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PLANET SIMPSON is the first book to bring in-depth analysis to that most important pop-cultural institution of the last decade---Fox TV's THE SIMPSONS---and use the show as a microcosm of the Western culture it has hilariously (and mercilessly) influenced and reflected. PLANET SIMPSON is broken down into scathingly funny chapters analyzing each major character's relationship to different facets of the American character: from Homer, the ultimate everyman of the American century to C. Montgomery Burns, who is ...
PLANET SIMPSON is the first book to bring in-depth analysis to that most important pop-cultural institution of the last decade---Fox TV's THE SIMPSONS---and use the show as a microcosm of the Western culture it has hilariously (and mercilessly) influenced and reflected. PLANET SIMPSON is broken down into scathingly funny chapters analyzing each major character's relationship to different facets of the American character: from Homer, the ultimate everyman of the American century to C. Montgomery Burns, who is unchecked capitalism personified. Going well beyond a critical discussion of a single television program, this book will use THE SIMPSONS as a window on the culture at large to deliver first-hand reportage of the defining events and trends of our accelerated, confounding era.
I wish it was the sixties
I wish I could be happy
I wish, I wish, I wish that something would happen
—Radiohead, “The Bends”
Once in a great while, we are privileged to experience a television event so extraordinary, it becomes part of our shared heritage. 1969: Man walks on the moon. 1971: Man walks on the moon . . . again. Then for a long time nothing happened. Until tonight.
—Krusty the Clown, Episode 4f12
(“The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show”)
On Thursday, January 21, 1993, around 8:20 P.M. (Eastern Standard Time), I was standing on the edge of a dance floor at a campus pub called Alfie’s with a glass of cheap draft beer in my hand. The dance floor before me was packed with people, all of them waiting — as I was — for the next mind-blowing riff from the in-house entertainment.
There was no band up on the stage at Alfie’s on this night, though, and no dancers gyrating sweatily out on the dance floor, either. Instead, all the pub’s chairs and tables were jumbled into a kind of auditorium arrangement, covering the stage and half of the dance floor and every other inch of available space. Every seat in the joint was taken, and all eyes were fixed on a big-screen TV set up in the middle of the dance floor itself, where the third and final act of Episode 9F11 of The Simpsons (“Selma’s Choice”) was about to begin.
Now, 9F11 had already had some crowd-pleasing moments. The premise of the episode is that one of Marge’s aunts, Gladys, has died a bitter spinster, setting a panicked Selma (one of Marge’s ghoulish twin sisters) on a quest to have a child before her biological clock runs out. The episode opens with a TV commercial for Duff Gardens — a theme park inspired by Springfield’s favourite brew — that shows the Duff “Beer-quarium,” an enormous mug of beer full of “the happiest fish in the world.” (This joke played especially well with the Alfie’s crowd, with hooting and cheering accompanying the image of one fish, cross-eyed and smiling, bumping repeatedly into the glass.)
As Selma sets about the doomed task of finding a father for her child — via video personals, random passes at assorted minor characters and a visit to the sperm bank, 9F11 fills in with the usual grab bag of great gags: Selma shows her sexy side by tying a lit cigarette in a knot using only her mouth; while on a date with the blind, shrivelled midget Hans Moleman, she imagines a rec room full of sightless children bumping cluelessly into each other; the Sweathog whose sperm is available for purchase turns out, to everyone’s disappointment, not to be Horshack; and, in a stellar example of The Simpsons’ ability to condense note-perfect parody into a few short seconds, another TV commercial for Duff Gardens features a brief snippet of the teen variety act Hooray! for Everything singing a saccharine bastardization of Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side,” in a wonderfully silly send-up of Up with People. All in all, it had been a solid episode so far, and certainly no one nursing their beers through the second commercial break that night had any reason to be disappointed.
By the dawn of 1993, however, the crowds that gathered around North America to watch The Simpsons had come to expect each episode to be not just solid but full-on transcendent. By this time, The Simpsons was what network executives call an “appointment show” — that rare breed of TV program you schedule your evenings around, the kind you want to share with your peers. In the consummate college town of Kingston, Ontario, where I kept my Simpsons appointments each Thursday at 8:00, observance of the show verged on a religious rite: pretty much every pub in town broadcast The Simpsons live every week because otherwise nobody would show up for cocktails until 8:30 at the earliest. Which is to say that for many of us watching that Thursday night — at Alfie’s and elsewhere — the critical bar had been set vertiginously high, and this new episode had only one act left to meet this lofty standard.
