22 Short Reviews of The Simpsons: The Simpson File (S8:E10)

1155236
The Simpson File (1997)

It’s funny, even though this is my all-time favourite episode of The Simpsons, it is also one that used to scare me as a child when I first watched it. I think because when I first saw it, I had no idea what The X-Files were and what this episode was parodying. There were many factors about this episode that scared me; one being the music. The eerie X-Files theme song that plays throughout the entire episode really haunted me. Another aspect of this episode that frightened me as well is the actual design of the alien. The way it is drawn and constantly glowing a faint green light really stuck with me. But now as an adult, this is one of my favourites.

In this episode, when Homer comes home late from Moe’s he wonders into the forest. There he discovers an alien that says he’ll bring love and peace. Homer makes the news about seeing an alien, and is paid a visit by The X-Files characters Agent Mulder and Agent Scully (voiced by Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny).

577659
The Simpson Files (1997)

 

What makes this episode just a good example of just how great The Simpson writers are is that they incorporate two completely different shows into one episode. The Simpsons and The X Files are two totally different shows in so many ways – the style, the genre, the characters, the fact that one is animation and the other is live-action. To incorporate a show outside The Simpson realm shows that the Simpson universe expands beyond Springfield. That in The Simpson universe, characters like Agent Mulder and Agent Scully – two characters that exist in an entirely different show – can exist in Springfield and in The Simpson world.

I think one part of the episode I absolutely love is the other Simpson reaction to Homer finding the alien and the side character’s reaction to it. Of course, Marge and Lisa are sceptical about the whole ordeal whilst Bart believes his dad. But the side characters are what fills this episode with endless laughter.

My two favourite characters outside the Simpson family is Chief Wiggum and Moe. Of course the first person Homer goes to when he finds the alien is the chief of police of Springfield – who happens to be so bad at his job and such a doofus. Chief Wiggum obviously doesn’t believe him.

519751
The Simpson Files (1997)

 

But what makes me laugh so much is the scene with Moe and when he sees the two FBI agents. Just the added detail that Moe is an exotic animal dealer and keeps a freaking orca whale in the back of his bar is so hysterical to me.

Another part of this episode that I think just adds that added layer to the depth of the show is that we discover as an audience a new area to Springfield. We are so used to seeing the regular areas of Springfield (Moe’s Tavern, the Power Plant) that setting the first half of this episode in the woods is exciting. The way the artists draw the woods in dark, purple colours adds a haunting feel to the scene. Also, what adds such an atmosphere to this episode is the music. The direction of the music throughout the first opening act of this episode is one of the best in Simpson history. It just adds that extra creepiness to the episode that it’s something you cannot forget. Even as I’m writing this and can picture the scene of Homer walking through the forest with the eerie music.

There are so many reasons why this is one of my favourite episodes, if not, my favourite. Everything about this episode is just perfect in my opinion. From the music, to the characters, to the scenery. Nothing in this episode goes to waste. No scene is wasted, every character has a purpose, and every joke that is made has a punch and gets a laugh. To me, this is such a good episode and one of the all-time favourite classics.

709024
The Simpson Files (1997)

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Banned Books Taught Me: Of Mice and Men

ofmiceandmenOf Mice and Men: John Steinbeck

Banned: racism, vulgar language, blasphemy, violence, unsuitable for age group, promoting Euthanasia.

It’s funny because this book recently made headlines last year. People in Idaho counted more than 100 bad words in John Steinbeck’s classic Of Mice and Men. Parents said this book was too inappropriate for students to study, saying: “teachers actually had the audacity to have students read these profanities out loud in class.” I don’t know about you, but I know 12-year-olds that know more curse words than I do and they didn’t learn them from this book…

Of Mice and Men is a novel that has been challenged across schools and many libraries since its first publication for many of the reasons. The reasons vary from time to time. When it was first published, it was banned for its use of God’s name in vain and blasphemy.  Then it was later banned due to it being seen as inappropriate for its age group. I can understand teachers not wanting to give this book a class of year sevens, but it is a book that ultimately is a classic and a novel that should really be celebrated. I know it is a book that is not suited for all age groups, but to out-right ban it from schools and libraries seems ludicrous to me.covers_of-mice-and-men

