Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Simpsons Movie

The Simpsons Movie was worth the wait.

While not an unqualified success, the show's shift to the big screen offered much to delight the dedicated fan of the show, particularly those who have stayed with The Simpsons throughout their post "Golden Age" years (roughly, since season ten). So let's just get that aspect of the post out of the way. If you love the show, you'll leave the movie with a sense of satisfaction and appreciation for so much that Matt Groening and his crew got right. You can overlook a few missteps and even some comedy clinkers and recognize that the movie takes its fans seriously, even as it offers an accessible introduction to the Simpsons universe to those who'd never before seen the show. Beyond that introduction, this post doesn't seek to review The Simpsons Movie. Instead, I'd like to chat about a couple of ideas that emerged from one viewing, notions that might make their way into a future essay about the flick.

Warnings: The notes that follow contain both plot points and academic naval-gazing that may ruin your enjoyment of the movie.

Initially I dug how the movie reaffirmed the omnitopian character of Springfield. Locating the city at paradoxical convergence of four distant states -- Ohio, Nevada, Maine, and Kentucky -- illustrated the practice of conflation, which often blurs distinct locales into a structural and/or perceptual continuum. I also thought the idea of placing Springfield under a dome illustrated the enclavic principle omnitopia: the sense that one is protected within freely chosen confines whose edges are more easily recognized from outside than from within. And while the Environmental Protection Agency's imposition of the protective dome upon Springfield, contrary to the will of its inhabitants, was carcerial rather than omnitopian, that strange move nonetheless suggested parallel perceptions of imprisonment and freedom that arise within this environment.

Along with some reflections on omnitopia, I was also intrigued by the movie's identification of environmentalism with ethnic "others": Lisa's crush on an Irish boy who shares her earth-friendly activism and the Inuit woman whose mysticism served as an easily recognized sign of nature rendered exotic by modern city-dwellers. Homer offers vivid contrast to this "otherness," particularly with his illegal dumping of pig waste into a lake, which begins the movie's environmental crisis. Encountering the inuit woman, Homer achieves some degree of awareness of his connection to other living things. While that epiphany was most closely directed to his need to break through Springfield's enclosure and rescue its inhabitants, Homer can only accept the message after being torn apart by trees. His "reintegration" suggests one of the film's messages, that Earth's woes pose an existential threat to us all, and that environmentalism ("others") must become a "selfish" concern.

The Simpsons Movie certainly merits repeat viewing and conversation among devotees. Along with closer examination of its themes, I will search for visual easter eggs, a glimpse of Gil (who sadly did not have a speaking part), details of Springfield not seen in the show, and references to previous episodes. I'm certain that the film will play wonderfully on DVD, a medium much appreciated for its ability to stop and analyze individual frames in vivid detail. And while "sequel" was most definitely not Maggie's "first word," I agree with her: a second Simpsons movie would be swell.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That was terrifying. Intelligence and The Simpsons have should not be put into proximity with one another.