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Homer Simpson Marches on Washington

Homer Simpson Marches on Washington: Dissent through American Popular Culture

Timothy M. Dale
Joseph J. Foy
Foreword by Kate Mulgrew
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    Homer Simpson Marches on Washington
    Book Description:

    The Simpsons questions what is culturally acceptable, showcasing controversial issues like homosexuality, animal rights, the war on terror, and religion. This subtle form of political analysis is effective in changing opinions and attitudes on a large scale. Homer Simpson Marches on Washington explores the transformative power that enables popular culture to influence political agendas, frame the consciousness of audiences, and create profound shifts in values and ideals.

    To investigate the full spectrum of popular culture in a democratic society, editors Timothy M. Dale and Joseph J. Foy gather a top-notch team of scholars who use television shows such as Star Trek, The X-Files, All in the Family, The View, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and The Colbert Report, as well as movies and popular music, to investigate contemporary issues in American popular culture.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-7375-7
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword The Influence of Captain Janeway
    (pp. vii-x)
    Kate Mulgrew

    One Thursday afternoon, the phone rang. I picked it up and an unfamiliar voice said, “Captain Janeway, I just wanted to be the first to welcome you aboard. Shooting starts Monday at the crack of dawn. Get some rest. You’re going to need it.” This voice belonged to the mastermind behind theStar Trekfranchise, Rick Berman, and though we would occasionally lock horns over the next seven years, it was essentially a love affair. He knew how to work, and so did I. At no point during the entire run of the series did either of us admit defeat....

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction. Tuning in to Democratic Dissent: Oppositional Messaging in Popular Culture
    (pp. 1-18)
    Joseph J. Foy

    The Simpsonshas never shied away from politics. In the seventh episode of its twentieth season, entitled “Mypods and Boomsticks,” Bart befriends a young Muslim boy named Bashir whose family has just moved to Springfield from Jordan. Bashir is polite, friendly, and easygoing, but Bart is afraid that his differences will make him a prime target for bullying. Sure enough, when the two run into Dolph, Kearney, and Jimbo, three of Springfield Elementary’s notoriously bad eggs, they immediately try to attack Bashir for being Muslim (and for “being the reason [Kearney] can’t take toothpaste on an airplane”). The politics of...

  6. Part 1. Popular Culture as Public Space

    • 1 The Revolution Is Being Televised: The Case for Popular Culture as Public Sphere
      (pp. 21-36)
      Timothy M. Dale

      The Gil Scott Heron song “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” begins with the lines “You will not be able to stay home, brother. / You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out.” As a call to political action, the song takes on the laziness and corporatism of popular culture as inimical to real political change. The song declares a litany of popular culture and media institutions as irrelevant to “the revolution” and suggests that the revolution will require real activism that is impossible within the confines of popular media, music, television, and film. Written...

    • 2 The Daily Show and the Politics of Truth
      (pp. 37-58)
      Jamie Warner

      “One anchor, five correspondents, zero credibility.” So begins the description ofThe Daily Show with Jon Stewarton the Comedy Central Web site. It wraps up as follows: “Don’t missThe Daily Show with Jon Stewart,a nightly half-hour series unburdened by objectivity, journalistic integrity or even accuracy.” In contrast, many media and political heavyweights, such as Ted Koppel, Tim Russert, and Al Gore, argue exactly the opposite:The Daily Showis more credible, more objective, more accurate, and more truthful than the politicians it satirizes.

      This chapter explores the complicated relationship between truth-telling and the satirical critique ofThe...

    • 3 Mr. Smith Goes to the Movies: Images of Dissent in American Cinema
      (pp. 59-74)
      Beth Wielde Heidelberg and David Schultz

      Terrorists have hijacked a plane. They force everyone to the back, isolating passengers and taking control of the flight. On the ground, government officials are in frenzy, trying to figure out how to resolve the situation. Just when all seems lost, a hero rushes in to save the day. Who is this dashing figure ready at the rescue? The president of the United States. In the post-9/11 world, the terrorist scenario seems all too real, and the president as action hero in Wolfgang Peterson’sAir Force Oneshows a new type of dissent—where the government is presentedas we...

