Sunday, April 18, 2010

Laughter & caricature

This weeks reading got me thinking about a discussion we had in class regarding whether or not The Simpsons was a subversive cartoon. The Simpsons, like many caricatures we have studied, uses the application of certain stereotypes, in order to create its identifiable characters. No matter how bazaar some of their struggles may be, in the end, we are able to relate some aspect of the cartoon to every day life, whether it be a representation of someone we know or of our own personal traits. The author of "Disparities and Deformations: Our Grotesque," discusses the way "caricature is an exaggeration of ugly or ridiculous attributes unique to one person or typical of groups." It is this exaggeration that makes the Simpsons such a lovable cartoon, and evokes laughter amongst it's audience. It is also this exaggeration that brings about conflicting meanings, and the possibility of the Simpsons to be seen as subversive. The exaggerated "behavior or demeanors" of the Simpsons characters often brings its viewers a feeling of superiority. Is it this greater sense of self that brings us laughter?
The reading discusses the way in which, "Laughter is an expression of a double or contradictory feeling." We are often torn between laughing "in unison with the object of our amusement," and laughing at it. Although we would like to think that our laughter is genuine, it is often followed by this feeling of superiority; while we may laugh along with Homer and his family as he continuously fails to do anything productive or helpful, inside we are relieved to see it happening to someone other then ourselves. Laughter can also take on the form of suppressing an uncomfortable reality. Many exaggerations of stereotypes or conflicts within the Simpsons could be seen as degrading our cultures morals. In some cases, viewers could be faced with the conflict of whether or not they should really be laughing at the joke presented; in this case, laughter could be a result of the viewer feeling uncomfortable, or uneasy. Is it the ability of laughter to take on different forms, that makes the Simpsons so successful? Is it the application of humor and laughter that allows viewers and critics to overlook the possibility of subversiveness in the cartoon?

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