By crossing into a space whose curvature is no longer that of the real
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“By crossing into a space whose curvature is no longer that of the real, nor that of truth, the era of simulation of inaugurated by a liquidation of all referentials-worse: with their artificial resurrection in the systems of signs, a material more malleable than meaning, in that it lends itself to all systems of equivalences . . . It is no longer a question of imitation, nor duplication, nor even parody. It is a question of substituting the signs of the real for the real.”
The content of American television today, is filled with “reality based” programming. Producers have adopted this style of television because it allows them to make the characters on the show seem as real as possible and as believable as possible. Darrell Hamamoto has written extensively on popular culture and mass communication, but his primary field of interest is situational comedy, and the role of Asians in the media. One of his thoughts on the effects of sitcoms on its viewership I feel, is an apt summary of this paper. Hamamoto writes,”...the sitcom seemed best to be able to convey the lived experience of everyday American people left alone to enjoy unparalleled prosperity and Global dominance.”(Hamamoto,p10,1989) Consequently the American public can watch a sitcom and revel in the security it generates, while around them the arrival of outsiders seemingly threatens their world. One such television show, where the characters are more American than some would care to argue is the Simpsons.
The Simpsons have been labeled as one of America’s favorite television families over the last few years. With their use of wit, sarcasm, and complete stupidity, each of the characters on the Simpsons have come to represent some part of American culture. According to Harry Waters of Newsweek,”The Simpsons is a joke on traditional sitcoms because it’s characters are so far removed from what’s always been depicted as the norm. But in actuality, they’re closer to the norm than anything else we have seen,” (Waters,1990.,p59). This is true, when we are dealing with characters of white, middle-class origin. Although creators of the Simpsons may use simple hyperbole to exaggerate reality for these people, their actions on the show are still grounded in the norm.
Amidst the hyperbole, sarcasm, and humour, the average consumer is neglecting to realize the existence of characters whose images are as far removed from truth and norm as is possible. These characters are all the individuals that are supposed to represent the many minorities within the American macro-culture. By factualizing these representations, the creators of the Simpsons are able to manipulate our beliefs about these cultures and their peoples. Jean Baudriallrd an emminent theorist in the field of communiaction writes in his book Simulacra and Simulation, that when the media creates images and stands by them with integrity, these images soon become reality as they are constucted with the strength of “fact” behind them. The use of humour as a vehicle by which to disguise these mistruths adds to the complexity and ultimate effectiveness of the messages that The Simpsons propound.
After much research, I have been able to outline certain techniques and theories that are employed by Simpsons creators that enables them to take actual fact and shape it such that humour is the ultimate resultant. These new and improved facts are building blocks to a constructed myth that perpetuates stereotypes while entertaining the public. According to Jack Orr,”Reality is socially constructed through communication...and the belief that ones own view of reality is the only reality is the most dangerous of all delusions.”(Orr,p128,1978). It is worrying to see that while communicating on a day to day level with average consumers of the Simpsons, the amount of explicit knowledge they gain from this show and deem reality. This worry is in fact shared by others like Christine Gledhill, whose article “Genre and Gender: The case of Soap opera”, deals with the fiction that television creates, she writes,”fictions gain hold of our imaginations so that they effectively become a central part of our ‘real’ lives,”(Hall,p343,1997). How much of The Simpsons do viewers ultimately take away from the show, is not as important as what they take away from the show. What this paper will try to show are the mistruths behind the constuctions of one
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