Homer Simpson Goes to Washington: American Politics through Popular Culture

Homer Simpson Goes to Washington: American Politics through Popular Culture

Homer Simpson Goes to Washington: American Politics through Popular Culture

Homer Simpson Goes to Washington: American Politics through Popular Culture

Synopsis

Americans are turning to popular culture to make sense of the American political system, a trend that explains the success of television shows such asThe Simpsons,The West Wing,The Daily Show, andChapelle's Showand films such asElection,Bulworth, andWag the Dog. InHomer Simpson Goes to Washington: American Politics through Popular Culture, Joseph J. Foy has assembled a multidisciplinary team of scholars with backgrounds in political science, philosophy, law, cultural studies, and music. The essays tackle common assumptions about government and explain fundamental concepts such as civil rights, democracy, and ethics.Homer Simpson Goes to Washingtonwill appeal to students of American politics and to readers with an interest in current events or popular culture.

Excerpt

Let’s not begin by debating the relevance of various popular culture materials to our understanding of theory and practices in the supposedly democratic arena of American politics. Let’s also refuse to dicker over the merits of “high culture” (enduring classics in art, architecture, literature, poetry, and music in both Western and non-Western traditions) versus “low culture” (the entertainment mediums of the masses, both past and present). Let’s not become proverbial dogs chasing our own tails with “logic” such as: Shakespeare and opera were entertainment vehicles for the common folks until they became, in more modern times, the cultural preserves of elitist snobs. We need not follow these pathways. the authors of this book’s essays present thorough disquisitions about the seemingly endless debates, dickering, and tail chasings among academics and other self-proclaimed cultural gurus over such issues.

Instead, let’s agree, as an even cursory review of the nation’s past reveals, that in the American experience at least, political practices, institution building, and reform campaigns have stood at the core of, have been shaped by, and in turn have reshaped our popular cultural expressions. Let’s concur that, more often than not, the mediums of popular culture at given moments in the past have both reflected current political practices and redirected those practices for present and following generations.

No less an intellectual gadfly than Ralph Waldo Emerson once landed on the assertion that “the education of the general mind never stops….What the tender poetic youth dreams, and prays, and paints today…shall presently be the resolutions of public bodies; then shall be carried as grievance and bill of rights through conflict and war, and then shall be triumphant law and establishment for a hundred years, until it gives place in turn to new prayers and pictures.” Emerson concluded that “the history of the State sketches in coarse outline the progress of thought, and follows at a distance the delicacy of culture and of aspiration.” Although Emerson always was ready to pontificate on any subject and therefore uttered more than his rightful share of nonsense, this observation strikes me as a particularly apt analysis of the inevitable interplay between popular culture and politics . . .

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