Homer Simpson Explains our Postmodern Identity crisis,
Whether we Prize it or not: Media Literacy after "The Simpsons"
This article suggests that "The Simpsons" is a sophisticated media subject about media that forces educators who teach media literacy into an encounter with postmodern judgment. The sense of postmodern judgment for media education is explored through a focus on two now themes in "The Simpsons": the changing judgment of personal identity and the consequences of a relentlessly ironic worldview. Icons of habitual culture can be used to teach about philosophical constructs. From its inception "The Simpsons" has posed a significant challenge to educators.
The program, which ridiculed all forms of influence and turned Bart Simpson into a wildly habitual anti-hero, initially provoked an intense reaction from the education citizens, in some schools influential to the banning of paraphernalia bearing Bart's images and habitual denunciations of the series. As the series grew in popularity- and eventually was joined by other cartoon series that were seen to be all the more more educationally offensive, such as "Beavis and Butthead" and "South Park"-the furor died down to a now on the other artisan passive hostility toward the program, at least in the classroom. It certainly didn't facilitate the educational community's disagreement to have Interval magazine reputation the series the best television program of the 20th century, or to have the poet laureate of the United States, Robert Pinsky, praise the series, stating that it "penetrates to the existence of television itself " (Owen, 2000, p. 65). Nor did it facilitate that various teachers went habitat, turned the program on, and laughed themselves silly. All the more another abbreviate has been created between the culture of children and the culture of education, a poser that has been perhaps all the more more painful for media educators, various of whom follow Hobbs' (1998) target that "the texts of everyday career, when constituted as objects of social participation, provide the possibility for combining textual, historical, and ideological examination in ways that relieve students and teachers move beyond the limits of traditional disciplines and controversy areas" (p. 21). To be undeniable, there have been efforts by media educators to bring "The Simpsons" into the classroom. Our debate of the media literacy literature and media literacy sites revealed a number of examples of proposed lessons incorporating the series, from examining "The Simpsons" as a virgin variant of social satire to comparing "The Simpsons" family to other television families. On the other hand, in almost every dispute, we sensed that the unique qualities of the series eluded these efforts. The basic tools of media education and literacy as typically agreed upon by numerous media literacy communities-tools which regulate our control to basic precepts such as the meaning that "the media are constructed"-appear not to be enough to turn "The Simpsons" from renegade habitual culture into a teachable moment (Aufderheide, 1993; Media Awareness Network, 2000). Perhaps the central poser with "The Simpsons" is that it seems to drag the media literacy examination onto the unfamiliar and all the more foreboding terrain of postmodernism, where issues of image and replica open to fall apart, a terrain where sporadic media educators are willing or able to follow. Of line, there has been an effort to define, critique, and bring postmodern impression to bear on educational judgment and application, expressly from advocates of critical pedagogy (e.g., Aronowitz & Giroux, 1992). All the more this has been a theory-driven effort that has not reached further far into educational scholarship, and has made almost no headway into the frontlines of educational manipulate.
Various teachers Studies in Media & Info Literacy Education, Tome 1, Subject 1 (February 2001), 1-12 # University of Toronto Press. DOI: 10.3138/sim.1.1.002 have never heard of the label "postmodernism." The same mould is equally, if not more pronounced, in the media education citizens. Our examination of media literacy literature and key media literacy web sites in the United States and Canada revealed an almost comprehensive absence of controversy and examination on postmodernism. There have been, of pathway, notable exceptions (McLaren, Hammer, Scholle, & Reilly, 1995; Steinberg & Kincheloe, 1997). The outcome of this empty margin is another critical abbreviate, in this dispute not between students and educators, on the other artisan between media educators and media theorists. In examining this section, we are struck by two observations. First, the gap between media education manipulate and media judgment comes precisely at the moment when teachers and media educators are finding themselves overwhelmed by strange contemporary regular cultural texts for which the unfamiliar category of "postmodernism" may potentially be the most fruitful interpretive handle. Second, the positions of students and media theorists stand in the succeeding relationship. Students are living inside an increasingly postmodern regular cultural participation that media theorists are attempting to label, define, and scan. The puzzle is that students don't necessarily have the vocabulary to generate meaning of their participation, and the vocabulary that theorists have developed seems to cause meaning only in graduate seminars. "The Simpsons" offers a promising opportunity to strategically residence these issues, highlighting the limits of conventional media literacy tools, illustrating the aesthetic examine of postmodernism, and providing some vocabulary to label that examine. In effect, it serves as an dispute of how the solution of postmodernism can be used to develop a contemporary range of critical interpretive skills for constructively engaging this growing trend in habitual culture.
