‘Implied…or implode?’: The Simpsons' Carnivalesque Treehouse of Horror Specials

Animation 18 (2010)
Since 1990, The Simpsons’ annual “Treehouse of Horror” episodes have constituted a production sub-context within the series, having their own conventions and historical trajectory. These specials incorporate horror plots and devices, as well as general references to science fiction, into the series’ base in situation comedy. The Halloween specials disrupt the series usual family-oriented sitcom structure, dissolving the ideological balances that stabilise that society. By depicting the Family and community in extreme circumstances, in seeing the horror of ‘how things could be’, the Treehouse episode leave us with hanging questions about the nature of social being that bleed into the regular sitcom-style episodes. By breaking from the comparatively realistic social-satire that characterizes the series as a whole, the Halloween specials cast a reflexive gaze back onto “The Simpsons” itself. As a result, the “Treehouse” episodes are valuable as a means of examining the strategies and implications of the series as a whole. Bakhtin’s model of the carnivalesque is utilised to underscore these disruptive traits that characterise the Treehouse episodes.
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