I think the Simpsons is not racist is simply because racism is predicated on the idea that one race is superior to another. It may take the form of hatred and exploitation, paternalism or simply the idea of intrinsic, essentialist notions of race. The Simpsons doesn't really have this, at least as far as I've noticed, because it protrays everyone, of every race, as equally as stupid, or at least flawed in some way, as well as being equally notable or even good in some way. In fact, it has made fun of the more 'harmless' of the racial essentialist ideas, such as the ones protrayed by TV comedians who talk about the different way blacks and whites drive.

The only thing that the Simpsons could be seen to promoting is nationalistc sterotypes, and, again, I really don't see that as seperate from the whole make fun of everybody thing. I mean, as dbrown noted a lot of these are sterotypes, and while they are a crutch in the real world, they may be appropiate for comedy. It's a just a matter of perspective and aplication, and the right nose for what is funny, and what is offensive.

I'm reminded of a moment in the series where the writers recognized that they were crafting a televised Bible for American culture (although, I can imagine its axiomatic humor has reached beyond and enriched the lives and souls of other peoples). While this particular exchange refers more specifically to religion and not issues of race, it's a very relevant piece to reflect on when thinking about humor and offense:

Episode: Homer the Heretic (Homer is conversing with Apu about the statue of Ganesha sitting on the counter)

Homer: Hey, Ganesha, wanna peanut?
Apu: Sir, please do not offer my god a peanut.
Homer: No offense, Apu, but when they were handing out religions, you must've been out taking a whiz.
Apu: (angrily) Mr. Simpson, please pay for your purchases and get out and(cheerily) come again!

Much of the humor in the situation, granted, derives from the use of the characters as stereotypes, but focus on the reactions to the lines (yours and the characters). Why might Homer's first line be considered amusing (while clearly Apu does not)? How is his second line different from his first? Does Homer now become a bigot or is he just an asshole?

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