Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tween lit parodied by 'The Simpsons'

     I work most Sunday evenings, so I've fallen out of the habit of watching "The Simpsons" when it first airs. I don't often bother to DVR it for later viewing either because the quality has declined a bit over the years and there's so much else to watch. But last night I watched an episode that aired a few weeks ago, via AT&T U-verse On Demand, because my kind-hearted wife noticed it featured the voice of author Neil Gaiman. As it happens, the episode also touched upon a few other subjects I've mentioned in these posts.

Twitter photo of animated Neil Gaiman on "The Simpsons."

     The main plot of the episode was a satire of tween lit: that it is formulaic, written by committee, and overly dependent on marketing the authors and their personal stories. And about vampires.
     A chain bookstore with a cafe is also prominently featured: Bookaccino's.
    Neil Gaiman pops up when several of the Simpsons characters, including Homer, decide to write their own tween bestseller and assemble a team as in caper films such as "Ocean's Eleven." They decide an actual best-selling young adult author might be handy, so they bring Gaiman in ... to fetch sandwiches.
     The subsequent book fits a formula that is obviously based on the Harry Potter books ~ an orphan who discovers he is magical and needs to fulfill some sort of quest/scavenger search while going to a special school that is also magical and where they play an incomprehensible magical sport ~ but which they allege applies to all tween fantasy series.
     Further Bitsoli's Biblio-Files connection: Homer says something like, "I hope we put in enough steampunk, whatever that is."
    They sell "The Troll Twins of Underbridge Academy" for $1 million after setting up Homer's daughter, Lisa, as the fake author, complete with hard-luck bio, but are then dismayed when it is rewritten to be about vampires instead of trolls.
     There then follows their attempt to restore the original text, a double cross or two, the twist ending ("I got the idea from every movie ever made," Lisa says) and a denouement out of the film "Wild Things."
     Earlier in the episode, Lisa attempts to write her own individual book, but keeps getting distracted by making a music selection, straightening up, playing online video games, moving with her laptop to a cafe and other self-dodges familiar to all writers with writer's block.
     There might have been an Ayn Rand joke in there too; I don't remember.
     It was a fun half-hour. If you have AT&T U-verse, look for it. Otherwise, watch for the inevitable reruns.


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