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Planet Simpson: How a Cartoon Masterpiece…

Planet Simpson: How a Cartoon Masterpiece Defined a Generation

by Chris Turner

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4231039,665 (3.37)2
Planet Simpson is the first book to bring in-depth analysis to that most important pop-cultural institution of the last decade - Fox TV's The Simpsons - and use the show as a microcosm of the Western culture it has hilariously (and mercilessly) influenced and reflected. Planet Simpson is broken down into scathingly funny chapters analyzing each major character's relationship to different facets of the American character: from Homer, the ultimate everyman of the American century to C. Montgomery Burns, who is unchecked capitalism personified.… (more)



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I enjoyed this book far more than I thought I would and I'm not even that much of a Simpsons fan (Futurama on the other - marvelous!). The book is well written and still relevant today, the only real change to the world since then is the rise of religious fundamentalist idiocy (of all varities), and is quite thought provoking. ( )
  Superenigmatix | Jan 16, 2016 |
What starts as a nice little exploration into the history and impact of The Simpsons, turns into the authors attempt to explain everything wrong and right with the time period under review. His knowledge of Simpsons seems to be quite extensive, and it all starts out fun as he discusses episodes in the context of what was going on.

And then two things happen.

The first is that, while I’m sure the author has seen every episode (and probably knows every episode quite well) he keeps coming back to the same ones. In fact, he goes back to the same scenes, writing as though each entry was the first time he talks about it. This gets old quick. And it means that individual episodes (in some cases, individual scenes) are used to support various contentions. These cannot be all things to all people

The second is that the author just tries to dang hard to make The Simpsons the Zeitgeist of the times, to the point where he seems to be saying the times are the Zeitgeist of The Simpsons. Apparently, everything that happened in the 90s (and other times when The Simpsons aired) can be viewed through a Simpsons’ lens. And it is as if The Simpsons drove the time, not the other way around.

Which is all too bad. Because, at the outset, I was really enjoying this book. And then it made its nasty turns. And it went on and on. And I got really tired of it all. ( )
1 vote figre | Sep 24, 2012 |
Planet Simpson was a fairly enjoyable read. Turner's career is in journalism and it shows. To wit, the writing is crisp, clear, and generally easy to follow. For an author taking on rather weighty themes, Turner manages to avoid obfuscatory language and the tendency to overindulge his inner aesthete.

With that said, journalists are rarely in a good position to offer the sort of rigorous intellectual analysis needed to support many of Turner's claims.

So the book scores well on readability but not so well on argumentation and justification.

Now why should those latter criteria even matter? Isn't this a book about the Simpsons? Well, yes...sort of.

Planet Simpson is certain about the Simpsons, but it's also about much, much more. Turner's work is not primarily aimed at the task of cataloging fan-boy minutiae (though there is some of that, much of which is pretty fun). He is, instead, mostly concerned with the task of describing, explaining, and engaging with the cultural movements from which the Simpsons emerged and those it may have influenced.

Thus, we get pages and pages on such seemingly disparate topics as globalization, DIY culture, the rise of alternative rock music, the role of religion in the public square, the emergence of the cult of celebrity, and so on.

Turner's thesis is that the the Simpsons is able to balance its enormous popularity and its continued cultural cache because it is a better reflection of contemporary Western society than any other piece of pop culture. This Simpsons is both the consummate product and critic of the times and the society that birthed it.

Turner's thesis is interesting, but it's so grandiose that it's hard to figure out how to evaluate it. I mean...the Simpsons is obviously a big deal. The task of explaining how and why this came to be is an interesting (possibly even important) one. Nevertheless, I can't help but think that much of Turner's supporting claims are too obvious (kids in the 90s were disaffected and thus open to programs that satirized the sources of their disaffection) or else under supported (the idea of Bart as a character who is directly informed by punk rock and its ethos is interesting, but it's clear to me...as the singer of hardcore band...that Turner has little substantive knowledge of punk rock).

Similarly, the parts of the work that are most straightforwardly autobiographical are a mixed bag. There's certainly something kind of fun about hearing Turner recount his youthful cynicism and tell us about his initial encounter with Nirvana...but at the same time much of it seems unnecessary and borders on straight forward cheesiness (like when he describes, in great detail, the feeling of inner peace he experienced at a Phish festival or how the band Wilco "saved his soul".) ( )
1 vote NoLongerAtEase | Feb 20, 2011 |
The bible for simpsons fans that categorizes our worldview and shows us that there are others like us out there. ( )
  Trotsky731 | Jul 18, 2009 |
I've found some unpolished gems on the remainders table at my local bookstore - this was most definitely not one of them. Unauthorised and relying on stale secondary research, Planet Simpson offers nothing in the way of fresh insights. Chris Turner's "analysis" includes the fact that Homer Simpson represents voracious Western consumerism and white male privilege, Mr. Burns unchecked corporate greed and Lisa the aims and limitations of social activism. In other words, nothing that hasn't already occurred to any halfway serious Simpsons fan long ago. It is kinda fun to relive some favourite moments of the show, but Turner often rehashes the same scenes two or even three times. He also mistakenly assumes that reflections on his childhood in Kingston, Ontario or a Wilco concert he once attended (among other inanities) are of interest to complete strangers. Terminally self-indulgent. ( )
  whirled | May 15, 2009 |
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Wikipedia in English (92)

A Star Is Burns

A Streetcar Named Marge

All Singing, All Dancing

Another Simpsons Clip Show

¡Ay, caramba!

Bart Gets Famous

List of one-time The Simpsons characters

List of The Simpsons couch gags

List of The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror episodes

Lost Our Lisa

Marge vs. the Monorail

Media in The Simpsons

The Simpsons (season 12)

The Simpsons (season 13)

The Simpsons (season 14)

The Simpsons (season 15)

The Simpsons (season 16)

The Simpsons (season 17)

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