RE: virus: Altruism, Empathy, the Superorganism, and the Priso

Mark Hornberger (
Tue, 29 Apr 1997 16:54:02 -0500

At 10:16 AM 4/29/97 EDT, you wrote:
>Richard wrote:
>>>I saw it a few times. A stupid, bumbling father, good-intentioned but
>>>vacuous mother, giftedly bright although immature daughter,
>>>torrentially stupid and ill-mannered son still more cunning than the
>>>father; this is a show written for adolescents, by writers still stuck
>>>in adolescence. I have passed adolescence, I suppose.<<[JW]
>>What if you were to take the position that the growth that would allow
>>you to appreciate The Simpsons is ahead of you, not behind you?<
>As an intellectual exercise, I suppose it is a possibility. "Question
>authority" is a valid meme; "Then listen to the answers and make up your
>own mind" is a useful extension.
>Growth that would allow me to appreciate the Simpsons would involve, I
>suppose, something like the following: "There exists a subset of society
>which is composed of individual families like the Simpsons. The children
>are smarter and more cunning than the adults, and should actually be
>running things. In some ways, they are. This leads to greater fulfillment
>for those families as a whole, and the process of watching them cope with
>external and internal realities is amusing."
>At this point, my internal memes rebel against the TV authority
>presenting this scenario as follows: "My children are both fairly bright,
>and about the ages of the Simpson children as shown (mine are 6 and 9).
>They cannot provide usefully for themselves for an entire day without
>frequent and direct intervention by my wife and myself. They are
>incapable of making sound rational judgements without their emotions
>getting involved and usually winning, eating tomorrow's lunch money in
>the form of today's doughnuts if given the chance. The analogy between
>Simpson children and the real world in my household breaks down
>immediately, and the existence of a real Simpsons family would be a
>nightmare of juvenile delinquency, irresponsible thrill-seeking and
>impending peril for all those who live near them."
>I tried, Richard; perhaps poorly, but I tried. Can you show me where I
You didn't 'fail,' though you have sold the show a little short. That the
kids are smarter than the grownups is far from being the entirety of the
joke... almost everything in any given episode is a parody of something in
our society, something that we probably take too seriously anyway.

One of my favorite moments is when Grandpa was bitching at Homer, saying
"You young people can't take care of yourselves, always expecting someone
to give you everything for free..." then he turns and walks directly into a
Social Security office, and we hear him say "I'm old! Gimme gimme gimme!"
Well, it loses somthing in the translation, but at the moment it was
priceless, not only as a good joke but as a perfect satire of how a
substantial section of our elderly think. No one is safe - everyone gets
their noses tweaked once in a while.

Granted, the Simpsons may not be your thing (Melrose Place and the like
certainly isn't mine) but it is still excellent satire.