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Planet Simpson: How a Cartoon Masterpiece Documented an Era and Defined a Generation [Paperback]

Chris Turner , Douglas Coupland
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

9 Sep 2004
Astute, funny, literate, politically and culturally aware; in this analysis of The Simpsons, Chris Turner, a provocative new writer, dissects the world's favourite TV show - its genesis, past, characters and influence. Bart, Homer and Marge have entered the lexicon of iconic, global characters. Bart has the highest recognition factor amongst kids in the UK & US, way above that of Harry Potter. The British voted it their favourite TV programme ever. The Archbishop of Canterbury called it 'one of the most subtle pieces of propaganda around in the cause of sense, humility and virtue.' Yet The Simpsons is thoroughly subversive and irreverent. Bringing the savvy insight to The Simpsons that has been brought to publishing on global politics, the internet and the fast-food industry, Chris Turner looks at how The Simpsons is created and the unique two-way relationship of inspiration and influence it has with the real world. From Marge and moral values to Lisa and the environment, from Homer and consumerism to Citizen Burns and corporate villainy - this is the first book to be written that is as intelligent, subversive, wide-ranging and funny as the show itself.

Product details

  • Paperback: 471 pages
  • Publisher: Ebury Press; 1st Ebury Press Edition edition (9 Sep 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0091897564
  • ISBN-13: 978-0091897567
  • Product Dimensions: 22.8 x 15.4 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,803,976 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


This is a terrifically energetic book which, like its many layered subject, will reward repeat consumption -- Guardian Guide

Book Description

An intelligent, highly readable, hugely funny dissection of the world's most watched TV programme - The Simpsons --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Best. Cartoon-related book. Ever. 22 Mar 2007
By Mr. Tristan Martin VINE VOICE
In writing Planet Simpson, author Chris Turner risked turning himself into The Simpsons' anal Comic Book Guy - with his clipped nasal tones - investing far too much of his time and energy into what is simply a pretty crude cartoon: "Best. Cartoon. Ever." However, what makes The Simpsons different to, say, The Flintstones, it's prehistoric ancestor, is that The Simpsons is (A) hilarious and (B) an acutely observed portrait of a struggling, conflicted and yet in its own way, harmonious, nuclear family, deeply embedded in small town America.

Turner divides his analysis into sections - some look at the archetypal characters, such as (my personal favourite), captain of industry Charles Montgomery Burns and his bootlick, Smithers; the look at Burns will feature his cinematic precedents, such as Citizen Kane and It's a Wonderful Life; then the book might cast its gaze over what Monty might have to say about American-style capitalism ("Get beaten by the Japanese?! What, those sandal-wearing goldfish tenders? Pah!"). Other characters considered in detail include the main Simpson family of course. Naturally, the best section is on Homer, the most irritating is on Lisa.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Tries hard, occasionally trying 16 Oct 2005
This is a very long book - probably too long - that lauds The Simpsons as the greatest TV show we have. The author is sometimes close to labouring this point, especially early on. Indeed, in the whole book there is only one criticism of something in the show. Much of what he writes is interesting stuff, but my complaints would be as follows: it is occasionally self-indulgent; it occasionally goes off the point (this is particularly true in his chapter on the internet, which turns into a commentary on the web's explosion in the 1990s and is a slog to read through); a leftish bias is evident in many places; some of the repeatings of what happens in the show do not translate too well. But there's some decent stuff here, and you do come away from it with more admiration than ever for the makers of the show. If the book had been a little thinner it could have picked up similar plaudits.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Media Studies Thesis: 2:2 17 April 2006
Turner's premise is that 'The Simpsons' has become the main vehicle for countercultural discourse, replacing rock music, independent cinema and political philosophy. It's an interesting idea, I guess, but one which he signally fails to put across well, rambling down various blind alleys and quoting bits of the shows repeatedly and at length: it's like being collared by an enthusiastic drunk in the pub. Turner also likes Nirvana and Radiohead as well as 'The Simpsons' and seems to reason that as he likes them they must therefore all have something in common, and spends many pages tortuously trying to link lyrics from 'Kid A' to the activities of Professor Frink. Overall, the book reads like a (very long) Media Studies thesis written by someone who's not quite as smart as they think they are. It's interesting that the publishers didnt edit this down to something more readable, as there are some worthwhile ideas tucked away.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read :) 18 Aug 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Definite recommendation to anyone who loved and indeed grew up on 'The Simpsons' ...One word of warning to any prospective reader, you need to have a good vocabulary to follow and keep up with the author. This of course will be a plus to many readers.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 2.9 out of 5 stars  54 reviews
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very solid read 3 April 2006
By Pops Freshenmeyer - Published on
99% of the reviewers missed the point of the book. A book that promises a 'sprawling, multidimensional critical look' at "The Simpsons" as seen through the lens of pop culture analysis--what did they expect to read about? Most of them complain about the book's length and criticize the author's penchant for branching off into other pop culture topics. However, these two main complaints are both the central points of the book, and their arguments seem to be very defitions of "sprawling and multidemensional". I enjoyed this book very much, and liked the length of the it, as it meant the author did go in-depth in his analyses. While I did not necessarily agree with all of his points, he did present them very well and it is very obvious the man knows his "Simpsons." Furthermore, I did find many, but not all, of his "tangents" to be related and very applicable to the points he was trying to make using aspects of The Simpsons. As a long-time fan, I've always said that there is very little in life that "The Simpsons" doesn't relate to, so I really enjoyed this book. The reason I didn't give it a perfect is b/c I did find parts to be a bit dry for me, but that's the extent of my dislikes. My advice is this: if you want a more lighthearted read on "The Simpsons," buy one of the many other books about them--BUT if you want a much more in-depth and well-written book delivering what it promises, this is it.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars smells like otto's jacket 15 Feb 2006
By Ryan M. Moore - Published on
This book isn't a masterpiece, but it deserves better reviews. If you're looking for something more fun in the vein of Simpsons merchandise or don't like to have your pleasures intellectualized, then stay way. But if you're a Simpsons fan and you've always thought it was postmodern but you were absent on the day they taught Jameson and Baudrillard in seminar and so you can't explain why . . . then this book is for you! Sure, the chapters are way too long and the prose reads like it was written by comic book store guy, but it's got its insights and it makes you laugh. The chapters are organized by character so you get a sense of how each represents a little slice of Americana--Homer the working-class oaf, Marge the desparate housewife, Bart the punk rock nihilist skateboarder, Lisa the earnest liberal do-gooder, Burns the wretched capitalist pig. I really like chapter 10, about the show's endless spiral of self-referentiality and media parody. The quiz on p.411 asking if you can guess which was a fake movie with Troy McClure or a real movie with one of the Baldwin brothers is almost worth the price of the book itself.
19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Too indulgent for its own good 2 Aug 2005
By David B. Minter - Published on
Ultimately, Planet Simpson tries to be an entirely different beast, but, fails. It tried to be a cultural analysis of the TV series and its impact on society, particularly American society. However, in the end, it indulges in its author's love for the series too much.

