December 11, 2014
The Simpsons has been going for a quarter of a century. This makes me feel very old. The show was part of the backdrop for my student days, where we had a Sky subscription and The Simpsons always seemed to be on. It was one of those shows that everyone in our generation had watched at some point, which made it a convenient reference point in conversations with friends as well as people you didn´t know if you had anything in common with. There was a lot of “D’oh!”, but, for some reason, “I´ll be quirky. Albuquerque!” is the one that has lived on in my household.
In academia, The Simpsons has received a lot of attention, compared to most comedy shows. This is probably because it´s considered to be “quality TV”, which we often trick ourselves into thinking is more worth writing about than, say, Gems TV.
So amongst lots of book chapters and journal articles, I can recommend Jonathan Gray´s excellent Watching with The Simpsons: Television, Parody, and Intertextuality (2006), which looked both at how the show functioned as parody, and at how its fans, non-fans and anti-fans thought about it and talked about it with friends and family. The enormous popularity of the show was demonstrated by some of his interviewees, who felt left out in their groups of friends because they didn´t like The Simpsons. Which, of course, made them dislike it even more.
The edited collection Prime Time Animation: Television Animation and American Culture (Carol A. Stabile and Mark Harrison, 2003) identifies The Simpsons as the show that brought animation back into primetime slots, after the form had been dismissed as kids fare since the early 1960s. With all the “edgy” animated shows that followed, that label now seems quite distant. But in an era of niche audiences, The Simpsons is still one of those rare examples of comedy shows (let alone animated ones) that appeal to kids and adults alike.
Inger-Lise Kalviknes Bore
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