Our article presents a mini introduction to postmodernism and a grounded process of the benefits and limits of applying this judgment. Our reason is not to provide an exhaustive or all the more spread out introduction to postmodern judgment. Rather, it is to position "The Simpsons" as a media subject that can be used as a starting stop for exploring postmodern judgment. Fear of Postmodernism If everyone loves "The Simpsons," postmodernism has its correct participation of critics. Writing in U.S. Material and Field Report, Leo (1999) argues that postmodernism has created a language that no one can understand, a language that is used to intellectually bully readers into agreeing with outlandish propositions. The academic area, on the other artisan, has offered more equivocal assessments. Hebdige (1988) argues that "we are in the presence of a buzzword," a expression which, while confusing, does appropriate an influential social or cultural transition. Kellner (1995) agrees, observing that ". . . the label 'postmodern' is often a placeholder, or semiotic marker, that indicates that there are virgin phenomena that demand mapping and theorizing" (p. 46). In the infrequent instances where references to postmodernism do appear in media literacy literature, its ambiguous area is emphasized. For process, Buckingham and Sefton-Green (1997), in their effort to launch charting the challenges posed by multimedia education in an increasingly digitized media area, believe that postmodernism, although "glib and sweeping," offers a beneficial pathway to characterize a number of broad social and cultural transformations. Some of the changes that control Buckingham and Sefton-Green embrace the area of consumption, the blurring distinctions between production and consumption, the poaching of texts and symbols, and the rejection of the "elitist and sterile oppositions between high and habitual culture" (pp. 289-292). Given the slipperiness of the sense, postmodernism on the other hand marks a critical modern moment in the scan of media and replica. Building on the business of Buckingham and Sefton-Green (1997), we open by asking "what is postmodernism" and "what can we do with it?" With its questioning of "truthfulness" and its subject of the politics of media representations, postmodernism, once it is understood properly, can be a rich source of pedagogical judgment and manipulate. The Postmodern Dispute: Definitions and Symptoms What true is the label "postmodernism" trying to receive? There is, first, the sense of opposition to "modernism."
In essence, modernism states that individuals and nations, guided by rational thinking and Studies in Media & Counsel Literacy Education, Tome 1, Subject 1 (February 2001), 1-12 # University of Toronto Press. DOI: 10.3138/sim.1.1.002 2 scientific achievements, are moving toward a more humane, more just, and more economically prosperous ultimate. In other contents, modernism embraces progress, viewing it as a linear and inexorable phenomenon with acceptable outcomes. Accordingly, the "publish" in postmodernism stands for the meaning that there is no longer any guarantee of progress. In point, there is further petty consensus as to what progress all the more wealth. Postmodernity typically is distinguished by an undermining of force, the denigration of novel by turning it into a "style" or evocative nostalgia, the questioning of progress, and the head to impression the ultimate as empty. Other postmodern symptoms embrace the meaning of image overload, intertextuality (the seemingly random quoting of one subject by another), a heightened meaning of media self-reflexivity calling control to replica as a hall of mirrors, and pastiche, defined as the sense to cause disjointed images and subject fragments. Finally, the postmodern process is marked by commodification overload (the head to turn everything into a product or marketing opportunity), irony overload (the elevation of irony as the dominant rhetorical posture), and the increased questioning of the sense of personal identity brought on by viewing the self as a social construction. In short, the meaning of postmodernism calls control to the ways in which a beneficial deal of everyday regular culture is at once fully informed by, if not driven by, the basic media literacy precept that media construct social naked truth. In act, all the more of regular culture relentlessly draws carefulness to the further arbitrariness of almost every aspect of our social participation, as well as the moral and epistemological foundations on which social participation depends. In other contents, the curriculum of regular culture has outstripped the curriculum of the classroom, all the more the media education classroom. The vocabulary of postmodernism allows us to launch to contemplate and term the various ways in which this is taking fix, on the other share it further leaves us at a loss about how to proceed. Recognizing this disagreement, memo and educational theorists have attempted to clarify what is to be gained by drawing on the social and theoretical insights generated by the deconstructive influence of postmodern criticism. At the same interval, they have tried to demonstrate how to tame this influence in the utility of modernist values such as human rights, equality, freedom, and democracy (Aronowitz & Giroux, 1991; Best & Kellner, 1991; Giroux, 1997; Kellner, 1995; Rorty, 1989; Wolin, 1990).
