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New Column on Labyrinth!
Apr 27th, 2011 by Dr Karma

http://www.matchflick.com/column/2377

You can check out some of the recent articles I’ve written too!

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Happy Simpsons Anniversary!
Apr 19th, 2011 by Dr Karma

Today is one of The Simpsons‘s anniversaries. I say “one of” because while this is not the day the full-length show first aired in 1989, it is the day the family first appeared on The Tracey Ullman Show in 1987.

I was there. I saw it. I was hooked.

I’ve written a lot already about the cultural impact of the show, so for today, I’ll focus on another aspect of the show: its prescience.

Somehow, all of the things I love, Margaret Atwood, Science Fiction, The Simpsons, etc. are great at seeing where our cultural trends are going to go.

The Simpsons has both commented on and anticipated many aspects of American culture. Our current political season is reflected eerily in Season 11’s “Bart to the Future.”

In the episode, Bart sees a vision of his future. He’s a loser, but Lisa is President. The beginning of her administration is plagued by a debt: “As you know, we’ve inherited quite a budget crunch from President Trump.”

At the time, the line was funny–of course we would never be so stupid as to elect the Don. Now, the line evokes a sick feeling in my stomach as candidate Trump illustrates his lack of genius by siding with the birthers. A reality TV star courting the lowest common denominator? And winning? Yes, it could happen.

Lisa has to raise taxes to balance the budget, but doesn’t want to say that that’s what she’s going to do. Milhouse, her advisor, says that if she wants to “out and out lie,” she could call the “painful emergency tax” a “temporary refund adjustment.”

Doublespeak in politics is nothing new, but Jon Stewart was struck by Obama’s doublespeake last week enough to comment on it. Specifically, raising taxes (or, rather, allowing some tax breaks on the super rich to expire [did you know the richest 400 households pay 17% while I pay 30 something %?]) was “spending reductions in the tax code.”

This is why I love The Simpsons; they are us!

Happy 24th!

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The Morning is Not Off to a Good Start
Apr 8th, 2011 by Dr Karma

The day was supposed to be irritating to some degree, already–I was to borrow V’s car, drive to the Sacramento Airport, pick up the boyfriend and the boyfriend’s mother, move her into her new nursing home, and then head back home to do work and to get the boy to make some college calls he doesn’t want to make. Fun, fun, Friday.

Well, it’s several hours later, and I’m not at the airport yet. A few minutes after borrowing the car, I was turning right on B from Russell. A older man and his wife were in the lane beside me–the lane designated to go straight. The man decided that he needed to be in my lane, despite the fact that I was there. I yelled at him and pulled further forward, stopping to yield to a biker who had right of way.

That’s when I got hit from behind.

Not by the man, but by the car that had been behind me–he had decided to move into her car space too. In attempting to not get hit by him, she hit me.

He drove away.

Then, as she was calling her mother and I was calling Vanessa and the police, and the boyfriend called me. He’s still stuck in Denver, can’t get to Sac. Can I pick him up in a few hours in San Fran?

My head hurts for so many reasons now.

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Censoring “The Simpsons”–the Nuclear Version
Apr 1st, 2011 by Dr Karma

I’m sure you’ve seen the news that some countries, like Germany, are refusing to air reruns of The Simpsons that feature problems at Mr. Burns’s nuclear power plant. This is supposed to be a sensitive response to what’s happening in Japan.

The Simpsons people have said that this decision is fine with them. I’m fine with it if they are, but I can’t really see the need for it.

Might someone watching The Simpsons be reminded of the sadness of Japan? Yes. But viewers of The Simpsons know where Homer works already. And The Simpsons isn’t making light of the potential for disaster. In fact, The Simpsons has long been one of the few reminders in popular media about the dangers that this type of power pose, especially when combined with corporate greed. Many of the problems with Mr. Burns’s plant occur because he won’t spend the money to ensure safety (an emergency exit is merely painted on the wall, for example). The company that owns the plant in Japan has been hesistant to use seawater to cool down the plant for one simple reason–it means more money in repair costs afterwards (if I’m remembering correctly, that company is American).

So what are we supposed to do? Wait until this crisis is over, when we’ve all gone back to being complacent about the inherent problems that arise when safety and profit butt heads to see a cartoon satire of nuclear power?

Fine, but I’m still bothered by the censorship for two reasons.

One, the focus is narrowed in a strange way. When I watch The Simpsons, I am likely to see alcoholism, car accidents, and other common traumas. Am I so fragile that I expect the government or television stations should make sure that I don’t have to see these things? After all, in any given day, my life is likely to be ruined by a car accident. The legacy of many people’s alcoholism is ever present in my life–must I be protected from reminders about reality?

Second, if we censor for a certain amount of time, the implication is that there will be a time when we are over the crisis. After 9/11, many stations refused to show “Homer vs. The City of New York” because the twin towers are visible in the episode. The episode wasn’t about terrorism or death, but some felt that the factual depiction of what had been in that space at that time was something people couldn’t/shouldn’t be expected to deal with. It’s ten years later. I still think of 9/11 when I see that episode. I still like that episode.

While the wound isn’t as new and raw, it’s still there.

When the twin towers were referenced in a recent episode of The Simpsons, “Homer the Father,” there probably wasn’t a single viewer who didn’t think about 9/11, who didn’t gasp a little bit at the towers being mentioned (in a moment that reminded us they were gone now), and who didn’t wonder, “too soon?”

If it wasn’t okay to air depictions of the towers ten years ago, it’s not now, which is why I think it’s okay at all times, especially in comedy.

I know that I tend to be over-protective of free speech issues in comedy, but it’s because I know that comedy is what saves us, what keeps us whole, what allows us to get through the bad times. I don’t want the bad times to be what ruins comedy.

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