Postmodernism and the Simpsons

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  • Topic: Postmodernism, Jean-François Lyotard, Postmodernity
  • Pages : 29 (10787 words )
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  • Published : April 14, 2011
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Hugvísindadeild

Postmodernism and The Simpsons
Intertextuality, Hyperreality and Critique of Metanarratives

Ritgerð til B.A.-prófs

Björn Erlingur Flóki Björnsson bjornfloki@gmail.com Kt. 110982-5779 Maí 2006

Abstract

This essay offers a postmodernist reading of the popular television program The Simpsons, with special regard to the postmodern theories of intertexuality, hyperreality, and metanarratives. Before delving into The Simpsons, some major theoretical aspects of postmodernism in aesthetic production are outlined. Three of the most prominent theorists of postmodernism – Lyotard, Baudrillard and Jameson – are introduced, as well as their theories which will be brought into consideration in the following chapters. The objective of the essay is to apply these theories to The Simpsons and thereby reveal some of the foremost characteristics of the postmodern which are readily exhibited in the show. The first section, on Lyotard’s theory of metanarratives, explores the manifestations of anti-authoritative tendencies in The Simpsons and the methods used to express them. The following section covers the subject of intertextuality in The Simpsons through parody, pastiche and self-reflexivity. This section concludes by identifying parallels between The Simpsons and Jameson’s theory on the loss of historical reality in the postmodern era. In the final section we examine how Baudrillard’s theory of hyperreality can be applied to The Simpsons. Particular attention is given to the role of the mass media in the construction of postmodern hyperreality, in order to illustrate the media’s influence on Springfield’s most famous citizen, Homer Simpson.

Table of Contents

Introduction .......................................................................................................................... 4 Postmodernism: Profile of a Cultural Movement ................................................................ 4 Key Terms and Theories of Postmodernism ....................................................................... 6 Critique of Metanarratives in The Simpsons ........................................................................ 10 Intertextuality and Loss of Historical Reality in The Simpsons ........................................... 19 Mass Media and Springfieldian Hyperreality ...................................................................... 26 Conclusion ........................................................................................................................... 33 Works Cited ......................................................................................................................... 35

Introduction Postmodernism: Profile of a Cultural Movement Postmodernism is a term used to encompass a wide range of attitudes in the fields of aesthetic production and cultural criticism emerging in the 1980s. It is a unique critical movement due to the extent of its reach; it can be said to be immediately relevant to the realms of the arts, philosophy, politics and sociology. The Encyclopedia of Contemporary Literary Theory’s definition of postmodernism is indicative of its massive scope: “[Postmodernism] is now used to describe the visual arts, music, dance, film, theatre, philosophy, criticism, historiography, theology, and anything up-to-date in culture in general” (“Postmodernism”, 1993). It is a label given to a time period in which the abrupt influx of technology and ever-increasing cultural multiplicity must be met with new methods of representation. Under the banner of postmodernism a number of the most influential thinkers of the academic world have found innovative ways to describe the shifts of this new cultural condition labeled postmodernism. Ever since its rise to academic popularity in the 1980s, postmodernism has sparked heated and long-standing intellectual debates, which can be interpreted as a validation of its vast influence. Some of the debates relate to...
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