D'oh! University offers 'Simpsons' studies
December 16, 2001
Not your average tutorial in Homer ...
Readings for a philosophy class at Siena Heights University will include "The Simpsons and Philosophy : The D'oh! of Homer."
It won't be taught by the Simpsons' evangelical neighbor, Ned Flanders, but a philosophy class being added to Siena Heights University's curriculum will be based on the popular animated TV series.
This winter, the university is offering a two-credit class on how religion and philosophy are part of popular culture, including "The Simpsons."
Readings will include "The Simpsons and Philosophy : The D'oh! of Homer" by William Irwin, and "The Gospel According to The Simpsons : The Spiritual Life of the Most Animated Family."
"Animated Philosophy and Religion," taught by Kimberly Blessing and Anthony Sciglitano, is already proving popular with students.
"I think, once again, I will learn a lot and it will be very funny too," said Biology major Lacy Wilmot, who took Blessing's "Practical Wisdom" class in the fall. That class also used pop culture to get students interested in philosophy.
For 12 seasons, "The Simpsons" has mined religious subjects for laughs. The staple of the Fox network has sometimes been called sacrilegious -- rather than satirical -- for its jabs at clergy and the faithful.
In "The Gospel According to The Simpsons," author Mark I. Pinsky notes that the characters regularly pray, attend worship and discuss humanity's inescapable religious questions.
For example, Homer regularly displays his religious ignorance (he calls God "omnivorous" instead of "omnipresent"), snoozes in church and prays largely in desperation. "God, if you really are God, you'll get me tickets to that game. Why do you mock me O Lord?" he moans in one show.
Next-door neighbor Flanders has his boys play Bible Bombardment board games and vacations at "America's Most Judgmental Religious Theme Park." His piety irritates people, but he's also one of the kindest characters in the series.
"When 'The Simpsons' book came along, I though it would offer another opportunity to draw people into philosophy," Blessing said.
Matt Groening, James L. Brooks and Sam Simon altered television when they brought animation back to primetime with this immortal nuclear family. In celebration of its 10th anniversary, the longest-running animated series in history and the longest-running comedy currently on primetime presents a first-time ever event as actual cast members take center stage for a live performance of "The Simpsons." The show first appeared in 1987 as a series of 30-second spots produced for the Emmy Award-winning variety series "The Tracey Ullman Show." It premiered on Fox as a half-hour comedy on January 14, 1990. Revered by fans and critics to be the most hilarious and lifelike portrait of the "average American family," "The Simpsons" has been honored with 15 Emmy Awards, 12 Annie Awards, three Genesis Awards, seven International Monitor Awards, four Environmental Media Awards and one Peabody Award, along with numerous other prestigious nods. On January 14, 2000, "The Simpsons" will receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, kicking off "The Simpsons Global Fan Fest," which culminates in October 2000.
The cast of "The Simpsons" is a writer's dream. Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Harry Shearer and Hank Azaria, along with talented supporting actors Tress MacNeille, Marcia Wallace and Pamela Hayden bring the citizens of Springfield to life. With more than 230 episodes produced thus far, "The Simpsons" has also featured an amazing list of guest stars, including Johnny Carson, Elizabeth Taylor, Sting, Alec Baldwin, Kim Basinger, Aerosmith, Steve Martin, U2, Ron Howard, Paul and Linda McCartney, Mark McGwire, Dr. Steven Hawking and Mel Gibson. Scheduled to attend the event are the series' creator, Matt Groening and executive producers, James L. Brooks and Mike Scull.
Simpsons' creator and executive producer, Groening named the characters after his own family-with the exception of Bart, an anagram for Brat. He is also creator and executive producer of the Fox-TV animated series "Futurama," currently in its second season, creator of the popular comic strip "Life in Hell" and best-selling author of "Work Is Hell", "Love Is Hell", "Childhood Is Hell", "School Is Hell" and "The Big Book of Hell".
As "The Simpsons'" executive producer, Brooks is a three-time Academy Award and 15-time Emmy Award winner. His credits include "Taxi," "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "The Tracey Ullman Show." Feature films include "Terms of Endearment," "Broadcast News," "War of the Roses," "Big," "Jerry Maguire" and "As Good As It Gets."
Emmy Award-winning writer Mike Scully joined "The Simpsons" as producer in 1993. In 1999 he became the series' executive producer and showrunner.
The voice of Homer and many others on "The Simpsons" won Castellaneta Emmy Awards in 1992 and 1993. His voiceover talent gives life to "Genie" in the successful television series "Aladdin." Film appearances include "My Giant," "Forget Paris," "Say Anything," "Nothing in Common" and "War of the Roses." He is an alumnus of Second City.
An Emmy Award winner for his voice work for several key characters on "The Simpsons," Hank Azaria has appeared in Univ ersal's "Mystery Men," "Cradle Will Rock," written and directed by Tim Robbins, "Mystery Alaska," a comedy by David E. Kelley, and "The Birdcage," as the scene-stealing houseboy. Azaria also starred with Jack Lemmon in the ABC movie "Tuesdays with Morrie."
Harry Shearer, who gained national recognition as one of the creators and stars of "This Is Spinal Tap," is best known as the voice of Mr. Burns, Smithers, Kent Brockman and Ned Flanders among others. He has appeared in "The Fisher King," "The Truman Show," "Godzilla," "Dick" and "EdTV." His nationally syndicated radio show, "Le Show", continues to be a critical favorite.
Besides Bart Simpson, Emmy Award winner Nancy Cartwright has voiced hundreds of characters in such favorites as "Richie Rich," "Pound Puppies," "Pinky & the Brain" and the soon-to-be-released "God, the Devil and Bob." Her on-camera appearances include "Fame," "Empty Nest," "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," "Twilight Zone" and Tri-Star's "Godzilla."
Pamela Hayden is the voice of Milhouse and star of the independent feature "Bring Me Your Love." Her stage appearances include "Amos & Ann," for which she received an L.A. Weekly Drama Award, "Danny and the Deep Blue Sea" and her autobiographical solo dramedy "Send Chocolate and Marlboros."
In addition to "The Simpsons", Agnes Skinner, Dolph and many other characters, Tress provides voices for "Futurama," "Rugrats," "Dilbert" and "Hey, Arnold." A longtime member of The Groundlings improv troupe, she is perhaps best known for her performances as Babs Bunny in "Tiny Toon Adventures" and Dot in "Animaniacs."
The voice of Lisa Simpson, Emmy Award winner Yeardley Smith began her career on Broadway in Tom Stoppard's "The Real Thing." She currently plays "Marlene," Greg's crabby secretary, on "Dharma and Greg." Other appearances include "Sports Night," "Nash Bridges," "Murphy Brown" and feature films "As Good As It Gets," "City Slickers," "Toys" and "Maximum Overdrive."