Chris Turner : Planet Simpson (2004)

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Planet Simpsons is a book written by Chris Turner and published in 2004. As the French familiar expression says; this book is a “cobblestone” of about 500 pages that only a fan would have the courage and patience to read completely.  It’s nice division and organisation in chapters nevertheless allows very well random picking if you only wanna know more about a specific character or general details on the famous show as a whole.

Because indeed, thanks to this book, we get to know, to learn things. An awful lot of things, actually much more than you would need to know, even considering yourself as a fan, explaining  probably why we reach the almost half thousand pages.

Chris Turner, the author, sure is a fan, such a fan that he doesn’t make do with only talking about and analysing the show but basically talk about his life and his reality as a fan of the show – as explained in the last few lines – sincerely something we need to know details about as much.

Of course, the identification process can happen very naturally with a few experiences or opinions he’s had or has himself, but as individuals, we all tend to have a specific relationship with a product, and this intimacy of his that he really feels the need to share can sometimes appear as indecent as it is uninteresting.

This way, we often get useless and worthless lines like :

“I’ve said it and I’ll say it again : Ay, carumba !

Wait.No.That’s Bart’s line. “

Throughout the book we are thus offered such “funny” moments, lots of inserts and other notes to self ; it’s to know about The Simpsons that we are reading you, not to see you making lousy attempts to be funny !

It’s like taking the credit of providing interesting analytic skills about a lot of details on the show we didn’t even know wasn’t enough, so he often appropriates jokes and catchphrases of the show to himself thinking that it is funny. The end of the first chapter (p.76) also is excellent example of that.

What however really makes the strength and use of this book is as I said, that we still get to learn very interesting stuff about the show itself, thankfully!  With very nicely written paragraphs about the different characters offering very deep and argumentated pieces of analysis, we get to have a very complete vision of the position of each of them not only in the show but in the outside “real” world through what they represent, stand for (which in a certain way explains why we get so many tangential pages about American popular culture of the 1990’s that one would think could have been edited separately as a different book if all put together).

We are provided with a lot of details that make us understand how the show is extremely well and subtly written with so many layers that quite a lot of people and even you mustn’t have perceived for many episodes.

This way we learn for example that quite a lot of celebrities have “given” their voice for some episodes of the show not always being themselves, but sometimes simple “Springfieldianites” -a term which has its own explanation too in the book.

Tony Blair “playing” himself in this difficult and busy period of the 2003 invasion of Iraq is a striking example of this; and though I watch a Simpsons episode about every 3 days I didn’t even remember of that one; illustrating perfectly another big point of Chris Turner’s basically saying that the show’s reach throughout the world has made it actually more famous than the celebrities taking part in it.

After analysing their representation as “normal” and very reachable people whenever they appear in yellow, it is also nicely stated at the end of this part (page 402) that after all, celebrities are “not more important than you, either”.

To finish on the voices which also take a very important part in the book, being a reoccurring lengthily analysed aspect of each of the main characters; you will notice some remarkable writing skills on the part of Turner ; which is after all the most important – even in this book- especially about Burns’ voice.

“It’s a breathly half-whisper of doom, a tyrannical wheeze that reeks of lifelong privilege and hints at unbridled power. It sounds like John D. Rockefeller, Sr. looks – palsied, penny-pinched, omnipotent – in photos of the robber baron’s robber baron as an old man.”

So we can really say that we are served with very positive elements in this book that in the end really isn’t one to ignore especially if you’re a fan.  We just wish it had the altruism to spare us some unfunny and worthless parts to make it more efficient as a whole.

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