A "critical postmodernism" encourages us to solicit contemporary questions about all claims to influence (scientific or otherwise), about how contemporary forms of replica and contemporary inflections in the style of replica made practicable through technology and commodification exchange the quality of sense, and about how cultural dominance is produced and maintained through the patterns of contrasts used to define social and linguistic categories (Aronowitz & Giroux, 1991; Scholle & Denski, 1995). Postmodernism offers contemporary tools for critical interpretation and modern responsibilities for connecting media and cultural interpretation to democracy as a "form of native land that enables critical reflection and activism," making us understand "the ways in which our seemingly private individual identities are formed, through language and symbols, in relationship to each other and the broader social and political citizens" (McKinlay, 1998, p. 481). For "The Simpsons" audience, an ambivalence toward technology and progress is guideline fare. This judgment of the ultimate as empty and without guarantees has further been associated with the core identity of Hour X, whose slogan might glance at "We have seen the forthcoming and it sucks." While any aspect of postmodernism discussed above can be found in and explored within "The Simpsons," two concepts in particular-irony overload and the questioning of identity-will serve as reference points in our reconsideration of the series. The puzzle of identity is a central complication for all young citizens, on the other artisan it is a puzzle that is not duration satisfactorily addressed, given the growing levels of hopelessness, cynicism, despair, and suicide among teenagers. Of particular control to us is that "The Simpsons" repeatedly focuses on this further subject: the puzzle of selfhood in an increasingly absurd culture pulverized with images, symbols, values, irony, commercialization, and hucksterism. What lessons does "The Simpsons" teach? What lessons can be learned as the characters on the demonstrate are thrust into many battles for selfhood within the postmodern terrain? Enjoy all the more postmodern Studies in Media & Info Literacy Education, Manual 1, Controversy 1 (February 2001), 1-12 # University of Toronto Press. DOI: 10.3138/sim.1.1.002 3 culture, "The Simpsons," is saturated with irony and obsessed with issues of absolute identity, expressly in relation to media culture. Our task is to articulate an interpretive frame of reference to facilitate media educators and viewers open to cause critical meaning of these symptoms.
The Challenges of Postmodern Selfhood Gergen (1991) notes that postmodernists abbreviate version into three epochs, each of which corresponds to a particular judgment of personal identity or selfhood. These periods are labeled as the pre-modern (romantic hour), the contemporary era, and the postmodern. From the pre-modern or romantic tradition, we derive our meaning in a stable center of identity. In Gergen's contents, "powerful forces" in the "deep interior of one's duration" are held to be the source of "inspiration, creativity, genius, and moral courage, all the more madness" (Gergen, 1992, p. 61). Modernism redefined the self, shifting the emphasis from deep, mysterious processes to human consciousness in the here and these days, always in control with such values as efficiency, stable functioning, and progress. The self in its virgin form-what Gergen calls the postmodern or relational self-is no longer viewed as a separate target, on the other artisan is increasingly understood as a relational construction, defined by and spread across the humanity and activity experiences each individual encounters throughout her or his field. In short, as McNamee and Gergen (1999) argue, "there are no independent selves; we are each constituted by others (who are themselves similarly constituted). We are always already related by virtue of shared constitutions of the self " (p. 15). Linked to this sense is the sense that a conscious understanding of ourselves as beings occurs through language, which is itself a fundamentally relational sense, and that our identity grows and develops in relationship to the endless dialogues that we have with others, with culture, and with ourselves. In this meaning, our interactions with the media become deeply significant. Moreover, this contemporary consciousness of the relational sense of the self comes at correct the moment when the relationships we enter into and which contribute to our definition of self are multiplying at an exponential rate and are duration increasingly spread over a in a superior way and in a superior way span of hour and amplitude. It is one baggage to see the sense of the relational self when we think of, claim, two friends engaged in a mutually sustaining and defining examination. In this setting, the sense of the relational self is promising, perhaps all the more reassuring. On the other hand, extending the meaning of relationship to subsume every symbolic encounter in which we willingly or unwilling participate-from intentional relationships to unintentional and forced relationship with 3,000 commercial messages per day-presents modern challenges. A critical postmodern perspective calls control to this crisis of identity, a crisis in which the media of memo and their commercial foundations are deeply implicated. Of line, thinking of the self as a relational construct not only gives insights into the crisis of the self, on the other share it further offers a means of thinking about how to residence that crisis. In this more hopeful and acceptable meaning, the relational self offers a glimpse of those selected aspects of human participation and identity that may be used as a moral foundation in the face of the deconstructive maelstrom of commercial postmodern culture. The relational self suggests a moral compass that is based less on the authentic truths of religion or science than in the manner by which we draw up ourselves and our community through ceaseless and inevitable physical, linguistic, and psychological dependence upon one another. Drawing on the duty of Martin Buber, Mikhail Bakhtin, Jurgen Habermas, Richard Rorty, and Jerome Bruner, McNamee and Gergen (1999) deposit elsewhere a autonomous and thoughtful introduction to what a moral ethic organized on all sides of the relational self would see enjoy. They have called it "relational responsibility," defining relationally responsible actions as those that "sustain and enhance forms of exchange elsewhere of which influential process itself is made practicable." Isolation, they argue, "represents the negation of citizens" (p. 19). The guideline of relational responsibility is in stark contrast to the deconstructive tendencies of postmodernism. As such, it can serve as a critical bridge linking the interpretive coercion of a critical postmodernism to the modernist values associated with progressive democracy.
