Tag Archives: scandal

Homer is just like me!

By, Adam K. Fetterman
Catholicism has not had a good last couple years/decades. This has been particularly true recently with the scandals involving the pope and child abuse. So, it would seem like a good idea to take some focus off these situations and lighten things up a bit. This is what they have done recently. According, to the Time website, the Vatican’s official newspaper has declared Homer Simpson as a Catholic. This is odd to most fans because Homer, and the rest of the Simpson flock (minus Lisa who proclaims to be a Buddhist), are clearly and openly protestant. Specifically with Homer, some could probably argue that he is not even a protestant. They use a couple examples of why Homer is a Catholic, but most appear to be reflective of Christianity in general, not to mention that most of the Catholicism references in the show are mocking in nature. Why might someone, or thing, come to such an odd belief, such as Homer Simpson being of their religion?

One possible explanation may come from what is known as the “false consensus effect” (Ross, Greene, & House, 1977). According to a review by Baumeister, Dale, & Sommer (1998), this effect is a type of projection in which individuals have a bias to think that others’ traits are similar to their own. So, it may, for whatever motivation, be that the Vatican newspaper writers are projecting their own traits or beliefs on what they perceive as a well liked popular figure, and Homer is definitely that. Another weird thing that people might notice is that Family Guy’s Griffin family is actually Catholic, but the Vatican decided against mentioning them. However, it probably would not be considered a positive to associate oneself with a show as “controversial” as that one.

Before someone comments that the Vatican paper was arguing that Homer represents what a good Catholic should be. This may be so, but that was not clear in the Time piece linked here. Furthermore, one would have to ignore a considerable amount of aspects of the show to consider The Simpsons as reflecting good Catholic values. However, relative to the Griffins in Family Guy, one could see how they would like to associate themselves with the “tamer”, and more loved, Simpsons family. Don’t we all?

“Homer Simpson: A True Catholic?” By Megan Friedman, Time Magazine

Baumeister et al. (1998). Freudian defense mechanisms and empirical findings in modern social psychology: Reaction formation, projection, displacement, undoing, isolation, sublimation, and denial. Journal of Personality, 66, 1081-1124.

‘Spanish practices’

BullfightFirstly it was bonus payments for bankers seen as largely responsible for the ‘credit crunch’, and then excessive expenses claims by members of parliament (MPs).

Although these activities were not necessarily illegal, the British public has been enthusiastically encouraged by the press to denounce them as immoral.

This common view that dubious morality is endemic amongst those in positions of power has been highlighted recently by the ironic election success of a Croatian politician with a campaign slogan of ‘All for me, nothing for you’.

From a psychological perspective, such beliefs illustrate the ultimate attribution error, where negative behaviours of individual members are seen as typical of an entire out-group.

On closer inspection, however, this simple moral dichotomy is more complex than it may first appear. For example, MP’s expenses have been likened to so-called ‘Spanish practices’, a derogatory British term that continues to be surprisingly widely-used despite its racist implications. Such practices are questionable non-contractual working arrangements that benefit the employee and have become accepted as normal over time. These typically occur within heavily unionised industries, and have previously been the subject of industrial disputes.

Rather ironically then, many of those claiming the moral high-ground in terms of MP’s expenses commonly take advantage of exactly the same kind of ‘unofficial benefits’, suggesting that morality is a somewhat flexible concept.

Interestingly, the very term (mis-)used to describe these practices is a further example of the ultimate attribution error, being one of a number of historic British slurs attributing negative behaviours to foreign nationality out-groups.

Square-eye‘Spanish practices’ of MPs from the Mail Online

Square-eye£1.99 - small Sunar, D. (2009). Suggestions for a New Integration in the Psychology of Morality

Square-eye£1.99 - smallGiles, D. & Shaw, R. L. (2009). The Psychology of News Influence and the Development of Media Framing Analysis

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