World according to Bart or “The Simpsons” phenomenon

Aren't we forgetting the true meaning of Christmas? You know the birth of Santa!

[Bart Simpson]


When in 1989 Matt Groening introduced on America’s televisions the cartoon The Simpsons, he probably had not dreamt that it would become the longest played cartoon show and longest played sitcom of all times in the  history of the United States. The Simpsons, shortly after its rocket take-off, pushed aside the “perfect” family of Bill Cosby and assumed the position amongst the 30 most popular TV shows ever. Since its debut, the show has broadcasted over 400 episodes and reached its nineteenth season. The season’s 18 finale was the show’s 400th episode, and year 2007 marked the 20th anniversary of The Simpsons franchise.

The show could call itself controversial right after it left its cradle.

The villain Bart rebelling against his dysfunctional family walked away often unpunished which increased his popularity among young sympathizers. The guardians of moral values did not like it though. It had not taken that long until conservative schools prohibited the show with everything that could propagate it.

At the time, then-current President George H. W. Bush proclaimed: "We're going to strengthen the American family to make them more like the Waltons and less like the Simpsons." The prohibited fruit just gained its attraction. Americans fell in love with the show and have been watching it with the almost same attention till nowadays. Its idioms and neologisms has spread throughout the world to find its place in the language of many English speaking countries.  Mark Liberman[1] said that The Simpsons has “taken over from Shakespeare and the Bible as our culture's greatest source of idioms, catchphrases and sundry other textual allusions”. The Simpsons have lived to see The Simpsons Movie, a feature-length film, which was released in July 2007, and has grossed more than 600 million dollars worldwide.

One of the goals of the show was to criticize twisted family values; another – broader – was to set the mirror to the babbittry of “middle American fogey”.  Soon the goal evolved to a criticism of vices and hypocrisy of the whole American society through the political and socio-economic spectrum. 

A typical feature of the show is that everything which is “excessive”, everything which is relished by exaggeration and extremism is placed back to the ‘center’ with the use of humor and sarcasm. Social phenomena which are taken by vast American population rather seriously: feminism, patriotism, justice, solidarity, equality, presidential election, racism and xenophobia, family values, adoring of Hollywood idols and so on, are ridiculed and dethroned from their dogmatic pedestals. The show alleviates the pathos with which “official, politically correct America” treats the “values”. The Simpsons has really shaken up American idealization and conformity, and since its start it has been serving as a bitter reminder that a refreshing elevated nap can inconspicuously turn to rest on the laurels, one-sidedness, as Carl Gustav Jung calls it. Of course it is not something completely new in the times of modern cinematography. We have had a chance to observe similar process on the most popular show of all times: M.A.S.H. as well as from other influential works.

A question arises: are we dealing here with just another funny show without deeper meaning, or is it worth a serious psychological consideration? Experience has taught us that if a certain phenomenon attracts so much attention from the general public it certainly carries more than just big waves on its surface. Below, in its depth, there lays a valuable message in statu nascendi and thus contains – for individual and for the nation – the psychologically important potential forecasting a change. The amount of the generated energy is itself a sufficient indicator that the psyche “has the intention” or at least that it feels the promise of fulfillment of its purpose. The psychic energy (libido) could be this way utilized progressively. It is as if the human psyche was revealing its unconscious contents and thus creating its own “object” onto which it could consequently project something what was up-to-then carefully kept secret and so asserts the meaning of Delphi’s saying: “Know thyself”! The shadow – this “emotional nature, a kind of autonomy, and accordingly an obsessive or, better, possessive quality of man”, - could be this way approximated to the consciousness. (Jung, 1968, CW 9) As the people instinctively seeks partners through whom they could learn something about themselves, about their shadow, so is the collective man seeking a partner with whom he could develop dialectic relationship leading to a growth. In the scope of history we have had observed various modes of this principium individuationis. The creation of mythology and the ritualized way of living could serve as an example of this process. The partner therefore often comes from outside when the psyche is ready to initiate a change. It is just when on the verge of being a dissociated, autonomous part and an inner, immanent psychologically recognizable emotion: “The living effect of the myth is experienced when higher consciousness, rejoicing in its freedom and independence, is confronted by the autonomy of a mythological figure and yet cannot flee from its fascination, but must pay tribute to the overwhelming impression. The figure works, because secretly it participates in the observer’s psyche and appears as its reflection, though it is not recognized as such”. (Jung, 1956, p. 209, italics mine) Is this secret a key to understanding our phenomenon?

