby, or doesn’t understand Bobby, the show generally shows Hank as being in the wrong, and even if he doesn’t understand it, usually by the end of the episode, he’s come to some sort of peace with it. Like, 'I don’t understand my son, but he’s still my son.'"

Though he's received a few complaints from fans of the shows, Volkushka said the reaction has been mostly positive.

"I grew up watching 'The Simpsons.' That was, every Sunday, I’d sit down with my parents and watch the latest episode. And I still really love it."

Ultimately, he said, he hopes the comic will prompt people to take a harder look at the way family dynamics are depicted in pop culture, even on shows that as enduring and popular as the ones it explores.

"You can still appreciate it for what it is and criticize it at the same time. I don’t think that’s impossible."

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

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Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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