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Chapter 23

SOCI 1F90 Chapter 23: February 8th-Seminar


Department
Sociology
Course Code
SOCI 1F90
Professor
Michelle Webber
Chapter
23

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February 8th, 2016
Chapter 23: “Old People Are Useless”: Representations of Aging on The Simpsons
Cultural stereotypes abound that portray elderly people as senile, feeble, frail, financially
distressed, lonely, non-productive members of society or as the site of some other social
problem
The exclusion of what is seen as a realistic portrayal of aging can leave many of our
elders feeling that their lives and their wealth of lived experience are not accurately
depicted in movies, television, print, music and advertising
The argument that media images of aging are evolving into a more positive look at older
adults is beginning to emerge, together with the notion that these positive images of the
elderly are directly tied to consumer culture and product consumption
Stereotypes are generally negative, feeding off of small truths and exploiting irrational
fears
While he was arguing that this was a stereotype of older adults as infirm and constantly
in need of health care, it could also be argued that the irony in this scene helps to
demonstrate the truly ridiculous nature of the images employed
Frederic Jameson’s work is central to most investigations of postmodern aesthetics
He sees late capitalism as a multinational era, in which we operate on a global scale, as
opposed to what others commonly call a post-industrial age
Linda Hutcheon’s work on postmodernism emerges here, rejecting Jameson’s approach
to a certain extent and taking some of his ideas further, politicizing them, if you will
To Linda Hutcheon’s, irony is the ingredient that transforms the aesthetics of
postmodernism from Jameson’s pastiche of images or “blank parody” into a parodic
textual entity that points out and questions the conventional
It is the subversion of the concept of “natural” that Hutcheon feels is postmodern; she
points out that representations are not, in fact, natural but are culturally constructed
oThis realization gives postmodern irony its strength
Hutcheon takes Ronald Barthes notion of doxa as public opinion or “The Voice of
Nature” and suggests that the postmodern serves to de-doxify or denaturalize the
inherent politics of our cultural representation
Parody, according to Hutcheon is central to theories of postmodern aestheticism as it
borrows from the past to show how the representations of our present have evolved,
where they began, and what the ideological implications are
So postmodern representation cannot ignore the context and the history of past
representations: In acknowledging the past, it cannot help but showcase the passage of
time and maintain the continuum that some theorists believe is missing from parody
Hutcheon speaks of parody as being more than a simple intertextual reference
Irony takes representations, highlights the contradictions, the process of production and
calls attention to them, asking for a critique
Parody borrows from past texts and though this historicization shows the evolution in our
representations and their ideological implications
In order to illustrate postmodern theory and how it applies to The Simpsons, the
following section looks at one complete episode, as well as instances from other
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