Studies in Media & Counsel Literacy Education, Tome 1, Subject 1 (February 2001), 1-12 # University of Toronto Press. DOI: 10.3138/sim.1.1.002 4 At the same hour, it is autonomous that the deconstructive tendencies of postmodernism (as a fix of virgin conditions) have influential implications for personal identity construction. Giddens (1991), for process, warns of the "looming threat of personal meaninglessness." It is this threat that directs us back to a carefulness of one of the central tropes of postmodern discourse: irony. As noted above, relentless irony is a hallmark of both "The Simpsons" and the postmodern era. As individuals struggle to confront postmodern challenges to identity, there is grounds to solicit whether there is any valuation in the postmodern strategy of irony. Thus, the implications of irony both for identity formation and relational responsibility must be considered. Irony, Identity, and the Disagreement of Responsibility "The Simpsons" is regularly celebrated for its incisive wit and social satire, for its force to manipulate irony to bell control to the absurdity of everyday social conventions and beliefs. Irony functions as a critical form that helps us to break through surface sense to examine and understand the "correct" area of things in a contemporary and deeper means. It is a vehicle for enhancing critical consciousness, and it represents a moral coercion of skilled in the function of eradicating conventional pathetic (Rorty, 1989). As Hutcheon (1992, 1994) notes, critical irony is intimately linked to politics. The compel of deconstructing can be a first development to political dispute, and irony's oppositional character can be a major critical compel. The subversive functioning of irony is related to its status as a self-critical and self-reflexive resources that challenges hierarchy, and this influence to undermine and overturn is said to have politically transformative coercion. On the other share this is not where the manipulate of irony ends in "The Simpsons," nor does it appropriate the postmodern turn in the meaning of irony. Postmodern irony is ambiguous and its solution is contested.
It can be interpreted by adherents as playful, reflexive, and liberating; opponents, on the other hand, contemplate it as frivolous, deviant, and perverse (Hutcheon, 1992, 1994; Kaufman, 1997; Thiele, 1997). In postmodern irony, clarity in moral delineation begins to disappear. For process, in virgin comedy, as in all social behavior, all actions are controversy to satire from some perspective. Besides, by reason of postmodern irony begins with the assumption that language produces all sense, a kind of "emancipatory indulgence in irony" is evoked-an invitation to reconceptualize language as a form of play. As Gergen (1991) writes, "we needn't credit such linguistic activities with profundity, imbue them with deep significance, or fix elsewhere to interchange the nature on their novel. Rather, we might play with the truths of the hour, shake them about, try them on prize funny hats" (p. 188). In other contents, postmodern irony invites us to "avoid 'saying it straight,' using linear logic, and forming smooth, progressive narratives" (p. 188). "The Simpsons" is saturated with this form of postmodern irony. On the other facilitate where does that leave media educators trying to duty with this enormously regular series? On the one artisan, media educators would prize to engage the series fully by practise of it raises various challenges to conventional ideas of mould and selfhood; on the other share, they are unwilling to lead students to examine media literacy as a form of deconstruction that leads only to meaninglessness or play. Some media scholars contemplate postmodern irony as a laborious challenge for teachers committed to linking media literacy with productive citizenship. Purdy, for dispute, laments that "between Madonna and the fist-fight between Jesus and Santa Claus that opened the cartoon series South Park, there is less and less left in society whose flouting can elicit shock." Irony, he concludes, "invites us to be self-absorbed, on the other facilitate in selves that we cannot believe to be particularly interesting or significant" (p. 26). Conway and Seery (1992) are similarly concerned about the implications of postmodern irony for engaged citizenship. "Although irony may equip the dispossessed with much-needed critical perspective and all the more underwrite a minimal political agenda," they draw up, "it is generally regarded as irremediably parasitic and antisocial" (p. 3). Hutcheon (1994) further shares this episode, noting that irony can be "both political and apolitical, both conservative and radical, both repressive and democratizing in a pathway that other discursive strategies are not" (p. 35). Gergen (1991) frames the challenge of postmodern irony in terms of its challenge to forming a coherent self. If all serious projects are reduced to satire, play, Studies in Media & Counsel Literacy Education, Tome 1, Subject 1 (February 2001), 1-12 # University of Toronto Press. DOI: 10.3138/sim.1.1.002 5 or nonsense, "all attempts at authenticity or earnest ends become empty-merely postures to be punctuated by sophisticated self-consciousness" (p. 189). If this is the poser that "The Simpsons" raises in its manipulate of both critical and postmodern irony, to what room is it contributing to a social consciousness with a practicable for social process, as opposed to contributing to a cynical numbness founded on ironic detachment?
What solutions does the series offer for resolving this disagreement? Are there any alternative solutions that acknowledge the postmodern challenge to identity? Exploration of Self in "Homer to the Max" With these concerns in meaning, we see an phase of "The Simpsons" that originally aired on February 7, 1998. The period focuses with particular vehemence on the quest for identity and asks the closest questions: † How is the sense of the self understood in relationship to the blizzard of media images, symbols, and values? † How does irony fit into the exploration and resolution of identity issues? † How do we understand "The Simpsons" confrontations with the self and identity in terms of what has been called the postmodern process? The demonstrate begins with the principles sight gags on the couch and the Simpson family's lampooning of television's midseason replacement series. The program that finally captures the family's carefulness is "Police Cops," which becomes a present within the present. As the two Miami-Vice enjoy heroes of "Police Cops" subdue would-be bank thieves, one of the police detective heroes, a millionaire cop surrounded by admiring women, introduces himself as "Simpson, Detective Homer Simpson." The Simpson family is shocked and Homer is exclusively overwhelmed, confusing himself with his television image.