There always arises an important question of intensity when confronting unconscious contents. If the confrontation is too “direct”, it will meet with people’s defence and dismissal. They would react regressively and inadvertently increase the affect and foster the split-off process. But if it happens in the “right measure” and by the trick, so to say, consciousness can become enriched and accepts its shady counterpart, respectively its part. Only then the change can take place. Jung proposes a scenario: Imagine there is a poisonous snake under the chair of the client. If you tell the client the truth outright, he’ll panic and will cause the attack of the snake. The therapist has to use a trick to let the client know and protect him from the snake at the same time.

Through this mechanism a self-regulation of the psychic system takes place. This was the libido balanced between consciousness and unconsciousness, comparable to  liquid balanced in connected test-tubes. When dealing with the psychological sphere a certain resistance needs to be overcome though. The renitence is caused by exorbitant comfortableness of one of the poles, stagnancy, and psychic laziness: one-sidedness. Integration could be viewed as an act of overcoming this resistance resulting in the consequent acceptance and enrichment by the opposite psychic pole.  Integration then is a comeback to the “psychic authenticity”. Practically it means the diminishing of a neurotic position, getting closer to oneself and becoming psychologically healthier. This way original unconscious wholeness can be transformed to conscious wholeness.  We can never say “This process is accomplished.” There is always an indeterminate “amount” of shadow in every personality and in every nation in the form of all inferior traits of the individual persons. Psyche therefore continuously creates figures – objects of projections – to maintain a living process of integration.

Humor has always been an ideal, natural mediator of psychic integration. Laughter can open doors, where solemnity doesn’t possess the  keys. Sigmund Freud has noticed that jokes allow the acceptance of truth.[2] The joke has an ability to overcome the “mental censor”. Even though humor can attack, it paradoxically causes a soft, harmless reaction. A person may be affected by the paradox as revealed in the dénouement of the joke despite the moral objections and laugh in spite of them. According to Freud, humor provides   a graciously disarming way to instruct others about inappropriate behaviour or faulty reasoning. It also serves the purpose of exposure and aggression. Freud believed that aggressive and sexual tendencies could be actualized through the use of joke; if we extrapolate his position, the shadow contents – in Jungian language – can be mediated via joke. Analysts know how humour and laughter is important. It creates a feeling of basal security and through this power allows the acceptance also of what is it “wrapped” in it even if it is bitter or spicy. Humor is a servant of integration.

This phenomenon is archetypal; it is old as mankind itself: we can find it in the figure of trickster, imp, later in the form of clown, fool, buffoon and the like.[3]

In mythology and religion, the trickster is not only an animal, man, woman, or anthropomorphic animal. It is also a god, goddess, or spirit. "Many native traditions held clowns and tricksters as essential to any contact with the sacred. People could not pray until they had laughed, because laughter opens and frees from rigid preconception. Humans had to have tricksters within the most sacred ceremonies for fear that they forget the sacred comes through upset, reversal, surprise. The trickster in most native traditions is essential to creation, to birth", says Kopepping.[4] The trickster’s play usually disobeys the standard rules and norms of behaviour of community. He encourages the whole of nature to laugh at his antics, but at the same time is engaged in sly and destructive pursuits.  (Radin, 1956) The trickster deity breaks the rules of the gods or nature, sometimes maliciously but usually, albeit unintentionally, with ultimately positive effects. The rule-breaking takes the form of tricks. Tricksters can be cunning and foolish, they are often funny and humorous even when considered sacred or performing important cultural and religious tasks. “Trickster is at one and the same time creator and destroyer, giver and negator, he who dupes others and who is always duped himself” (Radin, 1956) The trickster was basically the mythological and phylogenic predecessor of the clown. It was a god connected to sacred so no ritual could go smoothly without its influence. Despite its impudence, the trickster helped break the power of profane and open the mind for the acceptance of sacred. Trickster, with all its variation through the world mythologies, served as a redeemer through humor: “Laughter, humor and irony permeate everything Trickster does. The reaction of the audience in aboriginal societies to both him and his exploits is prevailingly one of laughter tempered by awe”. (Radin, ibid.)

