November 27, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 50  

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All jokes are Simpsons jokes

By Chris Sinal
Gazette Staff

Many students would undoubtedly claim The Simpsons has changed their lives — maybe just in the way they carry conversations, the jokes they make or their attitude towards certain elements of pop culture. Nonetheless, the influence is there.

In his article The Simpsons Generation, writer Chris Turner describes the primary effects on the generation that has grown up with the show. “[The Simpsons] would become, for example, the primary metaphor I would use in conversations with most of my close friends and colleagues.”

According to Turner, it’s The Simpsons “satirical subtext” that places it above other television comedies. “Every episode of The Simpsons is densely packed with straight-forward gags: sight gags in the grand tradition of Warner Bros. cartoons, absurdist one-offs, parodies of pop-culture icons, self-referential and metatextual riffs for the postmodern crowd.”

Few would disagree TV’s longest-running cartoon isn’t constantly referenced in daily quips by youth. Some, including Turner, suggest the show’s rampant sarcasm has seeped further into the consciousness of its viewers other than simply adding the word “snack-tacular” to student vernacular.

Is The Simpsons the catalyst of a generational movement or simply a reflection of existing sarcasm and cynicism in society?

“Both is the obvious answer,” says Western English professor Doug Mann. “A television show itself cannot change society; that’s just silly.”

Mann divides the show into four time periods: the terrible first season; seasons 2-5, where the show became known for its social criticism; the “Keystone Cops” comedy of seasons 6-11, also known for the emergence of weekly guest-stars; and the show’s recent attempts to return to its social roots.

The most notable trait of the latter years of The Simpsons, and the one often cited as the hallmark of the show’s decline, is the “randomness” of its humour — from surfing sturgeons to pyro-leprechauns.

“In many ways, the random moments can be a lot more biting than the parodic story-lines of yore,” says Matt Huether, University Students’ Council VP-student affairs. “I think The Simpsons allows us to see the humour in anything and lets us stop taking ourselves so seriously.” One thing is for sure — The Simpsons has had an effect on those who watch it.



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