When searching for common ground with a white person, a mention of The Simpsons is a sure- fire bet to start a lively and engaging conversation. But simply stating that you like The Simpsons is a recipe for disaster. You have to be prepared to list the specific period in which you enjoyed the show or else you might be seen as someone with poor taste.
The Simpsons highlights the concept of "jumping the shark," which is one of the most important phenomena in white culture and one of the best methods for determining the cultural significance and knowledge of a white person.
"Jumping the shark" is a phrase that was coined after an episode of Happy Days in which Fonzie, a lead character, jumped over a shark. Many people point to that as the moment the show stopped being worth watching.
Ever since that time, white people have been obsessed with accurately noting the exact moment that something stopped being relevant. By being able to judge this with the most detail, a white person is able to be seen as a sharp critic of popular culture and one that deserves to be heard. But, as with everything in white culture, there are a lot of rules and you have to be careful about what you say.
If you choose to declare that something jumped the shark too early, you risk looking as though you are lying in an effort to seem smart. If you miss some key episodes you will be mocked as a snob who doesn't really understand the show or its values. For example, saying "I think The Simpsons jumped the shark after season two" will be met with laughter and taunts about your faux snobbery.
However, declaring that something jumped the shark too late will make you look uncultured in your taste for the show and you will lose all respect.
The safest route is to say, "I was obsessed with the first few seasons. My favorite episode is still 'Mr. Plow.' " But if you must declare a shark- jumping moment, the best bet is to say that the show jumped between the two "Who Shot Mr. Burns?" episodes. That's far enough along to cover most of the best episodes, but not so far that it includes some of the wilder plot lines.
Note: If a white person says something that doesn't seem to make sense and they slightly change the sound of their voice, chances are that they are quoting something from The Simpsons.
Excerpted from Stuff White People Like by Christian Lander Copyright © 2008 by Christian Lander. Excerpted by permission of Random House Trade Paperbacks, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.