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Planet Simpson: How A Cartoon Masterpiece Defined A Generation Hardcover – October 12, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Although this unauthorized book "was not prepared, licensed, approved, or endorsed by any entity involved in creating or producing" The Simpsons, Canadian journalist Turner embarks on an encyclopedic exposition of the show's episodes, catchphrases, characters, cultural impact, social commentary, themes and influences. In 1987, 33-year-old cartoonist Matt Groening devised the dysfunctional family during a 15-minute wait before pitching the concept to producer James L. Brooks. Short segments on Fox's Tracey Ullman Show escalated into the full series in 1989–1990, with accolades and awards piling up during the following 15 years. Turner flavors his straightforward Simpsons study with footnotes and facts on everything from Ayn Rand and Columbine to Y2K and Yeats. Unraveling and analyzing plot threads, he views the series as "more anti-authoritarian by far than almost anything else that's ever aired in prime time," and he praises it as a "cultural institution" comparable to the Beatles. Turner's fannish enthusiasm and tsunami of trivia will appeal mainly to devotees, though cultural historians may value it for its vision of Springfield as a satirical mirror reflecting the trials and tribulations of contemporary life.
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From Booklist

On the verge of becoming the all-time longest-running situation comedy, The Simpsons has had unprecedented effect on American popular culture, as Turner convincingly argues. He traces the show's history, from cultural touchstone to beloved institution, and offers lengthy profiles of the characters, elucidated with tidbits from 15 years' worth of episodes. Especially fascinating is his depiction of the online community devoted to The Simpsons, which pores over each episode for arcane references and whose efforts have been subtly acknowledged in metatextual gags on the show. While Turner overstates the case for The Simpsons' cultural importance, even claiming that, since it appeals to all ages, it is in some respects more important than rock and roll, his observations are thoughtful and perceptive, and he conveys them in a breezy, sometimes smart-alecky tone totally appropriate to the subject. Long-winded but never dull, dense but never academic, Planet Simpson may be too much for casual viewers. For the show's sizable hardcore audience, however, especially the most serious-minded viewers, it's a feast. Gordon Flagg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; Export Ed edition (October 12, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306813416
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306813412
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,652,872 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

CHRIS TURNER is one of Canada's leading writers and speakers on sustainability and the global green economy. His most recent book is How to Breathe Underwater: Field Reports from an Age of Radical Change, a collection of his award-winning essays and feature writing. He is also the author of The War on Science (winner of the Freedom to Read Award) and The Leap, which the Globe & Mail called "one of the most arresting arguments for building a green economy yet in print," as well as the bestsellers The Geography of Hope and Planet Simpson.

Turner's feature writing has earned nine National Magazine Awards. He was a Berton House writer-in-residence in 2013. He lives in Calgary with his wife and two children. He is working on a book about Alberta's oilsands, to be published by Simon & Schuster in 2016.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Pops Freshenmeyer on April 3, 2006
Format: Hardcover
99% of the reviewers missed the point of the book. A book that promises a 'sprawling, multidimensional critical look' at "The Simpsons" as seen through the lens of pop culture analysis--what did they expect to read about? Most of them complain about the book's length and criticize the author's penchant for branching off into other pop culture topics. However, these two main complaints are both the central points of the book, and their arguments seem to be very defitions of "sprawling and multidemensional". I enjoyed this book very much, and liked the length of the it, as it meant the author did go in-depth in his analyses. While I did not necessarily agree with all of his points, he did present them very well and it is very obvious the man knows his "Simpsons." Furthermore, I did find many, but not all, of his "tangents" to be related and very applicable to the points he was trying to make using aspects of The Simpsons. As a long-time fan, I've always said that there is very little in life that "The Simpsons" doesn't relate to, so I really enjoyed this book. The reason I didn't give it a perfect is b/c I did find parts to be a bit dry for me, but that's the extent of my dislikes. My advice is this: if you want a more lighthearted read on "The Simpsons," buy one of the many other books about them--BUT if you want a much more in-depth and well-written book delivering what it promises, this is it.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Ryan M. Moore on February 15, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book isn't a masterpiece, but it deserves better reviews. If you're looking for something more fun in the vein of Simpsons merchandise or don't like to have your pleasures intellectualized, then stay way. But if you're a Simpsons fan and you've always thought it was postmodern but you were absent on the day they taught Jameson and Baudrillard in seminar and so you can't explain why . . . then this book is for you! Sure, the chapters are way too long and the prose reads like it was written by comic book store guy, but it's got its insights and it makes you laugh. The chapters are organized by character so you get a sense of how each represents a little slice of Americana--Homer the working-class oaf, Marge the desparate housewife, Bart the punk rock nihilist skateboarder, Lisa the earnest liberal do-gooder, Burns the wretched capitalist pig. I really like chapter 10, about the show's endless spiral of self-referentiality and media parody. The quiz on p.411 asking if you can guess which was a fake movie with Troy McClure or a real movie with one of the Baldwin brothers is almost worth the price of the book itself.
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20 of 25 people found the following review helpful By David B. Minter on August 2, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Ultimately, Planet Simpson tries to be an entirely different beast, but, fails. It tried to be a cultural analysis of the TV series and its impact on society, particularly American society. However, in the end, it indulges in its author's love for the series too much.

The narrative structure is not coherent enough to sustain interest in the book. Turner too often than not tries to start a dialogue on a particular point of fact. That fact being how, in whatever way, that point backs up his belief that the Simpsons in the most culturally important element of the late 20th century. Unfortunately, he never backs up the statements he starts to make. He many times starts off with a good topic, but, diverts off. Punctuated with his own words saying he's about to state an example of what he means, he veers off his topics entirely. The text is reduced to mere catalogues of episodes, moments, details, and the like. He completely forgets the vast majority of his main points and never returns to them.

Because of this somewhat rambling style, the chapter structure just does not fit it. Each seems way too long and bloated for its own good, because nothing is ever established in each section. Just collections of ideas, peppered, of course, with numerous story descriptions and notes.

This might have worked far better as an episode guide, with Turner taking asides to express his commentary. His love for this show and extent of knowledge on it is firmly established within the book. In an attempt to culturally analyze the series, though, he has failed to make a point more often than he succeeds.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By EH on November 13, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Turner's book relates a collection of his opinions and personal anecdotes regarding 90's culture/counterculture, and the pivotal role (he argues) the Simpsons played in all of this. While the premise was thought-provoking enough to keep me reading out of curiosity, the book falls short in several ways.

First, you probably won't learn much new about The Simpsons!

Secondly, this book is long and dense; Turner's writing style is not just erudite, but overly sophisticated in a way you'd expect to see from a college student who is really, really, trying to earn that A++ grade. His style often slides back and forth from "academic" to "hipster". You find yourself marveling at his vocabularly... That is, until the umpteenth reference to "American hegemony"... Which brings us to the second problem...

Political bias intrudes all too often. While I'm not at all offended by his taking a liberal perspective on the Simpsons, Turner's unrelenting focus on The Simpsons' supposed fight against "American hegemony" gets old and starts to look downright immature. More importantly, he seems to miss the point -- The Simpsons satire *everybody*, right? The Simpsons writers have always skewered aging hippies and disaffected youth (liberal targets) right along with the "easy" targets such as corporate stooges and lazy Americans.

Turner's impassioned analysis often gets derailed by his own inability to take a break from his own pet concepts. Pages that may have been devoted to something like what The Simpsons says about childhood in America (much could be mined from the whole world of Ralphie, Nelson, Milhouse and others), are instead given to rambling tangents about 90's zeitgeist and such things as the raves and concerts the author attended.
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