Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A TV Set Within A TV Set (part II)

The Simpsons show us what the world would be like if our entire lives revolved around TV. When sleazy tabloid-style news show, Rock Bottom, misleads its viewers into believing that Homer sexually harrassed a babysitter in "Homer Badman" (season 6), even Homer believes the account, although his own memory of the event is contrary to the show. The cognitive dissonance Homer experiences in this episode leads him to side with TV over himself, and exclaim, "Oh, maybe TV is right...TV's always right!"

In this same scene, Bart and Lisa confess to their father that the TV is more of a parent to them than he is. "It's just hard not to listen to TV," says Bart, "It's spent so much more time with us than you have."

Ironically, the reason that TV spends so much more time with Bart and Lisa than Homer does, is because Homer spends so much time with TV. In "Lisa's First Word" (season 4), he brags, "It's not easy to juggle a pregnant wife and a troubled child, but somehow I managed to fit in eight hours of TV a day."

The Simpsons teaches us that TV is the nucleus of the nuclear family. Or was, anyway. In the 90's. Today, in a Tivo and Youtube world, maybe the central message of The Simpsons is losing its relevancy. When Marge reveals that Homer spends a portion of his work day "googling himself", it sounds foreign to the Homer we all know and love. When Marge looks up her house on google earth from the laptop on her kitchen table, it throws off the whole geography, not to mention the timing, of her daily life.

In The Simpsons of the 90s, the workplace was for slacking, the kitchen was for eating, and the living room was the escape from everything. All of that has changed in later seasons, however. We have all made the transition to the new millenium, but in doing so, we have all aged. To watch the Simpson family, frozen in time, embracing new technology can be awkward. But in watching this awkwardness we can see just how far we've come.

Maybe someday the television will become obsolete. And when it does, studying The Simpsons will remind us why.

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