As Kerényi points out about trickster: “His function in an archaic society, or rather the function of his mythology, of the tales told about him, is to add disorder to order and so make a whole, to render possible, within the fixed bounds of what is permitted, an experience of what is not permitted”.[5] (italics mine) Trickster and other gods of mythology of that nature, like Mercurius, Prometheus, Hérmés and others were not “only” gods, but as Jung teaches us, living and real contents of the unconscious: “We can see this most clearly if we look at the heavenly constellations, which original chaotic forms were organized through the projection of images. This explains the influence of the stars as asserted by astrologers. These influences are nothing but unconscious, introspective perceptions of the activity of the collective unconscious. Just as the constellations were projected into the heavens, similar figures were projected into legends and fairy tales or upon historical persons”[6] Trickster conveys the primordial natural psychological principle, archetype, which is in objective world recognized as a god: trickster is a collective, archetypal, shadow figure, a condensation, a sum of collective inferiority. (Jung, 1956, p. 209) Function of this archetype is to catalyze psychic transformation, to initiate a change. “A trickster process” serves as a mediation of old to new, compensation of good to bad, so relativisation can take place. Jung says: “These mythological features extend even to the highest regions of man’s spiritual development. If we consider, for example the daemonic features exhibited by Yahweh in the Old Testament, we shall find in them not a few reminders of the unpredictable behaviour of the trickster, of his senseless orgies of destruction and his self-imposed suffering, together with the same gradual development into saviour and his simultaneous humanization. It is this transformation of the meaningless into meaningful that reveals the trickster’s compensatory relation to the ‘saint’ ”. (Jung, 1959, par. 458, italics mine). Trickster’s nature is per definitionem “instable”; to compensate a “fixed” position of consciousness, the trickster must be creative in concealment and change.  Frequently the trickster figure exhibits gender variability, changing gender roles and engaging in same-sex practices and so on. The vampire for example, is a kind of trickster with its ability to change into many shapes, among them bats, wolves, spiders, butterflies, fog, or even a bit of straw. All of this is needed to outwit the “stability” of consciousness: “Consciousness has the unfortunate tendency, inherent in its functioning, to solidify, and affirm itself and to maintain continuity – its very essence must be like that if it is to function – but it has the disadvantage of constantly excluding the irrational, the primitive, the unwanted. So it needs a counter-function in the unconscious, something which constantly breaks the consolidation of collective consciousness and thus keeps the door open for the influx of new creative contents”.[7] (Franz, 1972, italics mine) “One-sidedness”, writes Jung, “is an unavoidable and necessary characteristic of the directed process, for direction implies one-sidedness. It is an advantage and a drawback at the same time. (…) If the tension increases as a result of too great one-sidedness, the counter-tendency breaks through into consciousness, usually just at the moment when it is most important to maintain the conscious direction. Thus the speaker makes a slip of the tongue just when he particularly wishes not to say anything stupid. This moment is critical because it possesses a high energy tension which, when the unconscious is already charged, may easily ‘spark’ and release the unconscious content”. (Jung, CW 8, pars. 138-9) Joke can foster such a threshold-breaking because of its ambivalence and counter-position. Of course joke doesn’t “create” the compensation, only utilizes the natural tendency of the psyche to achieve equilibrium. In mythology tricksters are working in complex relationships with the high God; they perform heroic acts on behalf of men.[8] (Pelton, 1980)

