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October 13, 2010

Bart, Banksy, the Cultural Industrial Complex

Fox/Simpsons

Two questions:

1. Why is it that cartoonists, artists, and comedians are offering more insightful commentary on the American condition than cable and network news?

2. Although Banksy’s self-parodying Simpsons opening is targeted at outsourcing U.S. production to Asia, how much is this dark sequence a reflection on the American psyche?

  • Enoch Root

    “1. Why is it that cartoonists, artists, and comedians are offering more insightful commentary on the American condition than cable and network news?”

    Because cable and network news are, in no small part, the perpetrators of the American condition.

    Hey, all you thoughtful, meticulous, craft-oriented, genius news photogs: YOU ARE TOOLS. :-)

    “2. Although Banksy’s self-parodying Simpsons opening is targeted at outsourcing U.S. production to Asia, how much is this dark sequence a reflection on the American psyche?”

    I think you’re misreading it. It’s not simply outsourcing that’s targeted. Consider the idea that a unicorn dies so you can watch your DVD. Do you care? It’s targeted at the American psyche, not Asian animators.

    The American psyche does not really care whether dolphin skulls are used to seal shipping containers. In fact, if Banksy had instead shown real footage of endangered species used to make cartoons, no one would really care.

  • eponynonymckrusty

    ‘now doing funerals’

  • Gerry Desrosiers

    “1. Why is it that cartoonists, artists, and comedians are offering more insightful commentary on the American condition than cable and network news?”

    Hasn’t it always been the case? After all, Boss Tweed didn’t object to what the newspapers said about him, but he hated those cartoons produced by Thomas Nast.

    I don’t think of Jon Stewart as America’s greatest news source — don’t you have to already know quite a bit in order to get his jokes? — but as someone carrying on the tradition of Thomas Nast.

  • http://justbetweenstrangers.blogspot.com/ acm

    I was pretty impressed that the producers used the whole thing — it poked “fun” at them too, as mass producers of their swag not unlike the Disney empire. I agree with those saying it’s more about American psyche, specifically American commodification of experience — the sweat shop workers and dead unicorns are just getting crushed by the unstoppable (and oblivious) tank of consumerism…

    geez, I sort of depressed myself just writing that! thanks, Banksy.

  • Vvoter

    “2. Although Banksy’s self-parodying Simpsons opening is targeted at outsourcing U.S. production to Asia, how much is this dark sequence a reflection on the American psyche?”

    Isn’t all culture a reflection on collective psychology?

  • quincyscott

    I watched this little piece several times and found it very disturbing, very moving. Particularly in combination with the music. I really assumed this was an out and out parody on the internet. After doing a bit of reading on Banksy, I eventually realized this film was actually used in the intro to the show. I find this really surprising. The Simpsons has never shied away from self parody and social commentary, but this has to be the most somber minute of animation ever seen on an American television. A lot of it has to do with the pacing of the piece, the music, the absence of dialogue. Very troubling. I can’t see how the viewer is expected to simply move on from that intro, wipe the slate clean, kick back and enjoy yet another Simpsons episode.

    The reason the news does not deal with this stuff is that the topic presented, outsourcing of labor to foreign sweatshops to make crass and useless products, is an unsolvable dilemma. Nobody is happy about it, or at least anyone with a smidgeon of conscience feels guilty about it. But we are not about to make it go away either, because we are addicted to buying cheap, throwaway pleasure items. News programs only like the kind of problem that has a story arc, an impending solution, an identifiable hero and/or victim. Literally, a story.

    The suspense of a set of trapped miners is perfect. But where in all of the television coverage is there any exploring or questioning about the big picture of mining, worker safety, etc.

    The news and networks do not want to prick the conscience of the viewer. How the Simpsons got by with it, why the show’s producers even thought it would be a good idea for them to do, is something I wonder about. Maybe the producers really just wanted to add a thoughtful moment to the show. Maybe they feel the show has enough of a status that it can do whatever it wants, even if it hurts the bottom line, the parent company, or the mood of this episode’s audience.

    Like a lot of postmodern artists, Banksy wants to leave his viewer with both uncertainty and discomfort. That’s certainly not what anyone expects on The Simpsons, or any other American prime time television show.

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