Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Who Do the Simpsons Make Fun of?

I'd like to admit that I have this nasty habit. I've never taken myself off of the group email list at my old academic department. Call me crazy and sick, but I actually enjoy reading the mad-cap going on's of the place. In fact, I think there's a pretty cool book in there someday if I actually took the time to collect them all. But I'm not that crazy.

Here, however, is an interesting exchange:

Astronomer 1: in case you didn't see the simpsons last night, it went something like this....
bart: "look at me everbody, I'm a grad student. I made $600 last year"
marge: "bart, don't make fun of grad students, they just made horrible life decisions"

Astronomer 2: They also made fun of NASA for spending billions of dollars to
send probes to Mars. I was rather disappointed by both comments.

Astronomer 3: They've also made fun of...everything and everyone (or did you not notice they made fun of Christians, Jews, and Budhists the next episode, which
is only a few billion people). Its supposed to be funny, not a serious
commentary. The grad student thing was hillarious!

You know, if there's one thing that bothers me, it's when a scientist starts gettin' way too uppity for their own good. Astronomer 2, thus, severely bothers me. Awww, poor baby was made fun of by the Simpsons for something that's demonstrably true. Perhaps he has a nice stipend being in trendy research science, but the vast majority of grad students are just plainly poor. And well, Marge is probably right about alot of us too.

As far as being annoyed at the Simpsons making fun of spending money on space, if there isn't another show out there that's more friendly to science than the Simpsons, I don't really know what it is. Suck it up and take a joke. Routinely, reality based science and economics are shown to be much more effective than their faith based competitors. (That doesn't mean that the reality based traits always win. But that's part of the satire.) The Simpsons live in a world where being reality based and knowledgable about the world are givens. This is opposed to that other unwatchable conservatarian show on Comedy Central. Really, how many times was Stephen J. Gould on the show? You gotta know something about the reality based world to know who Stephen J. Gould was, and appreciate his cartoon form.

But the sad part is that I think Astronomer #3, besides understanding how to take a joke, doesn't understand much about the world. And too many people are just like him. They don't get that the commentary is serious.

Just because it involves colorful cartoon characters doesn't mean you stop paying attention. Just because the humor is sarcastic and biting, doesn't mean that it's not also uplifting. I find Southpark unwatchable exactly because there's nothing uplifting there. It tears down, and makes people tune out. I used to not like the Simpsons for that reason. But then I got older and smarter. Sometimes in order to build a world up, you have to examine every little piece of it. And sometimes when you do that, it hurts so bad you have to smile.


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