Afternoon InquisitionScience

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After a hiatus of several years, the sci-fi, nerd-tastic cartoon, Futurama, is returning with new episodes on Comedy Central starting tonight (June 24, 2010).

There has always been comedy-laden, often speculative, helpings of science present in each episode of Futurama, and the producers promise even more of the same in the episodes yet to air. Plus, cartoons like The Simpsons and South Park offer perceptive, sometimes scathing bits of social commentary in many of their installments. Viewers can actually learn something while exercising their imaginations and LOL-ing.

So let’s discuss cartoon culture.

First, are you stoked for the new Futurama episodes? Not a fan? Never heard of it? Second, what level of importance do you place on cartoons in the pantheon of informative, educational media? Third, were you secretly attracted to Bugs Bunny when he dressed up like a woman?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 3pm ET.

Sam Ogden

Sam Ogden is a writer, beach bum, and songwriter living in Houston, Texas, but he may be found scratching himself at many points across the globe. Follow him on Twitter @SamOgden

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27 Comments

  1. I think people absorb a great deal of information without realizing it from these kinds of entertainment.
    I credit my fascination with quantum physics and astronomy to STNG. So I am all for shows that expand horizons and make people interested in science.
    Bugs Bunny doesn’t have decent legs. He shouldn’t wear a dress.

  2. I like Futurama. I’m happy for its return!
    Educational… meh. Cartoons do help you learn to laugh at the ridiculousness of things and that can be educational and open up dialogs. I think Southpark is pretty great at doing that and I am hoping Futurama keeps up with its witty humor as well.

    There is nothing attractive about Bugs Bunny.

  3. Love Futurama with a passion normally reserved for people with boobies!

    Sadly this love doesn’t continue to the four direct to dvd movies… although humerous in parts they really lacked the biting wit and nuanced emotional core that made the series really stand out. Hopefully the new series can recreate the original magic, just hope this new series isn’t a case of diminishing returns.

  4. I enjoy Futurama, but I’m afraid that, like the family guy, when it comes back, it will be…like a sequel. You know, while Al Gore may like it, all the recycled jokes are pretty lame.

    I think if done right, cartoons can be educational. I mean, look at Anamaniacs. There was the fun violence, but a song with all the nations of the world, the water cycle, the states and their capitals, the universe, the 5 senses, and the presidents of the united states of america. IMHO, Anamaniacs are a shining example of what an educational cartoon should be. Plus, they had the wheel of morality. Elvis lives on in our hearts, in our minds, and in a trailer park right outside of Cleveland.

    I don’t go for drag. Never was my fancy.

  5. I can’t think of a single thing I have ever “learned” from a cartoon (except how bills become laws). However, cartoons greatly influenced my sense of humor and outlook. My love for puns, the absurd, and misleading expectations are all extensions of my youth spent watching Saturday morning cartoons.

    I definitely got somewhat hot under the collar when bugs dressed up as the Valkeryie for “What’s Opera, Doc”. Who wouldn’t want to be swept off the battlefield by that?

  6. I am told my MRI bears a striking resemblance to Zoidberg.
    As for those attracted to Bugs Bunny, please understand that I rarely get to say this and do so with affection and respect – get away from me, you weirdos.

  7. Never really got into Futurama. It’s a fun show, but it never grabbed me.

    I think pop culture has a large role in forming our minds, as sad as it is to say that. Shows like South Park and Futurama (and non-cartoons like The Daily Show and it’s ilk) have a great way of encouraging alternative viewpoints in a way that makes people enjoy the show and still accidentally learn something from time to time. That’s why I always get sad when I see God on The Simpsons.

  8. The thing that always bugged me on Futurama was the reliance on the heads in jars schtick. Science Fiction in any medium has limitless possibilities for imaginative metaphor. Using pop culture figures from our current history always seemed a little lame. I’ll watch it if I happen upon it, but rarely seek it out.
    Today’s cartoons have been fearless in exposing our dumb world. I appreciate their efforts to be as subversive as possible. In regards to educational valie, I’d say they surpass network work news and are just below satrical news programs.
    Even though he was often funny, I always thought Bugs was kind of an asshole, just like Milton Bearle.

  9. I tried to like Futurama, but didn’t succeed.

    I’m not sure much is learned from entertainment of any sort. It is all a mishmash of information, misinformation, science, pseudoscience, and pure nonsense. I’m not sure you could separate out the good stuff from the bad without knowing which was which ahead of time.

    Thanks to Bugs Bunny, however, I can now hum small slices of famous operas.

  10. Mmm. Dumped the TV many years ago.

    But I do watch movies…and I remember in the documentary “Crumb”, R. Crumb admits to having been sexually attracted to Bugs Bunny as a little kid. I’m more of a Jessica Rabbit fan.

  11. I’ve really enjoyed many of the Futurama’s the first time around and will watch the new ones on DVR when I have time. But like Family Guy I like many but not all and for me when comedy is not funny its worse than watching paint dry. So I won’t set time aside to watch when its broadcast incase its not funny and fast forwarding is not an option. As far as education goes well, I say boy, boy!, pay attention when I’m talking to you son. Calls himself a chicken hawk does he.

  12. Futurama is pretty good, but I find it more scattershot with regard to social commentary than the Simpsons (at least a few years ago when they were both running together). I do look forward to new episodes, tho.

    I never found BB attractive and could never, for the life of me, understand how Elmer Fudd could fall for it every time, but I did “learn” many things from watching Bug’s antics and from all the WB characters. Plus, the stories and drawing were soooooo good.

    @SkepLit: “Oh, Bwoonhilda, you’re so wovwee.” “Yes, I know it. I can’t help it.” :-)

  13. I’ve never been much of a cartoon person, even as a kid so while I appreciate Futurama (for the scenes I have seen) I don’t know much about it to form an opinion.

    That being said: “Third, were you secretly attracted to Bugs Bunny when he dressed up like a woman?”

    No. But I did have a mad crush on Raphael the Ninja Turtle.

  14. I love Futurama…being from New York, the “New” New York in the show is pretty much what I expect for the future of the Big Apple…sewer mutants, suicide booths and Madison Cube Garden. Also, the Star Trek episode guest starring most of the original cast is pretty hysterical…and features an energy cloud!

  15. I love Futurama, I think some of the eps were the best written half-hour I’ve ever seen (most of the time travel eps, the Farnsworth Parabox, The Big Sting…I can go on).

    However, ’cause I’m in Canada, no new Futurama for me. At least, not over cable… [waits for torrents to upload]

  16. I feel your pain @Zoltan, although the second episode has leaked, too, so at least we Canadians get an extra present today for St-Jean.

    I always adored Futurama, and actually thought the sci-fi angle allowed its social commentary to be much more pointed and amusing than the Simpsons (this is a rare opinion, I know).

    It seems to be off to a slow start so far (they clearly had some fan service to get out of the way in the first episode), but I hope that they’re able to hit their stride again in short order.

    And why can we only be attracted to Bugs in drag?

  17. I’m very glad Futurama has made a comeback. I’ll be even more glad when those new episodes make it down here to New Zealand, which depending on the whims of the networks could be anywhere from 3 weeks to 3 years.

  18. Meh, I was really excited about new futurama episodes.
    I used to love them since they have allways been quite clever and had enough subtle jokes that you could return to them to find something new.
    Like the numerous GH Hardy references that I dident get for about 6 years.

    But I am not paticulairly impressed by the new episodes. They have been below medicore so far. I really hope it picks up. :/

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