We can assume that from the similar reasons why kings and rulers kept clowns in their bowery.  This institution could be found in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. Later, in ancient Greece, we can find them in stage play and theatre where they often served a function of kάθαρσις. Fools and clowns enjoyed special privileges from royal families and could even criticize the most dictatorial kings without being decapitated. Their pronouncements were “crazy” and “nonsensical”, therefore could not offend the king. But he secretly knew how much of the truth was hidden in them. It were the fools who enjoyed the freedom of speech, even in the darkest times of middle ages, where others - under supervision of holy church – ended up on the stake, clowns were adored by laughter-choking crowds. We can mention Middle-Age saturnalia or tripudium hypodiaconorum where in the celebration; dignity was paradoxically reversed by electing lower clergy as a temporary bishop.[9] We know from Victor Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre Dame how “fool’s day” turned Quasimodo in the king. Today we still “celebrate” pagan fool’s day on the first of April, without realizing the full scope of psychological connotations. The fool, by its grotesque manner, shocking and teasing style, sarcasm, appearance and way of living, symbolized passage and transformation since the times immemorial. (For example Tarot)  He was a symbol of youthfulness, irresponsibility and “craziness”, abandoning of “the old” and accepting of the “new”, but mainly clown served a symbol of taboo-breaking, rebellion and initiation. Again: the archetypal function of development and change (Ger. Verwandlung)

Carl Gustav Jung had realized sometimes in 1916, that change in human psyche can take place only through the mediator.[10] By the help of the function he called transcendent. This function can be also called synthesizing, bridging, reconciling, and uniting: a symbol. (Jung, CW 18, par. 1554) Transcendent function unites the pairs of opposites. (Jung, CW 14, par. 261) Client’s health relies on whether the function is produced. It is “a “living, third thing”, “symbol transcending” previous level of consciousness (Jung, CW 11, par. 784) Transcendent function, put simplistically, is the psychic function by means of which consciousness can accept an unconscious contents. Jung says “It is called transcendent because it makes the transition from one attitude to another organically possible, without loss of the unconsciousness”.[11] (CW 8, par. 145) It is nuevo, a symbol, a “third thing”: “From the activity of the unconscious there now emerges a new content, constellated by thesis and antithesis in equal measure and standing in a compensatory relation to both. It thus forms the middle ground on which the opposites can be united. (…) The standstill is overcome and life can flow on with renewed power towards new goals. I have called this process in its totality the transcendent function, “function” being here understood not as a basic function but as a complex function made up of other functions, and “transcendent” not as denoting a metaphysical quality but merely the fact that this function facilitates a transition from one attitude to another”.[12] (Jung, CW 6, pars. 823-828; italics mine) In analysis, the client is “required to produce transcendent function” if the change of attitude is to take place. (CW 8, pars 151-152) Hence, the similarity between dream and joke. Without going deeper into understanding of this most complicated and complex concept of the transcendent function, let’s stay with its basic premise, and that is  the function has an ability to temporarily “unsettle the structure of consciousness and thus allow integration of other contents. It makes possible for the “bigger content to become a part of smaller content”; it allows the most mysterious psychological process of all: inclusion of the unconsciousness into the consciousness.

