August 1, 2007

Simpsons psychology: Examining the heads
of America’s No. 1 dysfunctional family

The Simpsons

Read more about the book
"The Simpsons Movie" official Web site

There was method to their madness when SMU psychology professor Alan Brown and lecturer Chris Logan published a collection of essays called The Psychology of the Simpsons: D’oh! The essay’s authors are thoughtful psychologists from across the country – but the chapter titles range from “Which One of Us is Truly Crazy” to “Looking For Mr. Smarty Pants.”

Get past the goofy cover, with its illustration of Homer’s beer- and TV-saturated brain, and you find analysis aimed at both TV viewers and students of psychology. With the recent release of "The Simpsons Movie," Logan is becoming point man for a lot of questions about America’s favorite dysfunctional animated family. There are a lot of Simpsons fans in psychology – and Logan says he’s not ashamed to admit he’s one of them.

When did you start watching "The Simpsons"?

I actually started back in high school and in my days as an SMU undergraduate.

But, doesn’t psychology have to be serious?

It’s nice to take the seriousness of your work and apply it to something more humorous, like "The Simpsons." The book’s content is very serious, but it's not presented in an overly serious way.

Big picture – what can we learn from the Simpsons?

I think what we can see in the Simpsons TV show is an exaggeration of many very normal characteristics of American life. But it almost sets a more realistic expectation. You don’t have to be the Cleavers from “Leave it to Beaver” or, more recently, Bill Cosby’s the Huxtables – the idyllic family that very few of us experience. It’s certainly not an ideal family, but it's nice to see the flaws presented in a family that sticks together for nearly 20 years.

Which character do you most identify with?

It sounds odd to aspire to be like Homer in some ways. The one nice thing about Homer is he seems to succeed at everything in spite of his incompetence.

What is your favorite essay in the book?

I like “The Cafeteria Deep Fryer is Not a Toy.”

What would Homer or Bart say about your book? Or would you rather get Lisa’s opinion – she’s the brains of the operation.

Unfortunately Lisa would be the only person who would attempt to read our book. I think Lisa would get a kick out of going through it and seeing her family analyzed. It would also be a little bit frightening. I’m not sure many of us would want psychologists to study our family life and come up with an analysis everyone can read.

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