The narrative structure is not coherent enough to sustain interest in the book. Turner too often than not tries to start a dialogue on a particular point of fact. That fact being how, in whatever way, that point backs up his belief that the Simpsons in the most culturally important element of the late 20th century. Unfortunately, he never backs up the statements he starts to make. He many times starts off with a good topic, but, diverts off. Punctuated with his own words saying he's about to state an example of what he means, he veers off his topics entirely. The text is reduced to mere catalogues of episodes, moments, details, and the like. He completely forgets the vast majority of his main points and never returns to them.

Because of this somewhat rambling style, the chapter structure just does not fit it. Each seems way too long and bloated for its own good, because nothing is ever established in each section. Just collections of ideas, peppered, of course, with numerous story descriptions and notes.

This might have worked far better as an episode guide, with Turner taking asides to express his commentary. His love for this show and extent of knowledge on it is firmly established within the book. In an attempt to culturally analyze the series, though, he has failed to make a point more often than he succeeds.
54 of 73 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Longest. Post. Ever. 29 Dec 2004
By Stephen Holland - Published on
Have you ever been to a party and been cornered by someone who wants to discuss his favourite book (or cartoon, or CD, or political theory, or celebrity) in detail? Chris Turner's Planet Simpson reminded me of the many times that I have had to endure a bore talking with passion about his views on such fascinating topics as Perl vs C++. We have all had these experiences, but most of use would prefer to avoid reading a book that treats the reader this way.

Planet Simpson is a long, rambling discourse about why the author likes The Simpsons, and why the author thinks that The Simpsons defined North American pop culture during the 1990s. Unfortunately the book contains little more than a rehash of the jokes that the author found funny, and repeated comments about how

The Simpsons deconstruct pop culture. The book offered no real insight into why The Simpsons was popular, why The Simpsons nailed such a wide variety of topics over its ongoing 14-year run, or why The Simpsons started to decline. The author

appears to have made no effort to interview people involved with the show; does not discuss, or even acknowledge, other works about The Simpsons; and largely misses the connections between this tv series and other developments in pop culture over the past 14 years.

In short, this book was dull.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Essay on Gen X, WTO, and other flashbacks from the 90's 13 Nov 2006
By EH - Published on
Turner's book relates a collection of his opinions and personal anecdotes regarding 90's culture/counterculture, and the pivotal role (he argues) the Simpsons played in all of this. While the premise was thought-provoking enough to keep me reading out of curiosity, the book falls short in several ways.

First, you probably won't learn much new about The Simpsons!

Secondly, this book is long and dense; Turner's writing style is not just erudite, but overly sophisticated in a way you'd expect to see from a college student who is really, really, trying to earn that A++ grade. His style often slides back and forth from "academic" to "hipster". You find yourself marveling at his vocabularly... That is, until the umpteenth reference to "American hegemony"... Which brings us to the second problem...

Political bias intrudes all too often. While I'm not at all offended by his taking a liberal perspective on the Simpsons, Turner's unrelenting focus on The Simpsons' supposed fight against "American hegemony" gets old and starts to look downright immature. More importantly, he seems to miss the point -- The Simpsons satire *everybody*, right? The Simpsons writers have always skewered aging hippies and disaffected youth (liberal targets) right along with the "easy" targets such as corporate stooges and lazy Americans.

Turner's impassioned analysis often gets derailed by his own inability to take a break from his own pet concepts. Pages that may have been devoted to something like what The Simpsons says about childhood in America (much could be mined from the whole world of Ralphie, Nelson, Milhouse and others), are instead given to rambling tangents about 90's zeitgeist and such things as the raves and concerts the author attended. In this way (as other reviewers have said here) the book is too often about *Chris Turner*, and not often enough about *The Simpsons*.

Some parts are actually very funny... But it should be noted that these funny parts tend to be in the footnotes, which re-tell in detail various antics from Simpsons episodes that perhaps you haven't seen for awhile... As other reviewers have rightly pointed out, you may as well just put your money toward the DVDs and enjoy it firsthand!

This hefty book is clearly a labor of love. Overall, it's a mildly interesting, sometimes amusing, and often annoying essay. While it's *long* enough to be a good academic treatise on The Simpsons and Society, a disappointing number of pages are consumed by the author's birdwalking socio-political rants and stories.
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