“A Noble Myth Embiggens the Smallest Man”

The Significance of the Frontier Myth in Contemporary American Culture and Its Deconstruction in The Simpsons

Since Europeans started flocking to the new world, there has been the idea of the West. Every one has been in contact with the American West. The West is an elementary part of Americas’ self-understanding, of its history and culture. In this context another term must discussed as well: The frontier. It moved mainly from east to west, as the settlers made their way through the American continent, pushing further and further until there was nowhere left to go. From frontier it is not far to what is usually referred to as the frontier myth. For the paper’s discussion the concept of the myth, the frontier myth in particular, is very important.

The paper will discuss how history changed and blended into numerous versions of one “history” and how this affected the self-understanding of the American people. It will show that history is not a static, intangible post and that it is a mediated concept.

Another part of American (pop)-culture, besides the West, is the television series The Simpsons. No other television program has left its mark as highly visible in contemporary culture with its numerous levels of narration and possibilities of readings. In many episodes the frontier history of the USA is a recurring topic and embodied as a permanent reminder in the character of Jebediah Springfield, the founder of the town. He is the stand-in for all the countless frontier heroes trying to find a better place for themselves and his followers.

This paper will analyse how the creators of the program reflect on the topics of settlement, frontier myth and American history. By means of parody and satire the creators of The Simpsons compose a certain image of how concepts such as the West or the frontier myth are generally treated. It investigates how these concepts are treated in the series. It will then try to answer the question if those representations found in the show differ from the general idea of them and what effect its parody has on the audience. There are many episodes that deal with the topic of American settlement and its problems from a contemporary point of view.

Florian Hubertus, geboren 1982 in Frankfurt a.M. Abitur 2002, dann Zivildienst und Zeit für Reisen. Entfaltung der Liebe zur Fotografie. Ab 2005  Studium der Medienwissenschaft, Anglistik und Spanisch an der Universität Trier (Magister). Lange Musikredakteur einer lokalen Zeitung und TV Sendung. Arbeit für die Cinémathèque Luxembourg und das Luxembourg City Film Festival. 2013 Wechsel nach Berlin. Freiberuflich als Regieassistenz, Produzent und Journalist. Tätig für Filmfestivals wie Berlinale, Down Under Film Festival. Berliner Knotenpunkt von Cinema Jam und Mitgestalter eines Filmortes in Neukölln.