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January 31, 2010

“The Simpsons” Reaches New Low

Tonight’s episode of “The Simpsons” had two storylines going on: Lisa’s technological dreams and desires were finally realized upon receiving a Mypod from Krusty the Klown. Finally able to access all the music she ever wanted, Lisa found herself on download overload, and was forced to hawk Mypod info on the street corner. Blah blah, boring, whatever.

The secondary storyline involved Bart, who made friends with the new kid in town who, *gasp* was a Muslim kid from Jordan. Upon Homer’s first meeting with Bashir, we see typical Homer, completely unaware of what “Salaam Alaykum” means, but easily mollified by Bashir’s good manners and flattery. Later, we see Homer at the bar with his buddies, and this is where the show begins its rapid descent. Buddies Lenny and Carl ask Homer if he knows the direction of Mecca, since Bart’s new friend is Muslim. They then begin insinuating about terrorist operations, and Moe shows Homer a brief clip from (what is supposed to be) an episode of “24.” Cue Homer’s gullibility; he is now convinced that Bashir and his parents are terrorists, and invites them over to interrogate them during dinner. There are comments about bombs, freedom, cutting the American flag…at one point it was so pathetic I turned the channel, just to give myself a break from the stupidity I was watching. Turning the channel back, I found Marge scolding Homer (of course) and Homer continuing to make assumptions based on half-heard information and the typical “patriotic” panic. Sigh.

I get it. This is “The Simpsons” attempt to show tolerance, acceptance, personal growth, etc etc, right? Nothing screams “we’re open-minded” louder than a cartoon depicting a stereotypical Caucasian (or as Caucasian as Homer Simpson looks) feeling panicked over Muslim neighbours, and the possibility for terrorist activity. Gag. True tolerance is not demonstrated by a 30-minute cartoon show showing a person’s conversion from paranoid to accepting. If the major players behind “The Simpsons” wanted to play the multicultural card, they would have been better off simply adding a Muslim family to the Springfield dynamic. There was absolutely no need to get into the terrorism thing; that is a tired, worn-out tactic that I’m getting sick of. “Look at us! We thought our Muslim neighbours were terrorists, but we were wrong! What a relief! We’re so open-minded now!”

The final scene of the episode, following Homer’s enlightenment, is a backyard bbq with the Simpson family and Bashir’s family. Over the picnic table is a banner that reads, “PARDON MY INTOLERANCE.”  Bashir’s family smiles good-naturedly, (no doubt still seething on the inside, as they should) and all is forgiven once again. “The Simpsons” should not have waded into these waters – it’s either a comedy, in which case it doesn’t need to deal with these kinds of issues, or it isn’t, in which case it should be more responsible (and frankly, creative) when undertaking this type of story. A new low for “The Simpsons.”

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