Reception Theory: Active Audience Theory with ‘The Simpsons’.


Reception theory focuses on the role of the audience in the interpretation of a text, instead of on the text itself. In other words, the theory suggests that audiences play an active role in reading texts, that each person has the ability to interpret the same text differently, and that a text by itself – i.e. without a reader – has no specific meaning.

Below are a couple of scenes from the popular TV series – and now movie – ‘The Simpsons’. When watching the clips, think about the elements of the show that make it successful in targeting both young and old audiences, especially its humour. For example, a 45 year old man and a 10 year old girl would sit down to watch exactly the same episode and yet receive it entirely differently – why? The clips show how the humour varies throughout to target different areas of the audience.


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