Date: February 2nd-4th
Topic: Pop Culture, Communication History, and the Loss of Technology
Anne Washburn captures the endurance of pop culture through the characters in Mr. Burns. In the first act the characters recall lines and scenes of The Simpsons episode Cape Feare. Overall, they recount the episode fairly accurate and just leave out some minor details. The second act occurs 7 years later and we start to see more details being left out from the original episode as the characters turn the show into a theatrical performance. Lines from various episodes that people remembered are bought and sold for use in plays. In the intro of Revolutions in Communications, Bill Kovarik states, “If there are no final answers, there is at least a need to be conscious of the issues; to attempt to steer one’s own best course past the Scylla and Charybdis of historiographic calamity; to write the truth to one’s best ability; and to serve the muse of history.” (Kovarik, p. 5). The characters in Mr. Burns must recreate the episodes from the Simpsons with their memory as their only tool due to the ‘calamity’ from the disaster. 75 years later during the third act the entire plotline is altered as an explosion at the nuclear plant forces the Simpson family to flee and Mr. Burns, not sideshow Bob, is the killer. With no technologies to help communicate the verbatim and scenes of the original episode it becomes history. However, the fact the episode was still being portrayed 75 years later is a testament to the importance of pop culture.
Kovarik examines how technology has such a vast impact on civilization; “Technological progress was the primary factor driving civilization, accordging to some early anthropologists, while others have seen the use of energy or the accumulation of information as central to cultural development.” (Kovarik, p. 7). In the case of Mr. Burns, there was a technological digression, which impedes the accumulation of information. As a result, 75 years later the play has little resemblance to the original episode and is versed. The play is a much darker version than the original episode because Mr. Burns kills everyone but Bart, which helps communicate the sentiments of a world where many people lost all of their loved ones.
The characters in the play served as historians investigating what happened in the original episode and coming up with their versions as a play. They were able to capture what Kovarik calls the “Two fundamental motivations for historians” which are “to remember and honor history’s heroes; and, to learn the lessons of history.” (Kovarik, p. 2). Bart is ‘history’s hero’ as he perseveres and survives. The play also serves as a lesson of history because there is an explosion at the power plant, which is similar to what happened in real life. It shows that these situations must be avoided and planned for or else people will be hurt.
How does the play 75 years later reflect the disaster that happened in real life?
What is the importance of theater in a society that loses technology?
What does the play say about the importance of history?