Teaching Resources

Article review: "'We hardly watch that rude, crude show'": Class and taste in The Simpsons" by Diane F. Alters

posted Jul 5, 2012, 10:29 AM by Denise Du Vernay

Article: "'We hardly watch that rude, crude show'": Class and taste in The Simpsons" by Diane F. Alters in Prime Time Animation: Television animation and American culture (eds. Carole A. Stabile and Mark Harrison, 2003).

Although most of the articles in the collection mention The Simpsons, if only briefly, Alters's contribution is the only fully Simpsonized article. Her piece comes from interviews she did while pursuing a doctorate. The thesis: "Mixed feelings about The Simpsons were frequently voiced: it was one of the most-contested and most-watched shows among the families interviewed. I argue that this ambivalence and anxiety around The Simpsons have a great deal to do with class and taste distinctions, as parents sought to distance themselves from a show they defined as lower class, and from television itself, also seen as lower class. Yet they also undermined such distancing attempts by describing their own or their family's viewing in middle-class terms, in a process of legitimation" (166). The few interviews quoted in depth (one is never quite sure about the sample size or given quantitative data) are fascinating, but problematic in that Alters sees the families attempting to perform classed behaviors. If this is true, we must trust the qualified guesses of the interviewer about observed behavior over the answers given by the interviewees. If it isn't, then all of the data and conclusions are problematized. Still, this article raises interesting questions about the class positions of viewers (although there's a small mistake about class, when it's asserted that Marge and Homer married whilst in high school as evidence of their low class status) and gender roles, as the mothers were the ones monitoring family taste in the observed households.

The Episode Guide

posted Oct 10, 2010, 6:07 PM by Denise Du Vernay   [ updated Nov 19, 2011, 1:14 PM ]

Our episode guides are designed specifically for teachers to assist in finding and choosing the right episode(s) for specific pedagogical goals. Each episode from seasons one to 20 are listed in the book, but here on the website, we're continuing the episode guide for shows that have aired after the book manuscript was delivered to the publisher. 
The notes given include narrative structure and parody, instances of reference and self-reference, and discussion points for the classroom like social issues, censorship notes, and other noteworthy information.  All information consists of the authors’ own observations. This is not an exhaustive list of jokes and allusions; only extended or developed allusions that are strong enough to be teachable are included. For extensive information on allusions and jokes from earlier seasons, see OFF guides or Simpsons World, the DVD commentaries for available seasons, or snpp.com.

We have not included references that exist across almost all episodes. For example, most episodes include use of literary foils and foci on the family, relationships, forgiveness, etc. We will only list such themes when they are essential to the episode.

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