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Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien


Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien
3-3-6 Kudan-Minami, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 102-0074
Tel: 03 – 3222 5198, Fax: 03 – 3222 5420


Registration Info

The presentation will be given in English. The DIJ Social Science Study Group is a forum for young scholars and Ph.D. candidates in the field of Social Sciences. As always, all are welcome to attend, but please register by May 27th with Isa Ducke

Mister Sparkle meets the Yakuza: Depictions of Japan in the Simpsons

May 28, 2003 / 6.30 P.M.

Hugo Dobson, University of Sheffield

Over the last fourteen years The Simpsons has become one of the most popular animated cartoons and comedy series of all time.
However, at the same time it has been the target of much vitriolic criticism ranging from accusations of immorality to charges of bad taste and racism. In April 2002, the official tourist board of Rio de Janeiro threatened legal action against the show’s producers for lost tourist revenue as a result of an episode entitled Blame it on Lisa, which was accused of presenting a “distorted vision of Brazilian reality” by the country’s president, Fernando Henrique Cardoso. Eventually, James L. Brooks, the show’s executive producer, was forced to apologise.
This presentation focuses upon the way in which the show has depicted both Japan and the Japanese with the objective of establishing whether similar claims can be upheld in this case. Through the use of Mikhail Bakhtin’s (1895-1975) idea of the carnivalesque, and Carl Matheson’s (University of Manitoba) terms “the culture of knowingness” and “hyper-irony” it concludes that the accusation of racism is too simplistic and that The Simpsons develops a more sophisticated, nuanced, and even cathartic, style of comedy.

Hugo Dobson is lecturer at the University of Sheffield and currently at Hosei University as a Visiting Research Fellow.