If this process comes about progressively, meaning that it allows broadening of consciousness and freeing one from former prejudices and taboos and if it won’t render destructive or coercive influences, a new personality will emerge. Consciousness will instinctively accept its own development when it feels that tends toward its own freedom. Transcendent function is – so to say – a bridge connecting present spiritual world with the distant, mysterious, primeval cosmos of unconsciousness.  That is in the historical sense as well as  with the respect of one’s individual perspective. One is thus connecting not only with his own parties of personality present hic et nunc but with the “million year’s old men” we all harbour unchanged within the realm of our psyche. If this function emerges, something new can cross through it and our present world can thus be enriched by something totally new. This novum magicum can approximate us closer to the authenticity mentioned earlier in this paper. Our positions became more mature, we became “more adult” and freer in our experience, actions and deeds. Can we find contemporary examples of the archetypal processes in our culture? Have they vanished for all, or are they continuing to operate through the means of modern representations? I believe that we can easily view The Simpsons phenomenon through the paradigm of transcendent function and, subsequently, the trickster archetype. They do not exclude each other. While the show itself with its cartoon characters (and all shadowy characteristics) represents plurality of the trickster phenomena, a third “created” process allowing assimilation, pertains to the psychological work accompanying the assimilation of the contents which unconscious encapsulate in them, i.e. to the activation of transcendent function.  Jung says that transcendent function is a “psychological function comparable in its way to a mathematical function of the same name, which is a function of real and imaginary numbers. The psychological ‘transcendent function’ arises from the union of conscious and unconscious contents”. (CW 8, par. 131) In accordance with this definition we can view “that what functions” as humour induced by the show itself. A trickster or any mythological (archetypal) figure can serve a purpose of mediator only when it becomes object of conscious reflection, or at least attention. Because every shadow figure has an archetypal core, we can assume that also the process of assimilation has an archetypal efficiency. Has not that been so, the tendency to construct the processes and corresponding needs would cease to exist a long time ago.[13] The Simpsons is not the “function” itself, but it is an object stimulating the “field” on which the function operates; therefore it initiates the change of attitude.

I have to admit here that my understanding of The Simpsons is very limited. I have lived here in United States for not more than five years, but even if it was more, I would still be an “outside observer”. As a foreigner, on another side, I have an advantage. I have noticed, and I am not sure if this is a general rule, that when exposed to different culture, one is first confronted with its shadow. Perhaps it is due to fact that shadow becomes, after a while, accepted and no longer disrupts the conscience. One becomes “lived” by it as if it was the legitimate partie supérieure and not a content of which the best interest would be exposure to constant scrutiny. It is as if the close approximation of shadow to anima creates an infection to which anima becomes immune without realizing its intoxicating effect.  It is like King Theoden from the Lord of the Rings tale whose sight was distorted by dark lord Sauron anima’s ability to recognize its own closeness to the shadow diminished. Many times I was shocked while my American friends remained cold: “I cannot believe this guy here needs a Hummer [car] to commute downtown to work?”, “There’s  only 7 percent of the population listens to the NPR?” or “Where is the outrage that soldiers coming back from war have no insurance and many of them end up homeless?”… I am sure that that similar process occurs when somebody from outside encounters my country whose shadow of which I became immune. Never the less, there is an “advantage” which I enjoy for the time being. Perhaps it this “trickster-like property” which many of the comedians and writers of The Simpsons - like Matt Groening, James L. Brooks, Al Jean, George Meyer, Mike Reiss, John Swartzwelder, Jon Vitti, David Mirkin, Mike Scully, Matt Selman, and Ian Maxtone-Graham and others – have had to preserve and not have the communitas blind them from the truth. American society is, perhaps from all other western societies, spiritually and culturally confused the most. Traditions, values and principles by which  it is guided by has divaricated in their numbers proportionally to the intensity of the amount of immigration from different cultures on one hand and by the tendency to hold the structure of society by means of general law on the other hand.  This kind of pandemonium usually leads into extreme exaggerations of tradition through stubborn adherence to the “doctrine” – religious or other – or to the insensitive crossing of the borders of ethics and morality, or by compulsive oscillation between both of the poles.  Maybe due to the fear of falling into this perplexity,  family in the U.S. is considered to be something untouchable, almost sacred. The “family values” is a topic for both, Republicans and Democrats. They have very well realized that the family is the primer cohesive locus of society. Numbers shows though that it is not the case in reality and that families do not “cohere” to much.  More than half of the marriages fall apart. Later, the divorce rate is 60% for those families who tried it a second time, and for those who try it third time, it breaks into 70% of the cases.[14] Divorce rate and family dysfunction closely correlate. There we have a high percentage of dysfunctional families, but for the sad picture to be complete we have to add the high percentage of families which are dysfunctional but complete. More than 700.000 little Americans are given annually for the adoption. The picture is not too soothing for the country proudly calling “United we stand!”. We know, the greater the personality the bigger is the shadow it casts. We can only speculate about the reasons: long working hours, practically no maternal holidays, low accessibility of medical attention for low and middle economical stratum, low initial socio-economy status of large portion of population - which is given historically, high rate of illegal migration without chance of integration, excessive idealization, and preponderance of introversion and so on. These phenomena of course stem from the much more complex mycelium then we can address in this short essay. The reason why we are mentioning them is to point to the shadow which is responsible for their emergence. Of course some of these problems are to be found across the western world, some of them are supremely specific to America; and with that kind of specificity, the show approaches them. Many Europeans enjoy The Simpsons, but I am not sure to what extent they can feel all the nuances of it.

