I Renounce Homer Simpson and All His Teachings
At issue are 63 random Simpsons episodes, which researchers studied for any scene involving mental or physical health, medical treatments, substance issues, exercise, sex, body image or nutrition and then graded the characters' behaviors as positive, negative, or neutral.
"When issues such as smoking, drug use, disease risk factors or alcohol consumption came up," the Daily Targum reported, "the great majority of the messages were found to be negative. In addition, beer was the most popular item among characters, representing 39 percent of all foods consumed on the show. Researchers said these trends could subconsciously affect viewers, possibly legitimizing an unhealthy diet."
Of particular interest to researchers was the aforementioned Simpson family patriarch, who generated 17 percent of the verbal references to food and 21 percent of incidents where food was eaten. "A major concern is the inadequate, inaccurate and/or questionable content of health messages embedded in television programs," said head researcher Carol Byrd-Bredbenner, about the dietary habits of the fictional characters who do not actually exist in flesh-and blood form.
The Rutgers researchers did offer a caveat to their study.
"You have to remember The Simpsons is a comedy show," Journalism Research Institute associate director Guy Baehr told the Daily Targum. "There could be a lot of irony or humor involved."
On The Simpsons? No, that seems unlikely.
We can only thank the researchers at Rutgers University for their vigilance and forthrightness -- at last, somebody is thinking of the children. But we must urge the Rutgers researchers to train their penetrating powers of observation on other aspects of animated series featuring nonexistent characters, lest other negative behaviors cloud our minds and corrupt our principles.
These are important life lessons that only research can drill into the heads of our impressionable young people. Failure to learn them can lead to depression, obesity, impotence, feelings of hopelessness, severe injury, and perhaps even death. Children are heavily influenced by what they see on television, and without studies that conclusively prove you can't trust cartoon characters, our kids are likely to grow up fat and stupid, their brains filled with mush and their chins covered with drool. We will raise a generation of gullible idiots, slow-witted and open-mouthed and prone to believing everything anyone tells them.
And the next thing you know, they'll wind up as researchers at Rutgers University.
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