Book Review: The Simpsons’ Beloved Springfield

The Simpsons’ Beloved Springfield:  Essays On The TV Series And Town That Are Part Of Us All, edited by Karma Waltonen and Denise DuVernay

This is one of the worst collections of pop culture essays I have ever read, if not the worst.  In general, as someone who reads these reasonably often [1], this sort of collection of books is the way that overly educated but not terribly insightful or worthwhile wannabe scholars slum by writing about pop culture to promote their bogus worldviews and earn enough money from royalties to put the down payment on a rent-controlled flat so they can move out of their parents’ basements.  Hardly any of these essays are worth the ink and paper that they are written on, and certainly not worth the time it would take to read them.  It is baffling just how misguided these essays are and how stridently left-wing they happen to be, as if the readers do not realize that there are a great many people who read a great many books who abhor nearly everything that is written in these pages.  The Simpsons’ everytown of Springfield may be beloved of many, but these books bring shame and dishonor upon the city by associating it with the beclowning of leftist academics.

This work contains about 250 pages of essays about Springfield from a variety of terrible leftist writers who seek some sort of entree into bloviating about their own preferred social causes.  So we have an introduction and timeline, then arguments that the town is a part of us all.  After that there is a discussion on portrayals of witches, a view of Homer and Marge as “good enough” parents, and a look at the Simpsons’ and music that focuses on one subplot involving barbershop quartets.  There is a discussion on how the show handles death as well as a discussion on the grotesque and beautiful and the’s show’s relationship to consumerism.  After that there is a discussion on food politics and references to librarians (librarians are apparently oversensitive about how they are portrayed).  One essay tackles the Simpson’s gentle nationalism and then another provides a biased “unbiased” comparison of science and religion, while another looks at the difference between parody and pastiche.  After that there is a discussion of environmentalism in the Simpsons as well as anxiety (from someone who suffers from it, clearly), satire, consuming, friendship, how the Simpsons has been used in one college classroom, and then discussions of sex that are sadly not as interesting as promised.

This is the sort of book that could harm the cultural legacy of the Simpsons, and that is no mean feat given how long the series has run on television.  There are several possibilities about how the ideological concerns of the writer of these terrible essays relate to the aims and intents of the show.  It is possible that the showrunners share the concerns of the authors and find themselves irritated that many viewers may celebrate the people of Springfield rather than view them contemptuously as many of the writers here do.  The showrunners could be focused on narrative goals and careerist goals and celebrate the popularity of the Simpsons with a diverse crowd regardless of the fact that what is enjoyed by different audiences may be antithetical to what others see in the series.  Alternatively, the show creators and showrunners could abhor the ideological biases of the writers here but celebrate how seriously the Simpsons is being taken in academic discourse, even if by the miscreants included here.  Whichever of these scenarios (or others) is true, though, this book is not worth anyone’s time, even the people who wasted a good deal of it writing densely referenced but ideologically reprehensible material.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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