Homer Simpson Ponders Politics
Popular Culture as Political Theory
Publication Year: 2013
It is often said that the poet Homer "educated" ancient Greece. Joseph J. Foy and Timothy M. Dale have assembled a team of notable scholars who argue, quite persuasively, that Homer Simpson and his ilk are educating America and offering insights into the social order and the human condition. Following Homer Simpson Goes to Washington (winner of the John G. Cawelti Award for Best Textbook or Primer on American and Popular Culture) and Homer Simpson Marches on Washington, this exceptional volume reveals how books like J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter, movies like Avatar and Star Wars, and television shows like The Office and Firefly define Americans' perceptions of society. The authors expand the discussion to explore the ways in which political theories play out in popular culture. Homer Simpson Ponders Politics includes a foreword by fantasy author Margaret Weis (coauthor/creator of the Dragonlance novels and game world) and is divided according to eras and themes in political thought: The first section explores civic virtue, applying the work of Plato and Aristotle to modern media. Part 2 draws on the philosophy of Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, and Smith as a framework for understanding the role of the state. Part 3 explores the work of theorists such as Kant and Marx, and the final section investigates the ways in which movies and newer forms of electronic media either support or challenge the underlying assumptions of the democratic order. The result is an engaging read for undergraduate students as well as anyone interested in popular culture.
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
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In describing what it means to be an author, Gary Paulsen once told me something I always remember: “We are the guy in the tribe who puts on That ancient storyteller was an entertainer. He made the members of his tribe forget that they were shivering with cold or wondering where they might find the next meal. But he was doing more than entertaining. Through ...
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When people told themselves their past with stories, explained their present with stories, foretold their future with stories; the best place by the fire In 1987 Jim Henson, most famous, of course, for his Muppets, created and produced the first installment of The Storyteller. Combining live acting and puppetry, Henson used this award-winning television series to recreate myth ...
Part 1. Classical Insights and Civic Virtue
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1. A Tale of Two Republics
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One doesn’t often hear the names Plato and George Lucas uttered in the same sentence. We could muse, I suppose, that if the former solidified the intellectual importance of the ancient Greeks, the other solidified the cultural importance of modern geeks. But deeper connections exist, if one looks. Consider that both have authored politically charged tomes that have ...
2. Aristotle's Politics and the Virtues of Springfield
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The title sequence for The Simpsons television series has become a cultural icon. White clouds move in a bright blue sky, and the unmistakable yellow lettering emerges from behind the clouds as a chorus sings the name of the family after which the show is named. The scene then moves down from the sky to overlook the town, including the nuclear plant, the city hall, and ...
3. "Keep Your Friends Close but Your Enemies Closer"
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In Mario Puzo’s bestselling novel The Godfather, published in 1969, he told the story of a fictional mafia family in America. The book was famously made into a successful and award-winning film, The Godfather (1972), as well as a sequel-prequel, The Godfather Part II (1974), and a sequel, The Godfather Part III (1990). These movies relate the saga of the Corleone crime family, ...
Part 2. The State, the Individual, and Political Morality
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4. Social Contract
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The major plot of Serenity, the companion movie to Joss Whedon’s TV series Firefly, pits the crew of the spaceship Serenity against their interplanetary government, the Alliance. River Tam (Summer Glau), a member of the crew who begins as a stowaway, was severely damaged while at an Alliance school for “gifted” individuals.1 By the time the movie opens, River’s brokenness ...
5. Dwight Schrute and Servile Ambition
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Much of the brilliance of the first few seasons of NBC’s comedy The Office was derived, quite simply, from pathology. Leading the maladjustment was Regional Manager Michael Scott, whose frequent missteps resulted from a highly insecure and narcissistic personality. This made him capable of every sort of adolescent nuisance and cowardly pandering. Yet without fail, he dis-...
6. Who Watches the Watchmen?
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Watchmen is arguably the most revolutionary graphic novel ever written. It showed a generation of readers that a so-called super-hero comic book could engage a sophisticated adult audience and deal with complex moral and political issues. At the heart of the text is a classic quandary: is it ever morally acceptable to sacrifice the interests of a few for the greater good of ...
Part 3. The Limitations and Possibilities of Political Life
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7. Avatar, Marx, and the Alienation of Labor
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Have you ever had a lousy job? A job that sucked the life out of you, ground you down, made you feel like a cog in the impersonal machinery of paying rent and staying fed? Philosophically speaking, Karl Marx remains the expert on what makes a lousy job lousy. It’s an experience common to everyone, and it drew Marx’s attention in the 1840s as he watched industrialization, ...
8. Nietzchean Narratives of Hero and Herd in Walt Disney/Pixar's The Incredibles
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Bob [to wide-eyed, expectant child]. Well, what are you waiting for?In the penultimate scene of Pixar / Walt Disney’s animated film The In-credibles, ten-year-old superhero Dash Parr is about to run a sprint race in his elementary school’s track meet. As the race begins, his parents buoyantly cheer him on. “Run, Dash, run!!” they yell excitedly—and, glancing up at ...
9. Muggles, Magic, and Misfits
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Welcome to Hogwarts! At this school of witchcraft and wizardry, magical boys and girls will learn to hone their potential in spell-casting, potion-making, divination, and the mystical arts. They will learn how to fly on brooms, play Quidditch, and duel with wands, and they will be taught the proper way to greet a Hippogriff. Students will also be monitored day and ...
10. Feminism, Sexism, and the Small Screen
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This is so weird. It’s like something out of Dickens. Or Melrose Place.Culture critics have argued about the stupidity and dangers of television almost since the advent of the medium. We’ve been warned against spend-ing too much time in front of the “boob tube” or the “idiot box” so many times that we don’t even register the warnings anymore. Some of us read ...
Part 4. The Promises and Problems of Liberal Democracy
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11. From John Wayne to John McCLane
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America is in constant conflict. On one side of the divide rests America’s political foundation—the philosophy of liberalism and the companion governing system of liberal democracy. Liberal democracy cherishes the Enlightenment values of reason, discourse, and compromise and ensures due process, checks and balances, and tolerance for a plurality of viewpoints ...
12. J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, or, There and Back Again
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It is well known that J. R. R. Tolkien’s tales The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings have been immensely popular with democratic audiences, from their publication in the mid-twentieth century to their ongoing adaptation for the big screen. Perhaps not well known, however, is the surprising extent to which these same stories draw from and indeed embody central insights ...
13. "Just Give Them the Internet"
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On June 6, 2010, Khaled Mohamed Said was sitting at a table on the second floor of a cybercafé in Sidi Gaber, a neighborhood in Alexandria, Egypt. Two detectives from the local police station entered the café to arrest Said. After binding his hands behind his back, one of the detectives smashed Said’s face on the edge of a marble tabletop. The officers then dragged his body ...
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The editors are indebted to the kind support of Anne Dean Watkins, Bailey E. Johnson, and all the good people of the University Press of Kentucky. Your support and guidance on this project are enormously appreciated. We could not ask for a better group of people to work with. We would also like to extend a special thank you to Margaret Weis for her willingness to share her ...
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Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 2013