The classic TV show, The Simpsons is well known for their satirization of ordinary life. The show achieves this by using comedic techniques such as sarcasm, exaggeration and incongruity to criticize different systems. In this particular episode, Bart and Lisa Simpson are taking standardized test in school to determine their best fit future career.
The show criticizes the school system and the purpose of standardized tests. For example, the name of the test, career aptitude normalizing test, stands for “can’t”. The name is ironic and suggests that assessment has a negative connotation or that it restricts students’ abilities. The teacher also makes a comment saying, “some of you may discover a wonderful vocation you never even imagined, others may find out life isn’t fair”. She then goes into detail about how despite her masters in education she ended up babysitting fourth graders while her husband ran away with her marriage counselor. Although she speaks in a serious tone I can identify this as satire because it is criticizing the foundation of the test by inferring that the career you are given does not always work out or make you happy. This test is seemingly a parody of other standardized tests because the questions on the test are general, easy, and worded randomly to disguise the strategy behind the scores. After the test, Lisa’s friend turns to her and says “well that was a waste of time”. Lisa responds by saying school is never a waste of time. Right after saying this, the students are instructed by the teacher to stare at the front of the room for the remainder of the class. By contradicting the statement that school is never a waste of time, the writers of the show are pointing out that standardized tests are in fact a waste of time in schools. Yet the test is handled with extreme precaution and seriousness. I noticed this when the police officers come in and collected the tests in a briefcase.
Another aspect of satire is the arch above the National Testing Center that is engraved to say “controlling your destiny since 1925”. This is satire because it ridicules the idea of a test determining your destiny. Finally one of the last references to satire I noticed was when Bart’s test was being graded and the answers were so bad that it broke the machine. After it is revealed that his test showed that his “best-fit” career would be a police officer. This not only makes fun of the schools’ system of standardized testing but also criticizes another more political system: law enforcement. It points out the little education needed to be in positions of power such as a police officer and by joking about it, people watching the show can understand the reference and deeper meaning. Although this episode may seem like a simple comedic representation of society, the use of satire shows that it goes beyond just that. It promotes change in the way students are tested and marginalized based on scores and it suggests that society as a whole should hold law enforcement officers to a higher standard and degree of education instead of allowing people to get into positions of power easily.