Up@dawn 2.0

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Philosophical Perspectives on “The Simpsons”

Nick, Matt & Sophia (8)

Bart and Lisa
Bart Simpson: Dad, am I bad on the inside?
Homer Simpson: No, but the layers of badness reach almost to the center.
Bart Simpson: But there's still a kernel of good inside me, right?
Homer Simpson: I don't know. Kernels are kinda big.
Two out of five of the Simpson family members are children. Lisa, who on most occasions is the voice of reason within the family. She portrays the traits held by many philosophers to be important, such as being virtuous and logical. If you were forced at gunpoint to choose a character in the Simpsons to be a role model, Lisa would be the one. On the other spectrum we have Bart, who is not someone who should exactly be idolized. In fact in many ways he is quite the opposite of Lisa. Yet what we can admire about Bart is that he is a free spirit, almost in an eastern sort of way. Bart is the master of his own reality, not subject to the whims of others.
Mark T. Conrad in the book describes Bart as a wise-cracking delinquent, a bad boy in bright blue pants, a spoiler, and one of Satan’s minions if you believe that sort of thing. Bart is described as almost this avatar of Fredrick Nietzsche, the bad boy of philosophy. He loved tearing things down, dismantling authority, and even called Socrates a buffoon who managed to get people to take him seriously. By Nietzsche standards we have been choosing to admire the wrong person. “Might Lisa Simpson be part of what Nietzsche calls world-slandering weariness, decadence, slave morality, resentment?” In the Simpsons Lisa plays the character of Socrates, but the universe of the Simpsons is so chaotic (like our own) no matter what she does nothing ever changes, and in fact the tables often turn. “All the characteristics and virtues for which we admire and praise her might in fact be symptoms of a Socratic sickness, a hyper-rational weakness, a flight from reality into illusion and self-deception.”
 “But does that in this case make Bart the more ideal choice? No, unfortunately. Certainly Bart bucks authority, and he has rejected (or perhaps never actually adopted) traditional morality. Trying to convince Mr. Burns to allow him to come along to retrieve the Flying Hellfish bonanza, for example, he says: "Can I go with you to get the treasure? I won't eat much and I don't know the difference between right and wrong." But would Nietzsche have approved of Bart?” The answer is no, Nietzsche’s idea of his “perfect being” is someone who forges their own reality and values to make an artwork out of life. “The self-overcoming, self-creating Individual.”
BART: Lis, everyone in town is acting like me. So why does it suck?

LISA: It's simple, Bart: you've defined yourself as a rebel, and in the absence of a
repressive milieu your societal nature's been co-opted.

BART: I see.

LISA: Ever since that self-help guy came to town, you've lost your identity. You've fallen
through the cracks of our quick-fix, one-hour photo, instant oatmeal society.

BART: What's the answer?

LISA: Well, this is your chance to develop a new and better identity. May I suggest. . .
good-natured doormat?

BART: Sounds good, sis. Just tell me what to do.
The Simpsons in actuality might serve a function after all, instead of being just an entertaining cartoon. A commentary poking fun at today’s society, transforming funny drawings into something that is worthwhile and even on occasion thought provoking.
The Simpson’s represents the American nuclear family. Set in a town called Springfield and gladly claimed by residents of every town called Springfield, the cartoon family depicts many tribulations facing every American: the nuclear family. Satirically this family represents the classic American Dream, how we all dream of it, how we each despise it in our own way and how little we appreciate when we actually achieved the Great American Dream. If you had a family with such complications, would you be happy? Could you be happy? Imagine all of the challenges that have faced the Simpsons, the house being blown away, being rocked by a Las Vegas wedding, a wife having romantic vacations with her sisters and who-knows-who,  a husband with severe alcoholism; would you and your marriage survive? Could you be happy knowing that your family was the like the Simpsons?
Parody and The Simpsons
 Whether you watch television every day, or have never watched it a day in your life, you know about the show, The Simpsons. The Simpsons is currently the longest running sitcom, animated show, and primetime show to air on television. One of the reasons for this is the writers’ use of parody to satirize everything from social norms to the future to popular culture itself. However, this satire brings much more than laughs to your living room; it makes the audience think about the world they live in and how to question motives or the status quo of society.

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