The story is about two men chasing the American dream. George, who is smart and constantly thinking of ways he can better life for himself and his friend Lennie. Now Lennie is a 6’foot man who wants to do nothing but live on a farm and raise rabbits. The problem is every time he comes near a small animal, he wants to pet it but pets the animals too hard, thus killing them by accident. Lennie is a little slow, but George looks out for him. To get money so George and Lennie can have their own farm, they take up work in a small ranch. Some of the other men on the farm want to join George and Lennie in buying their own farm after over hearing them. Meanwhile, Lennie is finding life hard on the ranch after his boss, Curley, constantly mocks him for the way he is. Curley’s wife, who is flirtatious with all the men on the farm, one day corners Lennie in a barn and teases him. She asks Lennie if he wants to stroke her hair – not knowing what Lennie is like when it comes to caring or petting animals. Lennie gets a little too rough with Curley’s wife, and before she can scream for help, Lennie snaps her neck and kills her. The whole farm is out for Lennie, but only George knows that Lennie would never intestinally hurt anyone. Later, George finds Lennie out by a river, visibly shaken and upset by what had happed. George tells Lennie about the farm, and to think about the rabbits whilst he presses a gun to Lennie’s head.

It may be a short story, but it is a powerful one. It teaches a profound lesson of destructive nature of humans. But it also teaches a lesson of friendship and companionship. Lennie and George are a strong example of how a friendship should be and how it should be represented on paper. Just like Frodo and Sam, Tom and Huck, Lennie and George are a classic literary friendship. But then there is also an aspect of their friendship that is dangerous. Think about it, whenever someone tries to get close to Lennie and George something goes wrong on the farm. Something interferes with George and Lennie’s dreams of owning their own farm. But what is heartbreaking about reading this friendship is that George sees his friendship with Lennie more of a practical one than an emotional one. George sees their friendship as this: without Lennie, George would be alone. But if he left Lennie, he knows that Lennie would not be able to look after himself. Without each other, the other one could not survive.

franco_odowd-of_mice_and_men__photo_by_richard_phibbsThere is also the theme of loneliness throughout the book, which can be linked to how strong George and Lennie’s friendship is. When looking at all the characters that are on the farm, they are all alone. They all arrived at the farm alone and will leave by themselves. Only George and Lennie are on the farm together. The whole novel explores the aspect of the power of friendship. One thing you need to understand when it comes to John Steinbeck’s writing is that he focuses a lot of his novels on the Great Depression and the struggle that happened in America around this time. Of Mice and Men focuses a lot on the struggle of the American dream, but together, George and Lennie can see their dreams together and get through the struggle.

I can understand the language can be a bit too much for a young audience, but to outright ban the book seems a bit of a crime. Of Mice and Men is truly a classic that teaches valuable lessons across all generations. Truly a heartbreakingly beautiful novel about friendship that will live on for years to come.

What Banned Books Taught Me: The Color Purple

purple

The Color Purple: Alice Walker.

Banned: Sexual references, coarse language, racial slurs, sexual violence.

Here is another book that when I found out was heavily banned in schools and public libraries I got very upset about it. The Color Purple is one of those books that changes your perspective on life. It was a book for me that helped me get through some tough times and taught me how to love myself and just be who I am.

The Color Purple is about Celie, a girl who has been struggling all her life. Her life at home is filled with violence and fear by the hands of her father. The only comfort Celie received at home is from her sister, Nette. After Celie’s father sells her to a man referred to as Mr., who is just as abusive as Celie’s father, the two sisters are separated. Nette suggests to Celie that she should write to God whenever she feels alone or scared. The whole book is about Celie’s life and how she finally overcomes the struggles life throws at her with the help with the people she meets along the journey.