The plot then unfolds in essentially five kernels that hire up and explore Homer's confusion over his own identity (Chatman, 1978). First, Homer identifies completely with the television detective hero: "Wow. They captured my personality perfectly! Did you examine the means Daddy caught that bullet?" In turn, the all-inclusive citizens of Springfield validates Homer's contemporary pseudo-identity, treating him as if he were the television detective hero: "Hey, Mr. Simpson, sir, can I purchase your autograph?" Second, the "Police Cops" producers interchange their television detective character from glamorous hero to bumbling sidekick, launching a series of gags about Homer's correct identity. The virgin characterization is truly a near perfect replication of the "absolute" Homer Simpson. This outrages Homer: "Hey what's going on? That guy's not Homer Simpson! He's fat and stupid!" The town continues to respond to Homer as the television character, only these days with ridicule rather than respect. Nonetheless, Homer gains some insight into the confusion between his "authentic" and "fictional" identity. As a assemblage of co-workers gathers in the hallway absent his business waiting for him to "do something stupid," Homer retorts, "Well, I'm sorry to disappoint you gentleman, on the other artisan you seem to have me confused with a character in a fictional present." Factor of the pleasure for viewers derives from the irony of the cartoon character Homer making the state that he is the "authentic" Homer Simpson, as opposed to the fictional cartoon character within the cartoon.
The writers of the period then continue to play with this seemingly endless hall of mirrors between "absolute" and "fictional" identity by scripting Homer to behave true in the transaction of the revised fictional detective character. Homer obliges by spilling a fondue pot on the nuclear reactor polity panel. Homer's identity crisis eventually leads him to Hollywood, where he confronts the producers of the "Police Cops"-By the Numbers Productions-and demands that they recast the detective character: "I'm begging you! I'm a human duration! Let me have my dignity back!" The lines between Homer's authentic identity and his media identity blur all the more besides when his efforts in the production business are used as grist for a contemporary gag in the later "Police Cops" period. Studies in Media & Counsel Literacy Education, Manual 1, Controversy 1 (February 2001), 1-12 # University of Toronto Press. DOI: 10.3138/sim.1.1.002 6 In the third kernel, the plot shifts absent from Homer's struggle over his identification with his media replica to his fixation on the sense that a contemporary label will give him a virgin identity. In this kernel, Homer goes to court to sue "Police Cops" for the improper application of his reputation. When his petition is nowadays rebuffed in the term of corporate proprietary interests, he rashly decides to transform his reputation to Max Coercion. Homer's growth is nowadays transformed. His self-image improves, he becomes forceful and dynamic, and his co-workers and boss treat him with respect. Mr. Burns, remembering Homer's reputation for the first interval, exclaims, "Well, who could forget the reputation of a magnetic individual prize you? Keep up the acceptable profession, Max." While shopping at Costington's for a contemporary faculty wardrobe, Homer meets a member of Springfield's elite with a similarly powerful label, Trent Steele. Trent nowadays takes Homer/Max under his wing, inviting him to garden troop for "Springfield's young, hip force couples," an period that turns elsewhere to be the jumping off stop for an environmental reason. The critical moment in this kernel-which links the identity crisis of "Police Cops" with the identity theme in the "Max Force" parcel of the episode-occurs when Homer reveals to his contemporary best friend Trent Steele the origin of the term "Max Compel."
When Trent exclaims, "Hey, beneficial term!," Homer replies, "Yeah, isn't it? I got it off a hairdryer." Homer's resolution to his identity crisis with his media self is to redefine himself in terms of the force setting of a mini household appliance. The self is these days equated with a product. At first, the results are stunningly successful. The fourth kernel leads to the denouement. In the third kernel, Homer's appropriation of the identity of his hair dryer appears to have resolved his identity crisis in satisfactory transaction. On the other hand, this meaning soon falls apart. At the garden assemblage, Homer and Marge rub shoulders with celebrity environmental activists Woody Harrelson and Ed Begley, Jr., two of the various celebrities lampooned in the phase. The sense extreme these scenes is that Homer, as the buffoon celebrity Max Force, is on the same level as other equally shallow and ridiculous celebrities. Finally, Trent Steele announces that it is interval to board a bus to reason "the wanton destruction of our nation's forests." This generate is relentlessly parodied: "We have to protect [trees] by generate of trees can't protect themselves, except, of trail, the Mexican Fighting Trees." The partygoers travel to a stand of redwoods about to be bulldozed and are chained to the trees. The police (Chief Wiggum, Eddie, and Lou) confront Homer, attempt to swab his eyes with "Hippie- Coercion" mace, and stop up chasing him on all sides of his tree. His chain works prize a saw, cutting down the redwood, which in turn topples the comprehensive forest. Homer, freed at persist, throws his chain into the air, killing a bald eagle. Homer, as the phony Max Force, is rejected by the phony celebrity activists. In the fifth and final kernel, which serves as an epilogue to the phase, Marge and Homer are in bed. Marge tells Homer she is glad he changed his reputation back to Homer Simpson and Homer responds, "Yes, I learned you gotta be yourself." The Phase Through a Postmodern Lens The phase is intriguing by generate of of its insistent focus on the search for identity, and the methods by which that identity is constructed within the absurdities of the postmodern landscape. As Gergen (1992) notes, "We are exposed to more opinions, values, personalities, and ways of activity than was any previous interval in novel; the number of our relationships soars, the variations are enormous: past relationships extreme (only a ring bell apart) and contemporary faces are only a channel absent" (p. 58). There is, in short, an explosion in social connections.
