Christopher Payne is a senior at the University at Albany and a New York State Writers Institute intern. He is currently a writer for Albany Student Press and an editor at Skribblers Magazine.
Before attending the University at Albany, he was a student at Hudson Valley Community College, where he earned an associate's degree in Business Administration. He also wrote for the student newspaper, The Hudsonian.
Springfield Confidential: How books help us challenge the status quo
By Christopher Payne
Mike Reiss's new book, Springfield Confidential: Jokes, Secrets, and Outright Lies from a Lifetime Writing for ‘The Simpsons’ has taught me how to persevere and remain hopeful something even though there may be rejection in life.
Reiss shares how he has learned how to deal with rejection, especially in Hollywood, where he was fired by the likes of Johnny Carson, Garry Shandling, and Roseanne Barr. Reiss has also discussed how he feared “The Simpsons” would be cancelled after its first season. As we know, it's become a television mainstay for 30 seasons.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, many shows on the airwaves were geared towards families. "The Simpsons" broke the barrier as a comedy and a cartoon not meant for kids. The show influenced comedy, animation, music, and literature and also challenged the status quo, offering a funny cartoon family that reflected views on different ideas, ranging from religious and political topics, while sneaking in references to philosophy and literature. including a memorable nod to William Kennedy’s Ironweed.
A Simpsonized Mike Reiss by Matt Groening shown with the cover of Springfield Confidential: Jokes, Secrets, and Outright Lies from a Lifetime Writing for 'The Simpsons."
Reiss helped me realize I am not the only one that has had the feeling of rejection. Each of the Simpsons' characters has confronted powerful figures. Homer Simpson stood next to a figure of Looney Tunes’ Porky Pig to provoke anger and humor against defamed movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. "The Simpsons" has also questioned the status quo by subtle jokes that predicted the future. In a Season 11 episode titled “Bart to the Future” that aired in 2000, President Donald Trump’s administration faces a budget crunch that leads to Lisa Simpson becoming president. It remains to be seen if a female presidential candidate will rise to power to defeat Donald Trump in 2020.
In another episode detailed in his book, Reiss has also shown how power may come to many in Hollywood, especially movie directors and actors. “The Critic” is a television show that pokes fun at movie critics and Hollywood, as the top people in the U.S. One parody, “The Cockroach King,” parodies “The Lion King,” with Howard Stern as a cockroach telling a girl cricket to show him her thorax. This is a hint at how some people in the Hollywood industry treat others. This episode aired more than 20 years before the Weinstein scandal broke open Hollywood's predatory culture.
Reiss’s book will definitely make people laugh and smile, but his book will also help question authority and power. This book has also shown that "The Simpsons" may predict a future outcome. This outcome is based on what society wants to see and hear. Many episodes of "The Simpsons" parody real life people and events. People may look at these parodies as questioning different powerful figures like Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, Harvey Weinstein, and other moguls.
The Simpson family also questions power when Homer Simpson fought President George H.W. Bush when the Bushes moved next to the Simpson family. This was a hilarious episode which demonstrated how many may question a political agenda. George H.W. Bush was well-known for his “read my lips. No new taxes” statement. Many people were annoyed with Bush who made that statement, which played a factor in his 1992 presidential election of Bill Clinton. Clinton has been parodied so many times on "The Simpsons" for his alleged affairs. People have also questioned the Clinton presidency after the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
"The Simpsons" has helped me understand the world better and question authority. The show has also helped all of us to question elite figures who demonstrate a hunger for more power. The comedy and satire of Mike Reiss have helped those challenge the status quo by parodying real life situations and making these situations funny and memorable.