    • 4 The Truth Is Still Out There: The X-Files and 9/11
      (pp. 75-96)
      Paul A. Cantor

      From the beginning it was very difficult to separate the significance of the events of 9/11 from the significance of the media representation of them. The impact of what happened that day was bound up with the fact that it largely took place on live television, with the whole world watching. The terrorists who planned the attack no doubt were counting on media coverage to magnify its impact and thus to achieve their sinister purposes. With the media rushing to cover such a shocking event, their commentary quickly turned into meta-commentary, as they began to discuss not just the event...

  7. Part 2. Popular Culture and Oppositional Narratives

    • 5 Unpacking the House: Images of Heroism against the Regulatory State
      (pp. 99-110)
      Sara R. Jordan and Phillip W. Gray

      Gregory House, M.D., is not the type of doctor most people would want to meet. He is rude, condescending, and curmudgeonly—not the type of man anyone would want for a colleague, either. His general view of humanity is straightforward—“everyone lies”—and his favorite term for others is “moron.” Yet this unattractive central character of the popular television showHouse, M.D.attracts millions of viewers. Whether viewers tune in toHouseweekly, record it via DVR, or purchase the series on DVD, the show appears to have a dedicated viewer population.¹ In this chapter we attempt to ascertain what...

    • 6 “I Learned Prison Is a Bad Place to Be”: 25th Hour and Reimagining Incarceration
      (pp. 111-124)
      Peter Caster

      Midway through Spike Lee’s25th Hour(2002), the story of a man’s final day before beginning a lengthy prison sentence for drug trafficking, main character Monty Brogan (Edward Norton) offers an extended monologue to a bathroom mirror. It is a profanity-laced litany of abuse heaped on every racial, ethnic, and identity group in New York before Brogan concludes that his real anger is directed at himself: “You had it all and you threw it away.” The film tracks the dialogue with extradiagetic images of the “Bensonhurst Italians,” “Korean grocers,” and “uptown brothers” Brogan derides. One line in the rant directed...

    • 7 Riveted to Rosie: O’Donnell’s Queer Politics and Controversial Antics on ABC’s The View
      (pp. 125-140)
      Katherine Lehman

      Rosie O’Donnell made a splash at Sundance in 2006 as the star of the documentaryAll Aboard! Rosie’s Family Cruise.The film features the versatile comedian in a range of roles—from campy stage performer to gracious host to nurturer of her own brood—aboard the inaugural voyage of R Family Vacations, the gay-friendly travel company O’Donnell co-owns with spouse Kelli Carpenter. The same-sex couples captured by the camera seemed more comfortable cuddling babies and swapping wedding vows than sparking political upheaval. O’Donnell, too, chose her battles carefully, speaking about adoption by same-sex couples to a supportive crowd in Key...

    • 8 “Gabbin’ about God”: Religion, Secularity, and Satire on The Simpsons
      (pp. 141-166)
      Matthew Henry

      Religion is undoubtedly a prominent element ofThe Simpsons,and the highly contentious issues related to it are featured in episodes on a regular basis, either centrally or tangentially. Not surprisingly, no topic onThe Simpsonshas garnered more written commentary than religion, and the ensuing discussions have led to some of the most diverse interpretations of the show among fans and scholars alike.¹ This raises some important questions about howThe Simpsonsengages the ongoing tension between religious and secular forces in the United States. DoesThe Simpsonsoperate from a theological or a philosophical position? Does it promote...

    • 9 It Came from Planet Earth: Eco-Horror and the Politics of Postenvironmentalism in The Happening
      (pp. 167-188)
      Joseph J. Foy

      Ecologically based horror films, or “eco-horror,” are fright flicks in which nature turns against humankind due to environmental degradation, pollution, encroachment, nuclear disaster, or a host of other reasons. As a genre, eco-horror attempts to raise mass consciousness about the very real threats that will face humanity if we are not more environmentally cautious. The popularity of ecologically based documentaries such asAn Inconvenient Truth, The 11th Hour,andFlowhave helped spark a cinematic revival of apocalyptic tales of nature turning on humanity that were popular in the 1950s and 1970s.

      Larry Fessenden, producer and director of many independent...

