Understanding Satire with The Simpsons : A qualitative study on providing information and knowledge through animated television

University essay from Karlstads universitet/Avdelningen för medie- och kommunikationsvetenskap; Karlstads universitet/Avdelningen för medie- och kommunikationsvetenskap

Abstract:

Satire is a form of humor used to criticize society and ridicule those who govern through irony, exaggeration and humor. What separates satire from other forms of social and political protest is that it uses humor to change human behavior. With our study, we ask ourselves if satire can be used to spread information and knowledge via animated entertainment shows such as The Simpsons.

 

  • Our main research question is: Can the audiences of The Simpsons understand messages within the show’s entertainment context through its use of satire? To help us answer this we also have secondary inquiries such as: Is the satire within The Simpsons comprehended by its audiences? And, Is animation an appropriate method to engage information at hand?

 

The main purpose of this study is that we are curious if you can more easily become aware of new information and serious matters through the combined use of humor and entertainment. We have chosen The Simpsons to focus on because they were the show that started a new genre of animated satirical comedy on TV. This genre is in today's television society very popular and as a result has created new satirical hit shows as Family Guy and South Park. Moreover we also reasoned that it is possible to make use of an American TV series in a Swedish study, since the world is now very connected, so influences and products move between land borders with relative ease, such as between the U.S.A and Sweden.

 

We have based our theoretical framework around different types of genres that together with satire can help form an idea regarding if The Simpsons uses its perceived satire to possibly spread information and knowledge. As a use of method we have in this study chosen focus group interviews.  The groups are to view a selected episode of The Simpsons, and then discuss aspects of the program. Using these focus groups, we want to distinguish The Simpsons use of satire and if it is effective in spreading information and knowledge.

 

With our research, we concluded that there are different views on the use of animation to spread knowledge and information. One side argues the fact that the animated form is effective since restrictions are few. There are some who claim that animation can result in diluting the impact of satire. Participants in the focus groups clearly saw the episode 's message and theme and many of the satirical references. Ultimately the use of satirical humor to spread knowledge and information can to some degree be claimed to be an effective way to reach out to the audience with messages and opinions.

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