The show came back on, and the crowd at the pub went quiet. Because Homer is sick (he’s been picking away at a rotting ten-foot hoagie for weeks) it has fallen to Selma to take Bart and Lisa to Duff Gardens. Chuckles from the crowd as Bart and Lisa point out four of the beer- bottle- costumed Seven Duffs: Tipsy, Queasy, Surly and Remorseful. Somewhat scattered — but deeper — laughter as they enter the Hall of Presidents to watch tacky animatronic former statesmen (including Abraham Lincoln recast as “Rappin’ A.B.”) sing the praises of Duff beer. Cut to the Simpsons’ living room, where Marge and Homer are settling in to watch Yentl. Cut back to Duff Gardens, where Bart, Lisa and Selma are poking around a souvenir stand. Bart approaches a display of clunky sunglasses. He reads the label: “BEER GOGGLES — See the world through the eyes of a drunk!”
All at once, the pub shook with a single great roaring laugh. It was like a force of nature, this laugh, spontaneous and open-mouthed and enormous. It was as if a train was suddenly there in the room, its horn blaring. It nearly drowned out the next line: Bart puts on the beer goggles and turns to Selma, who has morphed fuzzily into a voluptuous babe, striking a seductive pose. “You’re charming the pants off of me,” she says in a sultry voice. The laughter seemed to expand exponentially. People were doubled over, had tears streaming down their faces, were pounding tables with fists. I’m not kidding — the gag just destroyed the crowd. It was as if that single gag were written for precisely this audience, an act of clairvoyance in which some TV-writer wizard had invaded the brains of everyone in the bar, rooted around for just the right common reference and then brought it flawlessly to life.
|Introduction : the birth of the Simpsonian institution||1|
|1||The life & times of the Simpsons||13|
|3||Bart Simpson, punk icon||119|
|6||Marge knows best||231|
|7||The Simpsons in cyberspace||279|
|8||The ugly Springfieldianite||317|
|9||The Simpsons go Hollywood||355|
|10||The Simpsons through the looking glass||387|
Posted April 22, 2005
Chris Turner an obvious Simpsons fan, has penned a wonderfully insightful, intelligent and well written novel on the show and the culture is portrays. I enjoyed his style and comments, which I believe are fresh and interesting.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 10, 2005
What a horrible book this Chris Turner wrote. Apparently, if it weren't for the Simpsons, nothing would have happened since 1989. How did the world ever exist without the Simpsons. I enjoy the show, but this guy really needs to get out of the house. I really didn't know that Matt Groening was the inspiration for both Einstien's Theory of Relativity and Sir Isaac Newton's Law of Gravity. Oh wait, that's right, people were smart before the show ever got on the air. He loosely follows the stringent rules of English grammar to create a colossal waste of paper and the reader's time.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 19, 2004
Chris Turner's analysis of the television juggernaut 'The Simpsons' was a mixed-bag of intelligently-authored insights meshed in wandering fanatatical trivia and dime-store philosophy. Turner's writing proficiency is undoubtably strong, and his command of both the English language and the cultural context of 'The Simpsons' produce a very smart, very readable text. Turner's meandering stream-of-consciousness associations kept me trying to find the golden thread back to the Simpsons,however, and his over-exuberant fanaticism for not only the Simpsons but for other Gen-X phenomena as RadioHead, American Beauty and Smashing Pumpkins became more of a 'look at my CD and DVD collection' and less of an honest analysis of this cultural giant. I will admit that, as one of millions of Simpsons fans, I had very high hopes for this title. What I wanted was a somewhat objective analysis of a TV show that has changed television (and our collective sense of humor) forever...what I feel like I got was a very smart Simpsons nut who felt obligated to use his very strong writing skills to tie together everything he loves: Gen-X music, Gen-X movies, and a bit of Philosophy 101. In addition to these setbacks, Turner seems dead-set on both extoling the genius of The Simpsons and deriding the culture in which it was created. The book is peppered generously with unabashed anti-American sentiment...and it doesn't seem to bother the author that 95% of the cultural icons he values were produced in America. I have always tended to enjoy books and essays that honestly question America and its products...but it seems to me that Mr. Turner has a big, sharp chip on his shoulder in the shape of Texas...and he wants us to know that. This book could have been about 100 pages shorter, and all the better for it. I would recommend reading this title if you are a Simpsons fanatic who wants to be reminded of a number of wonderful Simpsons moments, and to hear one man's opinion on their genesis and their meaning. But you better bring a map, and you better give yourself a four-day weekend to get through it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 18, 2004