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Craptacular science and the worst audience ever : memetic proliferation and fan participation in The Simpsons

Gilboy, Jemma Diane


Jemma Diane Gilboy


Amy M. (Amy Michele) Davis


The objective of this thesis is to establish meme theory as an analytical paradigm within the fields of screen and fan studies. Meme theory is an emerging framework founded upon the broad concept of a “meme”, a unit of culture that, if successful, proliferates among a given group of people. Created as a cultural analogue to genetics, memetics has developed into a cultural theory and, as the concept of memes is increasingly applied to online behaviours and activities, its relevance to the area of media studies materialises.

The landscapes of media production and spectatorship are in constant fluctuation in response to rapid technological progress. The internet provides global citizens with unprecedented access to media texts (and their producers), information, and other individuals and collectives who share similar knowledge and interests. The unprecedented speed with (and extent to) which information and media content spread among individuals and communities warrants the consideration of a modern analytical paradigm that can accommodate and keep up with developments. Meme theory fills this gap as it is compatible with existing frameworks and offers researchers a new perspective on the factors driving the popularity and spread (or lack of popular engagement with) a given media text and its audience.

Following overviews of meme theory and fan studies, this thesis synthesises methods from both fields to analyse one of this generation’s most notable televisual fan-texts, The Simpsons, and its fandom. The memetic analysis thereof, integrated with the works of fan theorists including John Fiske and Henry Jenkins, reveals the implications of the fan-text’s memetic content in the economic, cultural and social capital interests of its creators, distributors, and fans. The revelations credited to the memetic aspect of the analysis support the conjecture that it is a suitable analytical framework for the fields of fan and screen studies.


Gilboy, J. D. (2016). Craptacular science and the worst audience ever : memetic proliferation and fan participation in The Simpsons. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Aug 22, 2016
Publicly Available Date Feb 23, 2023
Keywords Film studies
Public URL
Additional Information Department of Drama, Music and Screen, The University of Hull
Award Date Apr 1, 2016


Thesis (2.1 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2016 Gilboy, Jemma Diane. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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