In the course of reading up to ground myself in Springfield’s esteemed academic circles, I came across a work called Atomistic Politics and the Nuclear Family. The article presents a case – though it has a few holes – that The Simpsons actually presents a strong image of family. The family values are couched in contrast to an uncaring, absent, or overly therapeutic state and institutions. (This argument about the role of the state is based on one episode, in which the Simpsons kids are removed by child services and placed with the Flanders family).
Despite its flaws, I found some interesting ideas in the article, beginning with a reinterpretation of Homer (Cantor 1999, p738):
Many people have criticised The Simpsons for its portrayal of the father as dumb, uneducated, weak in character, and morally unprincipled. Homer is all of those things, but at least he is there.
This astute observation is followed up by another (p739):
He continually fails at being a good father, but he never gives up trying, and in some basic and important sense that makes him a good father.
These observations of Homer line up with one of my own – he is never violent to female characters.
This stuff is a little outside the remit of my thesis, but I nonetheless thought it interesting and worth sharing. Your thoughts are welcome!
Reference: Cantor, Paul A. 1999. ‘The Simpsons: Atomistic Politics and the Nuclear Family’, Political Theory, Vol. 27, No. 6 (Dec., 1999), pp. 734-749, Sage Publications. URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/192244 .
I’m going to update this post as I go with useful resources for my thesis.
Springfieldians Twitter List: I set up this list and added to it tweeps who are: “Inhabitants, observers and contributors of Springfield.” That is, the tweeps on the list are either Simpsons fans, accounts (claiming) to be Simpson’s characters, or people who work on the show.
UPDATE: If you’ve come to this post looking for information about content analysis, you might be better served looking here.
This blog is about to have a new regular topic because I agreed on my thesis focus topic with my supervisor today and I’m keen to document the whole process. There will be two types of posts. The first type will be tagged ‘reflections’ and will discuss the process of preparing, researching and writing the thesis. The second type will be snippets of the research itself, and other notes and ideas that won’t be part of the final work.
Without further ado, the topic will be ‘representations of non-American characters in The Simpsons‘. It will take some refining to narrow this down into a workable topic for an 18,000 word thesis, but I’m really keen for it. The research could go in a number of directions. It could look at visits by the Simpson family to foreign countries, portrayals of the recurring non-American characters (Apu, Willie, Ooter), or changes over time. It could even be a combination of all of these.
Of course, there are a lot of contentious issues in this topic, including the obvious one of how the American and non-American characters are defined. I’m keen to explore the whole issue of the cultural relationships aspect more so than getting involved in strict definitions.
I’ll get to apply a whole heap of research skills, including textual and content analysis, aspects of social studies, and maybe even some focus groups. I’m also really pleased to be working with Dean Chan as my supervisor. I couldn’t ask for a better, or friendlier guy. It also suits his background quite well, which is helpful. Dean even suggested I might be able to give a guest lecture to his 2nd years, which is a really great opportunity.
The project will give me a great chance to examine this influential cultural text from a whole new perspective, demonstrate my ability to really analyse media texts, and hopefully expose some interesting aspects to mediated inter cultural communication. Plus, it gives me a good chance to watch 500 episodes of my favourite TV show.
I’d be grateful of any advice or any useful sources or research anyone can point out.