The Color Purple is an amazing book that I would highly recommend. Certainly, there are scenes that are hard to read, but the overlaying messages and morals the book presents are what should be focused on. The book teaches the lesson of how to love yourself. The character, Celie, goes through so much of turmoil and struggle, that in the end she comes out on top and finally overcomes her battle. From the very start of the novel, Celie is told that she’s ugly and that no one will love her by not only her father, but her husband who she was sold to. She has started off her life being abused and grown up in a world where there was no love. The only love she experienced was from Nette, but when they are separated the love is gone.

aa8a3420da2aa65180e3a1cceaaa74ac

That is why Celie searches for friendship and love through characters she meets along her journey such as Shug, Harpo, and Sofia. Most of the characters in the novel that Celie finds friendship with all help her learn to stand up for herself and how to love herself. The whole book is spiritual and all about love. That is why it is disappointing to see that it is a banned book.

Certainly it isn’t for all age groups due to some scenes that the book conveys, but overall it’s a fantastic book for everyone – especially young women. I read this when I was in my last year of high school, and it did change my outlook on life and the environment around me. It is a book that teaches the readers that you can overcome trauma and triumph in life. Celie goes through a lot of trauma and does not see the light at the end of the tunnel. But turning to faith and those who show kindness really gives Celie the spirit and the inspiration to rise up against everything thrown at her. Check this quote out: “Everything want to be loved. Us sing and dance and holler, just trying to be loved.” This book is full of scenes that show that humans can find love in faith, their environment and within themselves.

If you haven’t read The Color Purple, I highly recommend you do. There are scenes that are rough and hard to look away, but there are some genuine scenes of beauty and strength. This book has the moral of as long as you love yourself things will be okay. That as long as you have faith in yourself and know how to look after yourself, that is all you need. The Color Purple is truly an inspiring story and one that doesn’t belong on the banned book list.

What Banned Books Taught Me: The Dairy of a Young Girl

anne-frank-diary-of-a-young-girl-book-cover

The Diary of a Young Girl: Anne Frank

Banned: Upsetting imagery, not appropriate for age group.

It seems odd that a book with such a historical significance is on the banned book list, but sadly, it is. Apparently, some high schools and libraries find the book ‘too sad’ or distressing for young adults to read. When I was in university, one class we had to study a film called ‘Freedom Writers.’

The film, which is based on a true story, is about an English teacher who teaches at an underprivileged school. In the class, they read Anne Frank because none of the children know about WW2 or the Holocaust. After reading the novel, the children are shocked about the novel and how it ends. I can imagine this happening in a few class rooms when first reading the Diary of a Young Girl. My high school did not have this book in its curriculum, so I read it out of high school. But after finishing the novel, I remember just feeling so many emotions about the ending. I knew how it ended (everyone does) but still I couldn’t help but feel stunned when it happened.

For those who are unaware of the story of Anne Frank, I would highly recommend anyone who hasn’t read her novel to do so. Anne Frank was still only a child when her sister, Margot Frank, was called upon by the Nazi’s to be sent off to a labour camp in Germany. It was then when Anne’s parents, who were Jewish, decided to go into hiding. Along with another family called the Van Pels and a man named Fritz Pfeffer, all went into hiding in a secret annex for two years. Whilst living in constant fear, Anne Frank began writing one of the most important pieces of literature surrounding the Holocaust. You can even to this day visit the secret annex Anne Frank lived in Amsterdam and see her original diary on display.

anne-frank_diary_hd_768x432-16x9

After reading Anne Frank’s beautiful words, her novel instantly became a personal favourite of mine and Anne Frank became a role model for me. I remember reading the last chapter and just sitting there, going over what I had just read. The way it just ends so abruptly is unnerving and very unsettling for some. I can understand why some people would find this novel a hard read.

But even though at times the novel can be upsetting, it is also a very important book for all young people to read. Not just because of the importance it has when looking at the Holocaust, but because of the messages it sends to all its readers.

Anne Frank is a very positive role model for young people for many reasons. Her courage and human spirit in a time of darkness is simply inspirational.

we-all-live-with-the-objective-of-being-happy-our-lives-are-all-different-and-yet-the-same-anne-frank

Check out this line from the novel, ‘I do not think of the misery, but the beauty that still remains.’ That quote rings so true to so many events during and beyond the Holocaust. I remember when the Orlando Shooting happened this year. Instead of focusing on the horror that was the event, I turned my attention to the people who were helping the victims and their families. People who were donating blood to those who needed it, to the people who were saying enough is enough to homophobia and gun violence. This is what we need to be focusing on in a time of crisis.