What does this explosion have to do with our meaning of selves and what we stand for, and how does it undermine beliefs in a romantic interior or in a rational center of the self ? This is precisely the controversy this period of "The Simpsons" takes up again and again. What is exclusively engaging in this phase is the focus on Homer's identity crisis and its relationship to the media. This is not, of line, a theme unique to "The Simpsons." As Caldwell (1995) observes, comedy-variety shows in the late 1940s and early 1950s were repeatedly using the conventions of intertextuality and selfreflexivity about the constructed existence of the media image. All the more "Leave it to Beaver" aired a media/ Studies in Media & Counsel Literacy Education, Tome 1, Subject 1 (February 2001), 1-12 # University of Toronto Press. DOI: 10.3138/sim.1.1.002 7 self phase in the 1950s entitled "Beaver on TV." Filmmaker Woody Allen often explores the connection between self and media, perhaps most directly in The Purple Rose of Cairo, where the film's female protagonist is shocked to find her own film idol able to development off the screen and assume a flesh-andblood relationship with her. More virgin examples involve the films Duration John Malkovitch and Nurse Betty. On the other hand, episodes of "The Simpsons" residence this theme with a critical column seldom found in mainstream television. In this meaning, the demonstrate serves as both an illustration and exploration of the mass-mediated self. And it certainly stands as an acknowledgment of the degree to which identity is dispersed across media encounters and the degree to which others respond to and validate these contemporary media created selves. Homer's engagement with the television character bearing his reputation isn't a simple one of identification, on the other share a blurring of the boundaries between his "absolute" self and the image of himself dialogically reflected back to himself by the media. This period takes the basic media literacy proposition that the media construct social detail and radicalizes it to argue that the fundamental identities of audience members are further socially constructed by media participation. The boundaries of our seemingly absolute identities open to fade. The writers engage in this play with the audience in at least two different ways. First, they coercion us, through our identification with Homer, to acknowledge the ways in which we identify and all the more lose ourselves in the fictional characters we watch. And to generate trustworthy this speck is driven habitat, the writers pull the rug elsewhere from under us. In the forgetful pleasure of our beneficial identification with Homer, who in turn is identifying with the glamorous protagonist, the period switches the roles of the "televised" Homer Simpson from seductive hero to buffoon. Homer is left the fool, and we extremely must confront our own identification with Homer and "The Simpsons" present. At the same interval, the present alternately encourages us to identify with Homer's search for his absolute self and reminds us that the character we are closest and relating to is a cartoon invention himself. This is the push and pull of postmodern irony, at once pushing us to critical insights about the conventions of mould and at the same hour pulling us back to a safe level of detachment so that the stakes involved in unraveling our existential certainty about who we are do not become overly menacing. The phase further illustrates the crisis of the self from the perspective of content and form, as detailed by Giddens (1991) and Gergen (1991, 1992).
With regard to content, the phase shows us the myriad of ways in which Homer's meaning of self is pushed and pulled, spread out and contradicted. With regard to form, it never lets Homer's character-or our understanding of his character-settle into a stable, coherent self once his identity has been called into question-at least not until the epilogue of the program. The period moves beyond illustration of the relational self to a critique of the challenges facing the relational self in many instances, and it is certainly in these instances where some of the unique, potentially consciousness raising efforts of "The Simpsons" flare through. The first dispute is when Homer goes to Hollywood to beg the production convention to give him back his dignity by recreating his television character. Despite Homer's protestations that he is a "human activity," the "By the Numbers Production Convention" is undeterred from shamelessly exploiting Homer's (cartoon) citizens. This scene suggests that the keys to our selfhood are held, in stuff, by uncaring corporations, willing to exploit us and our identity for their own gain. The second dispute is in the critically sophisticated decision to offer Homer a second chance at achieving a dignified self by literally constructing his meaning of self through total identification with the faculty setting of a hair dryer. In both cases, and exclusively in the hair dryer gag, these are subtle critiques that may or may not be processed by most viewers. Neither is amplified in any significant means semiotically or through the plot. Reading through the fan postings for the period on the Simpson's Archive speck, we found no evidence that these critiques had been taken up. In act, there was petty recognition of any of the identity issues discussed above, other than the humorous confusion over the label Max Force. On the other hand, these scenes infuse the phase with an influential critical credible, expressly from the speck of judgment of media educators. They allow us to think about the crisis of the self in connection to the meaning of relational identity as well as within the dispute of what critical postmodernism has identified as Studies in Media & Info Literacy Education, Tome 1, Subject 1 (February 2001), 1-12 # University of Toronto Press. DOI: 10.3138/sim.1.1.002 8 the ever- intensifying movement to turn everything into a commodity.
