Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, Vol 11, No 3 (2017)

Two Days Before the Day Before an Irritating Truth: The Simpsons and South Park’s Environmentalism as a Challenge for Mass Mediating Dark Green Ecological Ethics

David Feltmate
Issued Date: 19 Feb 2018


Critical scholarship on pro-environmental and dark green religious themes in popular culture must engage more directly with that culture’s means of production. To make this argument, I first draw on Bron Taylor’s theory of ‘dark green religion’ as a foundation for articulating the sacredness underlying the call to deep ecological ethics. Reflecting on the means of mass mediating that message provides us with an opportunity to critically evaluate the challenges of ecological ethics in late capitalist society. Second, through analyzing two of the most popular sitcoms of the last twenty years—The Simpsons and South Park—I contend that the task of articulating dark green ethics through mass media is inherently challenged by the capitalist modes of production that make opposition to them possible. While other scholars have been hopeful about these programs’ ecological statements, I argue that the programs are inherently hampered by their reliance on consumer capitalism and its modes of production. In conclusion, I provide a warning for those who would perform ecological ethics in the contemporary media sphere and offer a way to build towards potential alternative paths.

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DOI: 10.1558/jsrnc.27199


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Episodes Referenced

‘The Old Man and the Lisa’. The Simpsons. #4F17. Originally aired 20 April 1997 on FOX. Written by John Swartzwelder. Directed by Mark Kirkland.

‘Trash of the Titans’. The Simpsons. #5F09. Originally aired 26 April 1998 on FOX. Written by Ian Maxtone-Graham. Directed by Jim Reardon.

‘Rainforest Schmainforest’. South Park. #301. Originally aired 7 April 1999 on Comedy Central. Written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Directed by Trey Parker.

‘Lisa the Treehugger’. The Simpsons. #CABF01. Originally aired 19 November 2000 on FOX. Written by Matt Selman. Directed by Steven Dean Moore.

‘Terrance and Philip: Behind the Blow’. South Park. #505. Originally aired 18 July 2001 on Comedy Central. Written by Trey Parker. Directed by Trey Parker.

‘Two Days Before the Day After Tomorrow’. South Park. #908. Originally aired 19 October 2005 on Comedy Central. Written by Trey Parker and Kenny Hotz. Directed by Trey Parker.

‘Smug Alert!’ South Park. #1002. Originally aired 29 March 2006 on Comedy Central. Written by Trey Parker. Directed by Trey Parker.

‘Manbearpig’. South Park. #1006. Originally aired 23 April 2006 on Comedy Central. Written by Trey Parker. Directed by Trey Parker.


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