The Simpsons & The Public Sphere

According to Jurgen Habermas, the public sphere is “A domain of our social life where such a thing as public opinion can be formed where citizens deal with matters of general interest without being subject to coercion to express and publicise their views”. Not only is the public sphere a place to debate common concerns, it is place separate from the state, government and the official economy.

The mass media has, and will continue to raise certain issues throughout popular culture in order create subjects for debate in the mediated public sphere. Television shows, in particular ‘The Simpsons’, raise a variety of issues such as religion, racism, stereotypes, sexuality and politics as a way of amusing their audiences, or creating ‘shock value’.

simpsons-comic-con‘The Simpsons’ is an animated sitcom depicting the antics of a dysfunctional family formally known as the Simpsons. The sole purpose of ‘The Simpsons’ is to entertain and amuse its audience. In order to do that, this television series raises numerous issues, but in particular racism. The television series has been running for 24 seasons, which is equivalent to 524 episodes. Within that, there have been numerous episodes which have generated so much controversy due to the utilisation of racial stereotypes, or characters stating racial remarks which have offended certain members of the audience.

One episode in particular, titled ‘Mypods and Boomsticks’ clearly raises issues of racism as Homer becomes suspicious of Bart’s new friend Bashir, who happens to also be Muslim, and invites his family over for dinner. Of course Homer ended up offending this family during the dinner, and therefore decides to visit their home in order to apologise. Instead, Homer over hears the couple talking and believes they are planning a terrorist attack on Springfield Mall, when in fact they weren’t.  On top of that, Homer refers to Allah as ‘Oliver’, and the Koran as ‘the Corona’, which particularly outraged Muslims as it was deemed “the most controversial episode ever”.

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