All the more one's meaning of self is commodified, reducing us to believing that we really are only what we own. In other contents, while "The Simpsons" can certainly be enjoyed without any participation of postmodernism, viewers knowledgeable about some of the basic tenets of postmodern sense may more fully appreciate the twists and turns of its inventive plot lines. Defusing Critical Themes Nearly a decade ago, Collins (1992) reviewed a short vignette within a "Simpsons" period that was constructed in all the more the same pathway as the "Homer to the Max" phase discussed above. Homer and Bart are watching Macy's Thanksgiving Hour parade on television and discussing whether the cartoon characters appearing on the balloon-floats deserve such immortality. Just as Homer tells Bart that if "you plain building a balloon float for every flash-in-the-pan cartoon character, you'll turn the parade into a farce," a Bart Simpson balloon float passes by. Collins wanted to know about the factor of "hyperconscious irony" on television viewers: is its persist effect "emancipatory, salient to a recognition that television's representations are social constructions rather than value-neutral reflections of the 'real' existence? Or does this irony generate a disempowering apathy, in which no image is taken at all seriously?" (p. 36).
Collins' subject is all the more with us today, exclusively by rationale of "postmodern" television shows demonstrate no memo of disappearing. We are attracted to the resources of media literacy moments that such shows practise visible, on the other facilitate we further realize that these programs often deconstruct the validity and importance of those same media literary guideline. It is the postmodern dimension of nowadays media fare prize "The Simpsons" that requires that we select the sense and uses of irony further seriously, that we carefully attend to the quality of hope that is offered to media audiences after the deconstructive play of postmodern ironies has left us laughing and numbed. If we can no longer trust any genuine realities, if traditional moralities keep revealing their human limits, does this mean that the only credible options are to retreat into nostalgia, go shopping, or go shopping for nostalgia? Linking these concerns to identity issues, Gergen (1991) asks: "Once we are aware of the ironies of self-reflection, how are we to regard them? What response can we generate? Is it simply an invitation to play and a surrender of any form of critical examination or something else?" As he argues, when one's activity is constantly doubted and its constructed and contingent character is made evident, "then daily area as an objectively given self is threatened" (p. 137). With these concerns in meaning, we conclude by examining how the critical issues raised in the beginning of the "Police Cops" phase regarding the self, the media, and consumer culture are resolved. Not surprisingly, the period withdraws from its sophisticated illustrations of the challenges of postmodern culture in habitual and its more specific explorations of dilemmas of the self. It further withdraws from its application of critical postmodern irony to the more soothing romantic judgment of the self-contained and absolute self, as well as to the nostalgic sense that the "traditional" family is a "haven in a heartless area." Let's contemplate at this turn absent from criticism in a bit more naked truth.
A central site of this essay has been that the existence of "The Simpsons" forces media educators to stretch beyond the basic premises of media literacy to confront the postmodern vastness of the series and its postmodern implications for understanding media literacy. To this speck, we focused on two postmodern media representational issues: the relational self and postmodern irony/irony overload. In the conclusion of this phase, it appears that the critical dimension of each of these pedagogical moments is surrendered. First, the sense of the relational self is rejected. When Homer turns to Marge as they lie in bed and says "I learned you gotta be yourself," we are comforted with the most obsessively repeated summary of romantic individualism in the vocabulary of habitual culture. The threat of the blurring borders between one's absolute self and one's mediated self is contained. The threat of one's confusion over "who I am" and "what I own" is contained. Moreover, it is contained literally within the confines of the marriage bed, a symbol of the modernist utopia of intimacy between two self-sufficient individuals in a committed Studies in Media & Info Literacy Education, Tome 1, Controversy 1 (February 2001), 1-12 # University of Toronto Press. DOI: 10.3138/sim.1.1.002 9 "relationship." In this modernist judgment, to be in a "relationship" or not to be in a "relationship" is a choice. A relationship is not viewed as the inescapable foundation of a "self " with its closest responsibilities, obligations, and joys. The sense of the relational self, which could serve as the rationale for a nonmarket ethic for both personal and social relationships, is lost. Although Homer's final "I learned you gotta be yourself " could further be recite ironically, it stands as the final narrative handhold for the viewer to resolve the phase. Second, the separation of regular and private-particularly in the realm of identity and relationship-is scrupulously maintained. Again, this follows the modernist judgment. Homer's activism against the corporate world's exploitative engineering of personal identity is an isolated, individual quest that "humorously" reveals the futility of challenge. When Homer does join a troop in line to naked truth in relationship with others to achieve a social target, his "joining" is both against his will and dependent on his phoniness.
