Homer's Odyssey

Homer's Odyssey - November 4 2001 Homer's Odyssey By A O SCOTT There's a scene from'The Simpsons that has been looping inside my brain since Sept

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November 4, 2001 Homer's Odyssey By A. O. SCOTT There's a scene from ''The Simpsons'' that has been looping inside my brain since Sept. 11. It comes from ''The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson,'' a four-year-old episode of the Fox show. During a family trip to Manhattan, Homer finds himself on a cartoon version of the plaza between the twin towers of the World Trade Center. There, waiting for a traffic officer to remove the boot from his pink family sedan (while his family is taking in a Broadway musical about the Betty Ford Center), Homer meets a vendor selling an exotic delicacy called Khlav Kalash. He buys some, washing it down with many cans of crab juice. When all that crab juice takes its inevitable toll, Homer runs up 107 flights of stairs, only to discover that the men's room in Tower 2 is out of order. But that's not the only surprise: Tenement-style clotheslines are strung between the two skyscrapers, and the windows open to reveal surly New Yorkers yelling at each other to shut up. It's a great joke. But it plays differently now. For one thing, the image of New Yorkers as brash, contentious and impatient has abruptly vanished from the national mythology. And the picture of the skyscrapers as a noisy, gemutlich neighborhood now seems more poignant than ridiculous. Recently, as ''Simpsons'' fans on the Internet have begun speculating that ''The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson'' will become a ''lost episode,'' vanishing forever from syndication, I've found myself wondering how recent events will affect Springfield, the Simpsons' hometown. This is neither as facetious nor as trivial as it may sound. Since the towers fell, there has been much debate about how the terrorist attacks and their aftermath will affect popular culture. The discussion has been maddeningly inconclusive, but one clear theme has emerged: The easy laughs we took for granted two months ago seem to belong irrevocably to another era. This feeling, combined with a creeping tendency to stigmatize the immediate past -- to look back with shame at the old days when we were so complacent, so emptily clever -- makes an unabashedly silly show like ''The Simpsons'' seem especially vulnerable. But I hope that little will change about the indomitable four-fingered family that resides in a pink bungalow on Evergreen Terrace. For nothing has summed up the promise and confusion of American life in the post-cold-war era better than ''The Simpsons.'' Nothing else has harnessed the accumulated energies and memory traces of the civilization with so much intelligence and originality. Since its debut in December 1989, the show -- brainy and populist, sophisticated and vulgar, gleeful in its assault on every imaginable piety and subversively affirmative of the bonds of family and community -- has remained remarkably vital. Granted, the revelatory
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charge of earlier days has given way to the reassuring glow of familiarity. But the singular thing about ''The Simpsons'' has been its ability to stay funny for so long. Next Sunday, the show begins its 13th season on Fox. It is currently the longest-running
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This note was uploaded on 09/28/2009 for the course WRT 102 taught by Professor Frost during the Spring '08 term at SUNY Stony Brook.

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Homer's Odyssey - November 4 2001 Homer's Odyssey By A O SCOTT There's a scene from'The Simpsons that has been looping inside my brain since Sept

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