Planet Simpson: How A Cartoon Masterpiece Defined A Generation

Book Reviews | Mar 4th, 2007

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Author: Chris Turner
Publisher: Da Capo Press
Genre: TV/Pop Culture
Pages: 450
Retail Price: 9.99
Buy on Amazon.com link

Any book that tries to tie the Simpsons together with modern social commentary is bound to be eye-rollingly dorky, heavy on plot synopses and quotes, and full of tangential rambling. Turner’s book fits that description, but it’s as good as a book like this can be.

As you can expect, Turner gives the show a lot more credit than it deserves, though there is something to be said about the influence of the show on pop culture, especially in the early-to-mid 90s. But the breathless fanboyism paints the show as all-encompassing culturally, socially revolutionary, and prophetic, even today.

Turner attests that the show hasn’t jumped the shark, although he contradicts himself with references to the Simpsons’ “golden years.” Personally, the show has become so self-referential that instead of being a satire of society, it’s become a poor satire of itself for the past dozen seasons. And while the show was counter-mainstream in its early years, it has for many years embraced pop culture in theme and style, becoming as formulaic and stale as any other long-standing pop culture fixture.

But instead of critiquing the show any further, let’s assume the Simpsons has been consistently good and so Turner’s basic hypothesis is validated. Problems still remain + namely, poor organization and structure that sometimes delve into incoherence, examples that are stretched to the breaking point to fit his many ideas, and way too much paraphrasing and quoting from episodes as if this were an episode guide instead of a scholarly work. He also puts himself into the book in ways that don’t move his points along, as if we care how Chris Turner got into the Simpsons and which episodes he really liked.

All that said, the book is what one would expect, especially if you’ve read a number of these pseudo-intellectual “scholarly” books written by fans. In that sense, it’s no worse than its peers, and in terms of the sheer number of examples and content, it might even be better. Expect no great epiphanies, but if you want to relive all the episodes in a different format, you may enjoy this.

Bottom Line: A dorky labor of love for a crappy cartoon.
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