The members of the aggregation are further viciously satirized for their insincerity, their self-servingness, and their kookiness. As all the more as "The Simpsons" celebrates and all the more tenderly appreciates quirkiness of character, quirkiness is presented as "uncool" as soon as it flowers into organized resistance against corporate mainstreaming. What memo, then, becomes foregrounded? The doctrine of the relational self-formerly used as the mode by which corporate media culture and consumer culture are criticized-is itself critiqued. The further sense of the relational self is seen as a threat, in the same system that corporate manipulation and celebrity phoniness are threats. In naked truth, the period suggests that the sense to the issues of corporate and consumer manipulations of identity lies in "just duration ourselves," all the more though "ourselves" are spread across the myriad of social and mediated interactions that we participation voluntarily and involuntarily every interval. The sense that the relational self, understood in a beneficial flash, could serve both to deepen the critique of commercial mediation of identity and to articulate an alternative ethic of responsibility is not on the screen. This retreat into the romantic, individualized self is heightened by the excesses of postmodern irony, which move the ironic trope from critique to detachment to nostalgia for authentic or imagined traditions. As Homer makes his system from his encounter with the corporate soullessness of "By the Numbers Productions" to his encounter with the mindless environmental activism of the celebrity phonies, he learns that all social or political process is equally futile and absurd. This lesson fits with Homer's answer to his "absolute self " and his marital bed, on the other ease it denies viewers any hope-other than cultural regression and increasing privatization of experience-for dealing with the postmodern existence. Taylor (1991), in her glance at of television families of the 1960s and 1970s, found that the central task of these shows was to advice hold together a conservative impression of the nuclear family against whatever challenges and contradictions novel had to offer. In this meaning, it is ironic that "The Simpsons" serves a much the same stop, offering the family as sanctuary against a existence absent mad. "The Simpsons," on the other hand, innovates by recognizing that the challenges posed to virgin culture are less about external political threats or all the more domestic strife than about the threat to solution itself and to a influential field. In this system, it opens all the more critical habitat and thoughtfully charts modern life's postmodern absurdities before shutting down the target and examination over these further issues. Conclusion We began with the controversy: If "The Simpsons" is the reimburse, what's the subject? We argued that "The Simpsons" is not the stop of postmodern culture, on the other artisan only another process of a tidal wave of media that are hyper self-conscious about solution and mould. For in a superior pathway or worse, the series pushes us to an encounter with postmodern judgment. This encounter provides a vocabulary to recognize the descriptive symptoms of postmodernism and to appreciate the deeper social and historical conditions salient to the postmodern dispute. It further allows us to distinguish between, on the one artisan, a postmodernism of despair which focuses on meaninglessness and, on the other artisan, a critical postmodernism which Studies in Media & Counsel Literacy Education, Manual 1, Subject 1 (February 2001), 1-12 # University of Toronto Press. DOI: 10.3138/sim.1.1.002 10 recognizes our compel and responsibility to draw up a course of action of values based on the interdependence of indication and personal identity. This is not to claim we feel that we have the answers to these questions; rather, we demand to levy forward the meaning that these are the questions and issues that media literacy educators should be teaching toward. Drawing on postmodern impression, we examined two key now themes in "The Simpsons": the changing impression of personal identity in the postmodern era, as well as the fruits and futility of a relentlessly ironic worldview. Our reason was to provide some guidelines that media literacy educators could utilize to engage the increasingly pervasive phenomenon of self-conscious media texts that grapple with the blurring dossier between the "absolute" area and the detail of the media area. Rethinking the sense of identity and recognizing the critical and destructive potency of irony are crucial to understanding the compel of a commercial culture that concurrently creates, celebrates, and bemoans the explosion of meaninglessness. Programs such as "The Simpsons" give media literacy educators the opportunity to embark upon that journey.
COLUMBIA ONLINE CITATION: HUMANTIES STYLE Bybee, Carl and Overbeck, Ashley. "Homer Simpson Explains our Postmodern Identity Crisis, Whether we Enjoy It or Not: Media Literacy after "The Simpsons." Studies in Media & Info Literacy Education 1.1 (2001). <http://www.utpjournals.com/simile> (subsume access hour here). COLUMBIA ONLINE CITATION: SCIENTIFIC STYLE Bybee, C. & Overbeck, A. (2001). Homer Simpson explains our postmodern identity crisis, whether we enjoy it or not: Media literacy after "The Simpsons." Studies in Media & Info Literacy Education, 1(1). <http://www.utpjournals.com/simile> (subsume access hour here). BIOGRAPHICAL Memo Carl Bybee is Associate Professor of Indication Studies in the Institute of Journalism and Indication at the University of Oregon-Eugene. Ashley Overbeck is a doctoral student in the same department. Their these days probation focuses on the connection between irony, apathy, and citizenship in children's media. 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