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Connecting Childhood and Old Age in Popular Media$
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Vanessa Joosen

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781496815163

Published to University Press of Mississippi: May 2019

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781496815163.001.0001

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Grandparents and Grandchildren in The Simpsons

Grandparents and Grandchildren in The Simpsons

Intergenerational Rupture and Prefigurative Culture

(p.168) 9 Grandparents and Grandchildren in The Simpsons
Connecting Childhood and Old Age in Popular Media

Mariano Narodowski

Verónica Gottau

University Press of Mississippi

Mariano Narodowski and Verónica Gottau employ an anthropological theoretical framework to interpret the intergenerational relationships in the American television series The Simpsons as an instance of what anthropologist Margaret Mead calls “prefigurative culture.” The Simpsons parodies old series and sitcoms of American television in which old people had a central, harmonious, and balanced role within the expected limits of a postfigurative culture which admired and respected the elderly. In The Simpsons, the connection with past traditions that the grandparents might represent is buried under the cynicism and cruelty of the younger characters. Institutionalized and infantilized old people are shown to be at the mercy of young and middle-aged adults. When the transmission of historical and cultural knowledge loses value and intergenerational references are relegated to confined institutions, Narodowski and Gottau argue, any attempt to reconstruct it only provokes a brutal and ironic backlash which suppresses the memory of past eras.

Keywords:   American television, Anthropology, Grandparents, Ageism, Institutionalized care

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