  8. Part 3. Popular Culture and the Dynamics of Dissent and Social Change

    • 10 Raising the Red Flag: Culture, Labor, and the Left, 1880–1920
      (pp. 191-202)
      Jeffrey A. Johnson

      Those on the Left, politically or otherwise, use a variety of cultural media to advance their goals. In the modern world, leftist ideologies are advanced in myriad ways, yet many have disseminated into popular culture. Few can overlook the radicalism inherent in lyrics from the band Rage Against the Machine, the internationally iconic image of Che Guevara posted on walls around the world, or progressive online publishing such as Yet the radicalism and left-wing politics of today, broadly conceived, are not unique in their use of cultural elements, including literature, imagery, and song, to further agendas. Radicals of the...

    • 11 Iraq Is Arabic for Vietnam: The Evolution of Protest Songs in Popular Music from Vietnam to Iraq
      (pp. 203-218)
      Jerry Rodnitzky

      Mark Twain supposedly noted: “History doesn’t repeat itself, but sometimes it rhymes.” In comparing the Vietnam War to the Iraq war of the past five years, George W. Bush is hardly a Lyndon Johnson, and Saddam Hussein isn’t vaguely similar to Ho Chi Minh. However, Vietcong guerrilla tactics are similar to Iraqi insurgent techniques, and both wars deeply entrenched America in a foreign civil war. Indeed, the most appropriate antiwar bumper sticker cementing the two wars might read: “How Many Vietnamese or Iraqis Died in the American Civil War?”¹

      Even if the U.S. government learned nothing from the Vietnam fiasco,...

    • 12 Hip-Hop and Representin’: Power, Voice, and Identity
      (pp. 219-240)
      Tanji Gilliam

      In the introduction toBlack Popular Culture,Gina Dent states the following: “Black Americans in the United States now have unprecedented access to cultural and economic capital…. We must therefore begin to analyze the relative power derived from our position as citizens, however unsatisfied, of these United States.”¹ Here, Dent indirectly acknowledges that both the hip-hop and the film industries have renegotiated the status of blacks in American society. Blacks have entered these industries in increasing numbers as artists and executives, and blacks frequently inform the “subjects” of music and video projects. Furthermore, Dent introduces the notion of “power” and...

    • 13 “Things in This Country Are Gonna Change Pretty Fast”: Dissent, Mobilization, and the Politics of Jericho
      (pp. 241-256)
      Isabel Pinedo

      Five years after the September 11 attacks, a television series imagined a large-scale nuclear strike against the United States. Witnessed from the small Kansas town of Jericho, a mushroom cloud appears on the horizon in the direction of Denver. Like the 1983 telefilmThe Day After,set in Lawrence, Kansas,Jerichois a nuclear narrative that portrays the country devastated by an attack. But unlike the cold war-themedThe Day After,in which the attack emanates from a foreign state,Jerichodepicts a homegrown terrorist attack masterminded by a faction of the U.S. government, intent on a covert coup d’etat.¹...

    • 14 It’s Not Funny ’Cause It’s True: The Mainstream Media’s Response to Media Satire in the Bush Years
      (pp. 257-276)
      Carl Bergetz

      At the start of the new millennium, a phenomenon began troubling members of the mainstream national news media (imprecisely but efficiently shortened here to MSM).¹ They were becoming increasingly defensive about their ratings, image, and standing in the community inside and outside the Upper East Side. A perception existed—mainly among the MSM—that the MSM was under attack.

      Of course, the MSM had been assailed before and lived to report on it. The confrontations have typically come from technological changes, manifested in competing alternative media outlets.² From print to radio to television to cable, the old guard has substantially...

    • 15 Gender, the Final Frontier: Revisiting Star Trek: The Next Generation
      (pp. 277-294)
      Diana M. A. Relke

      Star Trekdeparted this galaxy in 2005 whenEnterprise,the last of the five television series, was canceled after only four seasons due to poor ratings. The sci-fi television audience of the new millennium had moved on. We had become globalized, postmodernized, posthumanized: we now preferred something edgier—something darker, less predictable, less high-minded—and definitely something less humanist. But we were also discovering that humanism—that quintessential white, Western, masculine construction of subjectivity—could not simply be discarded like last season’s unfashionable overcoat. As Neil Badmington notes, “Humanism has happened and continues to happen to ‘us’ (it is the...

  9. List of Contributors
    (pp. 295-298)
  10. Index
    (pp. 299-306)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 307-307)