All of such phenomena fall under the category of shadow. Understandably, in the U.S. we can find an enormous amount of positive and following-worth examples; there’s a lot we can bow in front of. When speaking here of shadow we do not talk about ennobled psychological properties, but about those aspects which remained distant from the consciousness and developmentally neglected.[15] But yet they are so close, right at the end of our nose, so close we cannot see them. What is it? “The shadow presumes nothing that rigidly fix its content. ‘The man without a shadow’ is statistically the commonest human type, one who imagines he actually is only what he cares to know about himself. Unfortunately neither the so-called religious ma nor the man of science pretensions forms any exception to this rule”. (Jung, 1960, par. 409) The difference between America as portrayed and presented by popular media is huge. This “difference” falls under the sphere of shadow. This “American shadow” symbolically takes on the form of Homer Simpson. He incorporates features and qualities which nobody would rush to admit about himself. In his naïveté bordering with ignorance, his obscurantism, perplexity, foolishness, immaturity and indecisiveness with which he approaches tasks of everyday life are expressed shadowy elements in which substantial amount of population found not-so-innocent refuge.  Homer is the eternal adolescent – puer aeternus  - refusing accept responsibility, flying from one flower to the other believing that “real” happiness is to be found there and the next day over there …in delight of senses. What is it about Homer that makes him so preoccupied by himself, like Narcissus refusing to move bewitched by his own reflection? Is that a characteristic of an American shadow? Indeed, so many Americans are occupied by secret self-admiration, carefully cocooned in their isolation from outside world refusing any ‘foreign’ penetration. Such illusion of “special significancy” prevents many from relating to the world and to themselves authentically, by real and non-egocentric love. Acceptance of one’s shadow – as Jung points out repeatedly – has enormous moral significance: “The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge”.[16] The task for any individual and nation is thus clear: to integrate the shadow. Real America is not America from idealistic TV shows and movies, real America is “real”: it is a nation full of ordinary people, but also by geniuses and fools. It is a country of countless trials and errors, great inventions, but also great failures.  “In a country as big as the United States, you can find fifty examples of anything” as Chamberlain once said.

Many things are ripe for change in United States. Nobody will have a better success in enforcing this change then Americans themselves. Groening’s trickster used an excellent trick: Americans, because they are so proud and busy with their self-assertion, overlooking their shadow can accept its criticism only from themselves, thence from the cartoon characters coming from their own unconscious.  The fact that the show is so popular indicates how important – at least unconsciously – this process is for healthy spiritual development. From whom would they accept it, if not from comic, harmless looking cartoon figures, inciting more compassion and laughter, then anger and refusal? Certainly it is not an accident that they look like they are designed to allow regression to one’s childhood, that realm of close connection to the unconscious, the realm of freedom and unconscious wholeness. Bart, Homer and other show’s figures are not only fools, but also tricksters who have ability to bring the consciousness on the way, where it would not go in “normal” circumstances. Through the confusion, paradoxically, they are showing the right way.

