Planet Simpson by Chris Turner

Planet Simpson by 

Chris Turner

Reviewed by L.D.Y.

Trade, 466 pages, 2004

Rating: 9/10

Reason for Reading: The Simpsons? Best. Show. Ever.

Synopsis: Simpson addicts unite: Turner looks at how a seemingly simple cartoon

has impacted so much on our society – how it stays relevent by reflecting our flaws and

triumphs back at us to mock us, make us laugh, and even to prod us into change. Everything

from characters to plots to mass merchandising gets analyzed in relation to the our modern

lifestyles and priorities.

Why you should read this book: If you’ve seen all or most of the 300+ episodes of

The Simpsons (most likely repeatedly), you probably already have an idea of just how

much ground the show covers, from religion to poet laureates to politics to the sheer idiocy

of both Homer and seemingly ever-growing segments of the population. Turner attempts to wade

through it all, and does a great job organizing copious amounts of information into readable

and thouroughly enjoyable segments – no small task in itself – that demonstrate how The

Simpsons is one of the few sources today that successfully charts our ever-changing society. While Turner is serious about proving the impressive relevancy of the

show, he rarely loses his sense of humour about it, making it fun to read about topics like

religion and environmentalism without feeling preached to or defensive. If you’re worried

that reading an in-depth book about a tv show will have a ruinous effect on future

viewings, don’t worry. It actually adds some refreshing new viewpoints and ideas into the

endless re-runs, giving Simpsons fans yet another layer to look for in a ‘mere’


Why you should avoid this book: Sometimes, Planet Simspon feels too much

like a string of episode summaries included only to quote a good zinger one of the characters whips off – riding on the backs of the great writers of the show, in other words. It’s a

drawback to being a massive fan of the show, as there’s just too much quote-worthy material

to be able to resist slipping in favourite moments even when it’s not furthering his point.

Planet Simpson is a bit much for the occasional viewer – it’s aimed at the people who

have spent time debating what state Springfield is in and who relish being able to sneak a Ralph

quote into a conversation with a friend.

Opening paragraph:

On Thursday, January 21, 1993, around 8:20 P.M. (Eastern Standard Time), I was

standing on the edge of a dance floor at the campus pub called Alfie’s with a glass of cheap

draft beer in my hand. The dance floor before me was packed with people, all of them waiting

– as was I – for the next mind-blowing riff from the in-house entertainment.
There was no

band up on the stage at Alfie’s on this night, though, and no dancers gyrating sweatily out

on the dance floor, either. Instead, all the pub’s chairs and tables were jumbled into a

kind of auditorium arrangement, covering the stage and half of the dance floor and every

other inch of available space.

Fabulous quotes:

The other arguement implicit in Homer’s decision to return to stupidity is more

subtle but ultimately far more damning. The key detail here is this: Homer’s choice is

portrayed as perfectly rational. Obvious, even. Why, after all, would anyone choose a

lifetime of disappointment and inner turmoil when successful, contented bliss is only a

brain hemorrhage away? The America of Episode BABF22 not only encourages and rewards

stupidity, it treats it as the preferable mental state. There is no progressive, enlightened

society just around the corner in which probing intelligence will be the desired norm.

Homer is the desired norm. He is the Everyman. The hero. Agree with Lisa’s social

critiques all you want, but admit it: Homer is the one you love.

There’s certainly a case to be made for The Simpsons as Trojan horse –

or, to skip to another metaphor, as a rabid dog let loose in the house of its corporate

owners. It has, after all, gnawed relentlessly on every hand that ever fed it, seeming often

to dare its masters to cast it out or put it down. Its attacks on the Fox Network number in

the dozens: everything from digs at the overall quality of the network’s programming to

suggestions that the network’s executives are vicious criminals. The Fox-sucks gags are

often quick and easy – as when the Simpson family is shown watching parodic Fox fare like

World’s Funniest Tornadoes and When Buildings Collapse. On other occasions,

though, there have been more elaborate and audacious assaults. In Episode 3G01 (‘The

Springfield Files’), for example, Homer encounters an alien in the Springfield woods and

drags Bart along to try to document it. ‘This Friday,’ he tells his son, ‘we’re going back

to the woods, and we’re going to find that alien!’ ‘What if we don’t?’ asks Bart. His dad

responds, ‘We’ll fake it and sell it to the Fox Network.’ Bart starts to giggle. ‘They’ll

buy anything.’

Also recommended: The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde; Running With

Scissors by Augusten Burroughs; Stupid White Men by Michael Moore.

Also by this author: Planet Simpson is Turner’s first book.

Author’s website:

Fun tidbit: Check out for an exerpt of the

magazine article that inspired Turner’s book.

Would I read more by this author? It would depend on the subject. Turner has a

good grip on describing our society, but it was my love of The Simpsons that inspired

me to seek out the book, so I’d have to have a similar appreciation for the next topic he


&#169 Lisa Yanaky 2003-2005

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