The didactical applicability of "The Simpsons" at school in the context of the episode "Mypods and Broomsticks"

Term Paper, 2011

18 Pages, Grade: 2,3


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Media, Animated Serials and Its Importance in School

3. The Perception of the American Way of Life Through “Mypods and Boomsticks”

4. Teaching Aims

5. Teaching Unit

6. Conclusion

7. Works Cited


1. Introduction

“Okay, remember our deal: Everyone gets to return one Christmas present with no hurt feelings”- This term paper deals with the intertextual construction and with the perception of the American way of life in “Mypods and Broomsticks” (season 20, episode 7 of “The Simpsons”). This episode and this quotation from the beginning of the episode represent the stereotypical consumer behaviour of the Americans and deal with other prejudices against the American culture. Working with this episode in class can help the students to develop their own opinion and to recognize exaggerations of cultural differences in television shows.

With this episode of The Simpsons one can show the students how people, including themselves, are influenced by media and what they see on television and how the episodes of The Simpsons contain actual political or cultural topics. Apart from that media plays meanwhile such an important role in school because students have to be taught how to work with media and technology (containing television and serials).

The American way of life is influencing us in our everyday life. We see films and serials from America; we use American products and eat food which was first popular in America. Students are not always aware of how they adapt to the American lifestyle through watching American films or serials. The Simpsons are a good example of how the Americans present themselves and how we may believe in what we see or how we get prejudices against Americans or other people with different cultural background which are presented in episodes of the Simpsons.

The Simpsons are very popular, many children and adults like to watch them. Many stereotypes are presented without being necessarily recognized while watching the episodes. Apart from that many students think that what they see at the TV is true. They never question the authenticity of what is presented in shows, films or other programs and so they believe in the displayed stereotypes. This is also a way of how those stereotypes and prejudices of different cultures are distributed throughout the world.

First of all I am going to explain the importance of animated films and serials and how media is influencing the perception of the world. Because of this and its expanding area of influence on the children, it is important to consider media in school and to work with it, so that the students are familiar with media.

Afterwards I will analyze the episode “Mypods and Boomsticks” and show its importance for the perception of the Americans and their way of life. It contains many intertextual hints and stereotypes and is a good example of how the Americans see themselves and their culture and compare it to cultures from people of a foreign country.

Then I will present a teaching unit as example of how the episode can be used in school and how the students can be confronted with the political and cultural hints and topics which it contains and how they can deal with the many depicted stereotypes.

The last part of the term paper deals with problems that could occur teaching this episode and with further ideas of how one can use “Mypods and Boomsticks” for showing American stereotypes and how the cultural awareness of the students is influenced by The Simpsons.

2. Media, Animated Serials and Its Importance in School

“Media have always formed part of the foreign language classroom because they help teachers to create a more authentic English speaking atmosphere” (Müller-Hartmann and Schocker- v. Ditfurth 2009: 133). This shows that media is essential in school and it is hard to teach English without them. Media is also very important in our everyday life and has an increasing influence on our perception of the world and our environment. For students it is important to know how to deal with media and technology. In their life they are surrounded by media and its development is never stopping. It is not only important for their social life and life in school (which is now mostly based on working with media) but also for their future life, for example in university or in an education. Grasser and Palfrey call the actual students “Digital Natives” because they cannot imagine a life without technology. “They were born all born after 1980” (Grasser and Palfrey 2008: 1) and grew up with mobile phones, computers and especially with overhead projectors and films in school. They are used to be shown films to the books they are reading in school and analyzing those films while watching them.

“Technical media, such as the audio-cassette, the film, as well as satellite and cable TV have improved the creation of simulated environments by bringing native speakers in voice and image into the classroom” (Müller-Hartmann and Schocker- v. Ditfurth 2009: 133). According to that television has a huge influence on the students. Not only in school, but also at home many of them are regularly watching television. This starts early; there are many animated films and serials for children and even adults like watching those films and serials because they contain often a message, which cannot be understood by the children because they have not enough background knowledge but which is interesting for adults. The Simpsons are a good example for that. Young and old people like The Simpsons which makes them a long-lasting and very popular part of the TV program.

Important for the “Digital Natives” is to know how they have to work with information they gain from the media and most important from the Internet and television. “For these young people, new digital technologies- computers, cell phones, Sidekicks- are primary mediators of human-to-human connections” (Grasser and Palfrey 2008: 4). This quotation expresses that they take it serious what is presented in the media and believe in how people from other countries are displayed. It has to be worked out how to differentiate between reliable and unserious sources. Often that is not told from the parents so the school is responsible for what the children learn about media because in school it is daily used.

Moreover, television has different programs. When students are not only watching the news or the weather, which is mostly sent from a reliable source (at least in Germany) they like to watch a TV program which is entertaining them. Often that are animated films and serials and they may be from another country, for example America. Students have to deal with many stereotypes and prejudices shown in those serials and they have to learn how to handle that. In school projects concerning television or integrating serials or films they have to understand how to “structure their projects and determine final outcomes” (Shetzer and Warschauer 2000: 182).

The country which is producing a television broadcast is mostly representing itself with all its good characteristics. Often stereotypes are exaggerated depicted and other countries are only displayed from the point of view of the producing country. So for the person watching animated films or serials it is important to differentiate between stereotypes, prejudices and reality. Stereotypes are not necessarily recognized while watching television so it is important to show the students what they can believe in and what they should not believe in.

In conclusion it is a basic function of the school to take effective steps to protect students from the danger of the Internet and television and allowing those same students enough room to figure things out on their own.

3. The Perception of the American Way of Life Through “Mypods and Boomsticks”

The episode starts with the Simpsons family at the shopping mall. They want to bring back presents from Christmas and they are witnesses of how the next feast, Martin Luther King Day, is prepared. Entering the “Mapple” store, they are impressed by the technology which is presented there. Lisa urgently wants to possess something of the company but she cannot afford even the cheapest earphones. Nevertheless she gets a “Mypod” from Krusty and Homer is occupied with a “Mycube” while Bart is haunted by the people who support Mapple because he played a joke on the founder of Mapple. He meets his new friend Bashir when he runs through Springfield looking out for a hiding place.


Excerpt out of 18 pages


The didactical applicability of "The Simpsons" at school in the context of the episode "Mypods and Broomsticks"
Justus-Liebig-University Giessen  (Anglistik)
Teaching English as a Foreign Language
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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simpsons, didaktik, anglistik, media, usa, stereotypes, perception, school
Quote paper
Anastasia Wolter (Author), 2011, The didactical applicability of "The Simpsons" at school in the context of the episode "Mypods and Broomsticks", Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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