Friday, August 25, 2006

Why the Simpsons is Philosophical

My dad and I are, whether the result of nature or nurture, very alike in some respects, but - being thirty years apart - very different in others, e.g. taste in music, TV and, well, most matters of taste really! One result was disagreement over whether to watch the new series of the Simpsons on Channel 4 tonight, or some gardening programme (that saw me confined to the dining room's portable TV).

(Incidentally, other than the Edgar Allen Poe Raven one, I'm not much of a fan of Simpsons Hallowe'en specials - particularly show at inappropriate time - but the second episode tonight was good, and hopefully augurs well for the series).

One thing my dad said, however, struck a kind of chord with me. He said I should watch programmes about real people, where I might learn something, rather than that cartoon rubbish (or words to that effect).

It occurs to me there are two types of programme about 'real people': those that deal with exceptional people, which may be interesting but from which we learn only very isolated particulars, and those that deal with ordinary, and consequently uninteresting, people (witness Big Brother).

Whatever my dad watched was, I assume, either concerned only with particulars or boring (or both). Good comedy, however, has to be something you can relate to - e.g. dealing with the ordinary matters of family, relationships or work. This includes the Simpsons. While the people might be yellow and have three fingers, in many ways they are ordinary humans - we see ourselves in them, and can relate to them. Comedy holds a mirror up to reality; we see universals instantiated.

It was for similar reasons that Aristotle said poetry is more philosophical than history - it deals with universals rather than mere particulars. So, I contend, the Simpsons is more philosophical than whatever programme about 'real people' my dad watched.

(By the way, the same is true about sci-fi)


At 10:50 pm, Blogger Milan said...

I agree. Nobody can watch the Amendment Song from The Simpsons and not acknowledge that it can deliver a message with great effectiveness sometimes.


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