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I choose to analyze The Simpsons for this part of the essay. The episode is about Bart not believing in souls until he thinks he really lost his. It was quite humorous and I enjoyed watching it. The first approach I am going to use is socioculture analysis. I choose this method because I think this particular episode offers lessons on society, values and social norms, most of them indirectly. The Simpsons are a family and their roles are quite stereotypical of families. Homer, the father, goes off to work to support the family, while Marge, the mother, stays home to raise the family. Bart and Lisa, two of the three children, constantly fight like most brothers and sisters do. Their attitudes and behaviors are also quite typical, if a little exaggerated. Homer usually goes to the local bar for a beer with the guys and Bart is always playing jokes on his family, but they do go to church and this is where this episode starts. Before the start of church, Bart substitutes a heavy metal song by Iron Butterfly for the hymn. After church the preacher asks who did it and threatens that the souls of those who did it, if they do not come forward. Millhouse automatically tells on Bart because he is scared for his soul. Bart informs Millhouse “that the soul is not real and that adults made it up just to scare us kids.” Millhouse offers to buy Bart’s soul for five dollars since he doesn’t believe in it anyway. Bart laughs and thinks this is the best deal he’s made all day and even offers to sell his conscience too. Bart goes about his normal day and begins to realize that something is not right. He isn’t finding the Itchy and Scratchy show funny like he usually does, electric doors won’t open for him, he has no breath in cold weather and his own cat sneers at him. Lisa and Bart decide to really test his soul and they set up Homer to trip over Bart’s skateboard. Lisa finds it hysterical, just as Bart should have. Lisa is appalled at Bart for selling his soul, telling him “your soul is your most valuable part of you It’s the symbol of everything fine inside us”. Lisa, always the emotionally stable and spiritual one of the family, tells Bart that “your soul is the only part of you that lasts forever.” Bart goes on a search to buy his soul back and when he does he finally sleeps with a smile on his face. The social lessons here are obvious. Lisa teaches us, indirectly, that we do have souls and how important they are to us as a person. I also think this is an important lesson for children who watch the show. Bart, in some childrens’ eyes, is a role model. He and Lisa are teaching them that Bart believes in God and believes he has a soul. This is a subject that is subject to questions. Some people may not believe in God or souls, but what Lisa is saying is that everyone has their own identity and is entitled to it.

The second approach I used is discourse analysis because I want to show how the text is related to the social world. The topic of this particular Simpson episode is a very important social issue and I feel through discourse analysis I can show the relationship of the text and the social world. We, the viewers are identifying with either Lisa or Bart. They are on two opposite sides of the coin when discussing ones soul. Lisa, on one hand is appalled at Bart for selling his soul for $5.00 telling Bart “your soul is the most valuable symbol of everything fine inside us. Your soul is the only part of you that lasts forever”. On the other hand we have Bart telling Millhouse “there is no such thing as a soul. It’s something adults made up to scare us kids”. We eventually identify with Bart because he so badly wants his soul back when bad things start to happen to him. It is through the narrative structure that of the text that helps us to identify with him. He can’t have fun, his cat doesn’t like him, kids make fun of him because he has no breath, we, the viewers sympathize with him and want him to get his soul back. The ideal viewer would be teenagers, who might think religion, god or souls is a joke. People who really idolize Bart may very well think like him too. So in the beginning when Bart thinks its all a joke, the ideal viewer may very well have thought “the soul” really didn’t exist. Through the text we regard laughter and humor as normal and natural and when Bart can’t find humor in things he goes on a search for his soul. He is realizing that his soul is his whole identity and he desperately wants it back, as do we the viewers. This show is a perfect example of ideological conflicts that happen everyday in our society. It’s all about social values, morality, identity; things people struggle with daily. I think this text may encourage some oppositional readings by some people. Most likely very religious people who think this episode is not a lesson but a joke about ones’ soul and the religious aspect. I happen to feel that this was a lesson for society about finding ones’ identity.


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