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An analysis of the current media text The Simpsons, and the extent of which it displays the generic conventions of a postmodern text.

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Introduction

An analysis of the current media text The Simpsons, and the extent of which it displays the generic conventions of a postmodern text "Good art that reaches thirty million people and makes them feel connected may have more to offer us now than great art that reaches three thousand and makes them feel more or less alone. In our time the standards for art have changed, expanded. The future belongs to Bart Simpson." --Tad Friend In this investigation I aim to look at the generic conventions associated with a postmodern text and examine the use of them in the media series The Simpsons. Postmodernism is a current genre, one that reflects society's beliefs and attitudes of our time. I think the interest to look at these generic conventions would be to see how these values will be presented to future generations. The animated sitcom has been produced by Gracie Films for 20th Century Fox and Fox network since 1989 and has remained successful until now. Genre is a categorisation of a topic. Initially its function was presumed to have been born for commercial access; allowing types of films to be distributed and targeted at particular audiences. Neale offers a useful definition ' genres are not merely categories of film styles and their corpuses, but an interactive system by which audiences decode screen content.' However film genres do not remain static, they are susceptible to change over time. The creation of new works, whilst first appearing to break with convention can eventually become part of a generic body. Postmodernism offers a different method of categorising content. I use the term ' content' as postmodern works often contain a multiplicity of styles that make it difficult to categorise. Postmodern works are dominated by eclecticism, hybridisation and pastiche. Jameson states the definition of pastiche as ' blank parody' - deliberately operating in a recognisable genre, bringing attention to the conventions of that genre, but without the intention of creating humour. ...read more.

Middle

However it is obvious that The Simpsons has a larger, mass audience, as it appeals to many different people on many different levels. Each episode of The Simpsons is an open text, allowing the audience to decide upon their personal reading of the text, be it preferred, negotiated or oppositional. Every issue raised within a specific episode results in a different interpretation depending on the individual. The Simpsons possesses a 'top layer' that allows the mass audience to be entertained by the humour and the jokes used with the series. However the deeper jokes lie beneath this, relating to issues of historical occurrence, current events, popular culture and many more. The true comedy of these jokes are revealed when the moral of these issues is truly understood. An example of this within the text could be found in the episode "E-I-E-I (Annoyed Grunt)" In this episode Homer cultivates a product, a hybrid of tomatoes and tobacco with the aid of radioactive chemicals. The tobacco industry make an offer to Homer when they hear of his addictive product. Homer refuses, yet the tobacco company steal the product in the night. Meanwhile the farm animals on the cultivating plant have become addicted to the 'tomacco' plant and kill the directors of the tobacco industry in order to feed their addictions. Some audience members could portray this episode as being purely entertainment, with no moral consequence attached to it at all. This would be a reflection of McQuail's Mass Communication theory. However it could also be read as an apparent satire on the tobacco industry - the addictiveness of its products and the negative moral issues surrounding the marketing of these products. The Simpsons also uses techniques associated with postmodernism in order to subvert and critique traditional sitcom notions such as the 'warm moment,' wherein everyone embraces, all problems are solved and we learn a valuable moral lesson. ...read more.

Conclusion

Groening satirizes America's desire for cruelty by offering it up in spades: "The Itchy and Scratchy Show" takes the violence associated with contemporary cartoons to the extreme, and confrontationally exposing the powerful appeal of violence, the manner in which it is marketed to children, and the blas´┐Ż attitude towards it that parents adopt. "The Itchy and Scratchy Show" appears regularly on The Simpsons offering violent entertainment for its two primary audiences - both the Simpson family and the viewers of The Simpsons show. These programmes were always without any overt commentary at the sitcom's diegetic level - the satire was allowed to speak for itself. But in " Itchy & Scratchy & Marge" Marge is disturbed by the amount of time her children spend watching this cartoon, and the influence that the exposed violence has upon them. Marge organises a moral campaign attempting to ban the Itchy & Scratchy cartoon. They win the case, and the children of Springfield lose their cartoon. The following scene is accompanied by the sounds of Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony, where the children emerge from their homes into the sunny streets outdoors. It appears to be the first time that their existences are freed from society's traps. But this traditional happy ending is quickly abolished, when a new problem arises. The campaign group that Marge founded wish to ban the appearance of Michelangelo's "David." Marge is opposed to this idea and realises that if 'great art' is to be protected from censorship, popular art must be as well. At the closing of this episode Bart and Lisa are again watching "The Itchy & Scratchy Show," and Marge looks on, wondering if she has done the right thing. This episode addresses its own complicity in the controversial issue of violence on television and the censorship issues regarding children. As David Berkman, rightly enforces to question whether it is only in the cartoon, the "visually unreal," that we are able to accept the harsh realities that show is attempting to display to us. Through looking at the aspects of The Simpsons that make it a postmodern text I conclude... ...read more.

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