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Simpsons vs wells

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Simpsons vs wells

The advent of new technology has been a source of trepidation throughout history. Just as with any change, fear is often the pervasive response to new technology and developments, especially amongst those who do not fully comprehend the changes. It seems, however, that people ignorant of the true meaning and extent of technology are the most likely to place unwarranted faith in its abilities. Technology becomes an authority?one that is difficult to question or rebel against. After advances become accepted, complacency sets in, reducing the general public's vigilance against dangers to society in any form.

This lack of vigilance, due to an unwarranted faith in authority, is depicted and questioned in H. G. Wells's The War of the Worlds. Published in 1898, the message of Wells's work remains relevant, even in the present day. Criticisms of an unwarranted faith in authority manifest themselves in modern culture in multiple media. The Simpsons, a half-hour animated television program, represents such a manifestation. The episode entitled ?Bart's Comet,? first aired on February 5, 1995, criticizes a blind allegiance to authority in any form by humorously detailing Springfield's response to an approaching comet, which threatens to destroy everyone in the town. The episode parallels Wells's chronicle of the Martian invasion in its depiction of authority. Unwarranted faith finds an unfortunate place in government, religion, and science in both accounts of impending disaster. In themselves, these three fundamental elements of society do not receive criticism. The misguided trust people sometimes place in these institutions, relying on them as unquestioned and unquestionable authorities, receives the brunt of the censure in both works. The townspeople themselves receive their fair share of reproach as well. In both works, the people criticized include not only the general middle- to upper-class communities, but also those responsible for the criticizing.

In The War of Worlds, the government plays a silent role that finds its reflection in the attitudes of the townspeople upon the first arrival of the Martian cylinder. Here, the ignorance of the public manifests itself in the cavalier attitudes of the people toward the potential threat. In the opening lines of the novel, the public's demeanor becomes evident: ?With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter? (Wells 3). During the height of the British government's domination of the world, through the spread of its colonies and economic power, Wells's description of the people's security in their empire over matter, over reality itself, seems most fitting. Their blindness to the impending threat stems from their nation's security and success throughout the world. The narrator comments that, in retrospect, it seemed ?incredibly wonderful that, with that swift fate hanging over us, men could go about their petty concerns as they did? (Wells 9). In fairness, however, he continues by describing his own petty concerns at the time: ?I was much occupied learning to ride the bicycle, and busy upon a series of papers discussing the probable developments of moral ideas as civilization progressed? (Wells 9). Civilization's progress, not its survival, remained the focus in people's minds.

Unwarranted faith in the government is further reflected in the people's confidence in their military superiority over the Martians. Despite the fact that the Martians have successfully traversed the vast distance from their home to earth, trust in the military endures. ?The idea people seemed to have here was that the Martians were simply formidable human beings, who might attack and sack the town, to be certainly destroyed in the end? (Wells 67). The narrator himself is guilty of this over-estimation: ??A shell in the pit,? said I, ?if the worst comes to the worst, will kill them all?? (Wells 32). The narrator later echoes this same sentiment when, in hoping to realize a childhood, heroic fantasy, he notes that he would like to be involved in the death of the invaders. His faith in human superiority extends beyond the military and includes himself, a moral philosopher, as one who could defeat the Martians. His estimation of his own strength and abilities seems ludicrous?he cannot even claim the benefit of military training.

The same ill-fated trust in government reveals itself in a humorous description of both elected officials and townspeople in The Simpsons. As the comet approaches Springfield, the mayor speaks to the community in a town meeting. Here, the public reacts like mindless drones to its elected official, responding to the mayor and his position of authority, rather than to the content of his speech:

QUIMBY [mayor]. Fellow citizens, when I learned about the impending crisis, I caught the very next plane to Springfeld...field.

{everyone claps politely}

First of all, yes, there is a comet in the sky, and yes, it is going to hit Springfield.

{a couple of people clap}

You don't need to applaud that. (Swartzwelder 12)

Despite the mayor's obvious incompetence, the townspeople offer no criticism of his absence from the city until the threat of disaster, nor do they notice his mistake in pronouncing the name of his own town. They merely look to the mayor for a resolution to their crisis. An explanation of a plan to destroy the comet, given by a prominent scientist, quickly assuages the fears of the community, and their derisive laughter at the comet and its feebleness serves as a testament to their foolish trust. This blind faith finds its expression in the comments of Homer Simpson, in a conversation with his worried daughter, Lisa:

HOMER. Will you stop worrying about that stupid comet? It's going to be destroyed. Didn't you hear what that guy [the mayor] in the building said?

LISA. But Dad, don't you think?

HOMER. Uh, Lisa, the whole reason we have elected officials is so we don't have to think all the time. Just like that rainforest scare a few years back: our officials saw there was a problem and they fixed it, didn't they?

LISA. No, Dad, I don't think?

HOMER. There's that word again. (Swartzwelder 13)

Just as Wells's narrator trusts in his military's might, so too do the townspeople of Springfield, depending on the plan previously discussed in the town meeting, which involves the use of a missile to intercept and destroy the comet.

This criticism of an unthinking populace differs slightly from Wells's focus in The War of the Worlds. While The Simpsons presents a censure of a witless populace that overly relies upon the guidance of authority instead of their own intellects, Wells includes the dimension of emotion to his criticism of the British. Their absence of sympathy for or empathy with those who have found themselves under the rule of the British Empire receives subtle but apt rebuke in the body-type of the Martians: they have evolved into creatures comprised of a great brain, but no heart or other organs. The lack of a heart symbolizes the cruel and emotionless beings the British may become in their continued ignorance of the plight their Empire engenders.

While an unwarranted faith in government manifests itself among those responsible for its institution, a criticism of religious authority comes in the form of shattered and shaken clergy. In The War of the Worlds, the narrator encounters a curate after the devastation has already begun. In the curate, the narrator finds no solace. The curate maintains that God looses the Martian invasion upon a sinful earth as punishment: ??This must be the beginning of the end,? he said, interrupting me. ?The end! The great and terrible day of the Lord! When men shall call upon the mountains and the rocks to fall upon them and to hide them?hide them from the face of Him that sitteth upon the throne!?? (Wells 78). For the curate, belief in God does not provide him with hope. Rather, God serves as the source of the destruction he sees about him. The narrator chastises the curate and his hysteria by asking, ?What good is religion if it collapses under calamity?? (Wells 78). Wells reproaches blind faith in religious figures by showing how one curate's own thoughtless faith in his religion drives him to eventual madness. His immature understanding of that which he preaches leads him to despair.

?Bart's Comet? offers a similar glimpse into the mind of a shaken clergyman. After the missile's failure to destroy the comet, an encounter with Reverend Lovejoy illustrates his despair:


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Keywords: simpson v wells, why simpsons is the best

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