If the collective “doctrine” - regulating from outside this confusion and thus bringing about the harmony, - does not have sufficient power, than something “inner”, something which has an ability to calm the conflict on the individual level must take up. This change springs from the unconscious. Only when the individual is changed then the society can change. Only through the individual can collective growth can take place. We believe that The Simpsons show allows exactly that. Maybe you can object that there’s still a long way from laughter to change, but even small insight can transform. Transformation is a “fine”, almost an invisible thing, doesn’t shine and glow but silently changes flow of the river. Not-one American family – and here of course is necessary to add, that not-one European or Asian family – can take a look at itself in the mirror of the Simpsons. Maladies portrayed by show, as dogmatism, consumption, obsession by object, toxic pollution of Great Mother Earth, overeating, substance and medications abuse, preoccupation by [potential] unlived life and future, departing from natural life, disrespect towards history and old age, enmeshment, and so on are suddenly not flatly denied, but through laughter brought to conscious level. The show thus mediates regulation of unconscious energy and allows encounter with the shadow: i.e. with the part pitifully neglected by American society. Through the trick swings the momentum of ego-position which comfortably habituated in one-sidedness. In the fast–paced life and fast development and in the chaos that results from it, approximates the nation to the “authentic center” in which the human soul is good. We cannot look at the shadowy tendencies as “bad” or worth destruction, but as neglected parts which have potential for development; possessing vital life energy in potentia. There’s an adaptive element in them. Perhaps soul adapts part of the illusion when exposed to quanta of material wealth and glimmering shine offered by commercial, market and profit oriented system. In such pressure, it is easy to forget who we are and where is our “center”. The role of the trickster is to keep the “old” connected with the “new”, allow the new tradition to rise, but not by abandoning the old but through its assimilation. In the speed by which American society runs towards the future it is easy to lose the treasure of the past. Maybe it is the inner treasure which lies under the deceiving surface; the inner treasure which cannot be found through competition and self-indulgence, but through relation, interconnection and compassion. Maybe it is this which needs to be always created anew through the trickster of the show. The old myths say that the trickster made the world as it actually is. Other gods set out to create a world more perfect and ideal, but this world with its complexity and ambiguity, its beauty and its dirt, was the trickster's creation, and the work is not yet finished. (Hyde, 1998) An illusion of the perfect world is perpetuation of shadow, but realization that there is always something we need to work on is the road to a fuller life. The Simpsons are here to remind us that no law, no doctrine, no blind following of religious teaching will give the family stability, but that it is love and inner instinctive feeling of the truth which will save it from confusion and desperate fluctuation between the poles of overadaptation. The Simpson family is au fond perfect not because of its material wealth, prestige, or fame, but because of the ability of its members to free themselves from enslaving ego and rise thus themselves above “greatness” and respect demand of their members to have their own developmental pace.

Even though Homer so many times left his family in desire to become somebody else, to find himself, always he came back and was accepted by the open arms of his family – so the original wholeness could be established again.[17]




