I'm a non-native English speaker. I'm reading a book about the Simpsons show now. I have a little trouble understanding the last part of the sentence. I read it a million times. I know about the idiom 'throw up one's hands', but I still don't get the proposal. I guess the author says the show gives up trying to please or entertain the viewers, or make them laugh, but I'm not sure about my guess. Am I right? What do you think?

PS: I want to replace this part 'throwing up its hands at its own audience' with simpler wording.

Starting in Season 8 though, the tone of those jokes changed markedly. Where the show had once been fond of an occasional subtle nudge to let the audience know that it was aware of the absurdities of episodic television (Burns never remembering Homer, Marge reminding Bart that he hasn’t used any of his famous catchphrases in four years), now it seemed exasperated or downright indifferent. For all its great moments, “The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show” is about nothing so much as the show throwing up its hands at its own audience.

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    As you apparently know, to throw up one's hands - If someone throws up their hands, they express their anger, frustration, or disgust when a situation becomes so bad that they can no longer accept it. Extrapolating from preceding it seemed exasperated or downright indifferent and For all its great moments, we can assume the writer isn't impressed by the "Itchy & Scratchy" sequences, which rather pointlessly (and lazily, unamusingly?) imply mock outrage at such portrayals of mindless violence. Commented Nov 8, 2018 at 14:52
  • Thanks a lot. I want to replace this part 'throwing up its hands at its own audience' with simpler wording.
    – user76619
    Commented Nov 8, 2018 at 15:01
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    I do broadly agree with FumbleFingers and at the same time, I really don't think you could ever say "throwing up its hands at its own audience" with or without simpler wording. Despite your clear explanation, "throwing up its hands at its own audience" won't ever make sense… and therefore, nothing stemming from it could make sense. Commented Nov 8, 2018 at 21:47
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    I think @FumbleFingers misunderstands -- "The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show" is the name of the whole episode (as well as the cartoon inside the cartoon). The mouse/cat/dog cartoon is here noteworthy for its lack of violence. The exasperation is shown by the change to obvious pokes at the network (which really did want to add a new character to the show).
    – amI
    Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 9:33
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    @ami: You're right that I wasn't aware there was an entire episode called The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show (so I certainly couldn't know that episode specifically avoided the normal violence in the corresponding "cutaway" sequences). But my main point was simply that preceding exasperated, downright indifferent tells us how the writer here characterises the current attitudes of the show's producers. Which can be contrasted with earlier occasional subtle nudges (which we can assume he approvingly characterised as witty / artistic breaking of "the fourth wall"). Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 13:22

1 Answer 1


If you actually watch this particular episode of The Simpsons, it's what might be called meta-humor in that it's about how the "show within the show" is losing audience interest. This is an obvious reference to The Simpsons itself, which (after eight seasons) was having trouble keeping its humor actually funny.

So the show-within-the-show does typical things like adding in a new, fresh character (angering the fans) or market research (telling them the fans want everything and nothing). There's also a now-infamous scene making fun of their hardcore fans.

Nevertheless the author of the book seems to feel that this episode went a step too far, and was more diatribe than satire -- that the show was figuratively "throwing its hands up" as a gesture of surrender, because the writers and producers no longer seemed to understand what it was their audience wanted.

In hindsight this seems like pure hyperbole, since the show is now in its 28th season, with many notable episodes (not to mention a feature-length movie) in-between. While the writing may not be as fresh as it used to be, the show would have been cancelled long ago if it didn't retain some measure of audience appeal.

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