The Holocaust was one of the darkest and horrendous events in history. But Anne Frank and her voice was a light so many people needed in a time of horror. She decided that the greatest weapon to use against those who wanted to lock her away was her voice and the power of words. A positive role model, whose words and diary will live on for years to come.

 

What Banned Books Taught Me: The Catcher in the Rye

the-catcher-in-the-rye-cover-6c8dab7d64192277315d6bf528d6f7b2The Catcher in the Rye: J.D. Salinger.

Banned: Profanity, sexual references, blasphemy, isolation, promiscuity, and undervaluing family values.

The Catcher in the Rye is one of those books that all teenagers need to read at some point in their adolescent life. It is a book that changes your outlook on the environment around you. I read this in year 11, and really it did shape what books I read and how I saw people.

The story is the classic story of growing up and becoming an adult. The books narrator, Holden Caulfield, retells the events of the past year about when he was kicked out of school for preaching his beliefs about the phonies and fakers in the school (fakers gonna fake!). Holden is a person who is constantly holding a middle finger to the world. Holden is told by one of his old proffers that he needs to get his act together if he is going to get anywhere in life. So, he decides to run away to New York city. Throughout the night, he meets up with people from his past who all ask him the same question: ‘What are you doing with your life?’ Some encounters good, others eye-opening, and some that are just bad. The story mainly focuses on Holden and his life experiences, and how looking back on these past experiences makes him realise that all he wants to do is put his mind at ease and how talking about the past and the future just make him upset.

The novels main theme is loneliness, which is one of the reasons why it is banned. Many people believed this book promoted isolation and ‘anti-social’ behavior with young adults. But another theme in the novel is the fight against change. Holden is constantly struggling with the change of being a teenager to growing into an adult.

tumblr_static_6vweqbggz64occsgwgww0wgck_640_v2

That was one thing this novel taught me. That there is no rush to grow up when I was a teenager myself. As an adult, I’m glad I read The Catcher in the Rye when I did. As much as Holden Caulfield believes he is an adult and that he is above most people he meets, deep down he knows he is still just a kid. A kid that makes stupid decisions and gets himself into sticky situations. Take for instance the ending when Holden takes his sister Phoebe to the carousal. The carousal is a symbol for Holden’s want to repeat his childhood. As it goes around and around, Holden sees that he wants to repeat his childhood and delay growing up for now.

I think today there are too many young adult novels that glamourize the notion of acting older than your age. Where the protagonist acts and talks much more like a well-educated adult than the teenager that they are. When studying children’s literature at university, that was one of my major complaints with some of the core readings we had to do. Some young adult novels I had to study had protagonists who were aged 15 or 16-years-old but sounded like a middle aged person. I actually wrote in an essay of mine that the author of one of the books we had to study had probably never spoken to a teenager before.

0d8666fa08fb2e77c971a85964f387e4

With The Catcher in the Rye, we spend a good chunk of the novel listening to Caulfield nag and whine about how hard life as an adult is that to the audience he sounds like a typical teenager. When I read this for the first time, he sounded a lot like how a teenager would sound. So when we read from a teenager’s perspective on how life is hard and the world is a tough place, it puts the young reader off from wanting to be in a rush to grow up. His notion of not wanting to grow up isn’t fairy-tale like, but more of a reality check. He isn’t whimsical like Peter Pan may be, but it’s more like a bleak reality. It shows the reader how tough the world can be to someone who isn’t ready to face this world on their own.

I can understand why some people would think this book was a little inappropriate to give to a 16-year-old, but it doesn’t deserve to be banned. It is a classic that will be remembered for years to come.

What Banned Books Taught Me: the Harry Potter series

6f919b0af5a91c650ffb9e691d608579The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling

Banned: Promotion of witchcraft, associations with the devil.

Harry Potter has been a huge part of my life, the same as many children who grew up in the 90’s. It is a series of books that are very close to my heart. I have so many fond memories of lining up outside book stores, waiting to purchase the next book in the series. That’s why it disheartens me so much to hear that such a beloved book series is banned for some of the most farfetched reasons.