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  28. Kerényi, Karl, The Trickster in Relation to Greek Mythology, trans. R. F. C. Hull. The Trickster: A Study in American Indian Mythology; by Paul Radin. New York: Schocken, 1956.
  29. 31.   Koepping, Klaus-Peter, 1985, Absurdity and Hidden Truth: Cunning Intelligence and Grotesque Body Images as Manifestations of the Trickster. History of Religions 24 (3).
  30. Lock, Helen, The Transformation of the Trickster (internet), 2002. 
  31. Miller, Jeffrey C., Chodorow, Joan, The Transcendent Function: Jung's Model of Psychological Growth Through Dialogue With the Unconscious, StateUniversity of New York Press, 2004.
  32. Miller, Jeffrey, C., Joan Chodorow, The Transcendent Function: Jung's Model of Psychological Growth Through Dialogue With the Unconscious, StateUniversity of New York Press, 2004
  33. Moore, Robert, L., The Archetype of Initiation, Xlibris, 2001.
  34. Ogden Thomas, Reconsidering Three Aspects Of Psychoanalytic Technique, The International Journal of Psychoanalytic Technique, 1996.
  35. Pelton, Robert D. The Trickster in West Africa: A Study of Mythic Irony and Sacred Delight.BerkeleyUniversity of California, 1980.
  36. Radin, Paul, The Trickster: A Study in American Indian Mythology, Duke University Press, 1956.
  37. Sedgwick D., Introduction to Jungian Psychotherapy, The Therapeutic Relationship, Brunner-Routledge, 2001.
  1. Holland, Mark, Allan Combs, Synchronicity: Science, Myth, and the Trickster, Marlow & Company, 1996.
  1. Hyde, Lewis, Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth, and Art, Giroux, 1998.
  1. The Psychology of The Simpsons, Edited by Alan Brown, Benbella Books, INC., Texas, 2005
  2. Tolkien, J. R. R., (1954) The Lord of the Rings, Houghton Mifflin.
  3. Wikipedia (internet)


[1] Mark Liberman is a renowned linguist. He has a dual appointment at the University of Pennsylvania, as Trustee Professor of Phonetics in the Department of Linguistics, and as a professor in the Department of Computer and Information Sciences. He is also currently the director of the Linguistic Data Consortium at University of Pennsylvania. (Wikipedia)

[2] Sigmund Freud, “Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious”. 1953-74; in “The standard edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud”. 24 vols. translated under the general editorship of James Strachy in collaboration with Anna Freud. London: Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psychoanalysis.

[3] Paul Radin, The Trickster: A Study in American Indian Mythology, Duke University Press, 1956

[4] Koepping, Klaus-Peter, 1985, "Absurdity and Hidden Truth: Cunning Intelligence and Grotesque Body Images as Manifestations of the Trickster". History of Religions 24 (3): 191-214

[5] Kerényi, Karl. "The Trickster in Relation to Greek Mythology", trans. R. F. C. Hull. The Trickster: A Study in American Indian Mythology; by Paul Radin. New York: Schocken, 1956.

[6] Jung, C., G, “The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious", 1959, Collected Works, Vol. 9.i, pars. 87-110.

[7] Franz, Marie-Louise Von, Creation Myths, Spring Publications, New York, 1972.

[8] In: Lock, Helen, The Transformation of the Trickster (internet), 2002. 

[9] Saturnalia: the feast with which the Romans commemorated the dedication of the temple of the god Saturn, which was on 17 December. Over the years, it expanded to a whole week, to 23 December. Saturnalia became one of the most popular Roman festivals. It was marked by tomfoolery and reversal of social roles, in which slaves and masters ostensibly switched places. (Source: Wikipedia, internet)

[10] Jung, C. G. (1969). “The Structure and Dynamic of the Psyche”. Hull, R. F. C. (Trans). Bollingen Series XX. The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, 8. Princeton, NJ: PrincetonUniversity Press. First published in 1960.

[11] Jeffrey C. Miller, Joan Chodorow, The Transcendent Function: Jung's Model of Psychological Growth Through Dialogue With the Unconscious, StateUniversity of New York Press, 2004

[12] Jung, C. G., Psychological Types, PrincetonUniversity Press, 1971. (Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Vol.6).


[13] Jacobi Jolande, “Complex/Archetype/Symbol in the Psychology of C.G. Jung”, Princeton, 1971, trans. Ralph Manheim.

[14] "Advance Report of Final Divorce Statistics" (internet). Monthly Vital Statistics Report.

[15] Jung, C. G., The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche (Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Vol. 8), PrincetonUniversity Press, 1960


[16] Jung, C., G., “Aion” (1951), PrincetonUniversity Press; CW 9, Part II: P.14

[17] A shortened version of the article was published in The Psychology Today Magazine in Czech Republic in December, 2007, later republished in Mlada Fronta Dnes magazine in January 2008.

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