When I first found out this book was banned, it was in year 10 when I did work experience in high school. Now, I will not mention which company I worked for, but I will say they had a big publishing and editing section in their company which I was a part of. My first task was to write an article of new things that were being released for the month. This happened to be the same month Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince film was being released, so I thought hey! That’s something to write about! Later that day when I handed in the draft I wrote. I had the head of the editing division come to my desk, take me aside and say to me, ‘We don’t mention Harry Potter around here. Some people get very upset when we talk about that series of books and films.’

It was as if I had spoken about He Who Must Not Be Named.

1391911_547799688628593_876693655_n

But after the editor had said that, I was left feeling shocked and embarrassed. I had gotten into trouble for mentioning something that was admired by millions of people around the world. Later that night I researched that there are a lot of people who believe that the books promote witchcraft. Some people have even said it ‘encourages children to turn to the devil,’ – no, I’m not even joking with that one. I read an article about this person that believed children who read Harry Potter will turn to the devil.

I truly believe that the people that claim that Harry Potter is evil have not read the series. If they had read the series, they would see that the main theme that is carried out through the whole series is that love defeats all evil. That love is the strongest power of all. The whole series is about a constant battle between good and evil, between love and war. The whole reason why Harry Potter survives the Dark Lord Voldemort’s spell is that the love Lily Potter had for her son was stronger than any spell. She sacrifices herself for her son because she wanted him to live.

Doesn’t sound to evil to me?

Okay, I can see why people would make the link between Lord Voldemort and the devil. But personally, I see Lord Voldemort as something else.

Growing up, I struggled with a lot of anxiety and stress – and I still do to this day. It seemed like I couldn’t go anywhere without over-thinking, fretting over the littlest things or completely losing my shit because I could not seem to get anything right. The way Lord Voldemort is around every corner, ready to catch Harry Potter and make his life worse was how I saw my anxiety. That it was waiting for me, waiting for me to slip up and cause chaos in my life. Anxiety was this constant war for me, like how defeating the Dark Lord Voldemort was a relentless battle for Harry.

untitled

The series for me is filled with nothing but love, friendship and courage. It was a series of books that taught me that it was okay to be scared sometimes. Check out this quote: “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, when one only remembers to turn on the light.” This quote is simply remarkable. It shows the readers that it is okay to be scared, and that when you are scared or lost you just need to find the happiness and light again. It is a series of books where we see our heroes, Harry, Ron and Hermione face challenges that sometimes leave them scared.

Harry Potter is a series that should be read by most children. It is a beautiful series filed with magic, adventure and themes that live on for years to come. I can see why some parents would hold off from letting their children read the books – there are some scary scenes, I remember the dementors used to really freak me out when I was a kid. But to ban a book series about love defeats hate seems a little extreme. Love it or hate it, Harry Potter is undoubtedly a series that is loved and treasured by millions and does not deserve to be on the banned book list.

Banned Book Week 2016

banned-books-logoIn the year 2016, it is funny to think of books being banned in schools or public libraries. According to the American Library Association over 11,000 books have been challenged or banned since 1982. When looking at the most commonly banned books, there is this mutual theme with all of these books. Most books that are banned are due to their language, the themes or certain scenes, or shake up political or social ideologies.

With a majority of the books that are being banned from schools or public libraries, there is always a common theme with these books. They are deemed classics. They challenge the average reader to think outside the square and allow the reader to think for their own. Books like The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn, The Hunger Games, even Charlotte’s Web are considered banned or ‘challenging’ books in some countries.

banned-books-week1

But whenever I read a book that had been banned or is seen as challenging to some school systems or libraries, I ask myself: why? Many of the books that have been on the banned book list have fantastic storylines, morals and themes. After rereading some of these banned books, I discovered that they have lessons and morals that carry on for years to come. Morals such as equality, respect and freedom. This is why we celebrate these banned books, because they teach us so many lessons that we can apply to our lives. They are a prime example of how we should celebrate the freedom to read and of speech.

That is why for the entirety of Banned Book Week 2016 (Sep.25th – Oct. 1st), I will be talking about what banned books have taught me over the years. Some of the most challenging books are some of my personal favourites. The books I will be discussing have wonderful morals and values to them, and can be enjoyed for years to come.

As usual, a spoiler warning is issued for all the books mentioned!