How Much Can We Laugh about the End of the World?

While trudging through last night's moribund and unfunny home foreclosure-themed Simpsons episode, we suddenly got to wondering... Is it possible to laugh about the looming New Depression?

OK, so there was a funny Peppermint Patty is a lesbian laff. But other than that, we sat through 22 minutes of jokes about irresponsible spending and borrowing, with images of furniture out on the front lawn, and homeless shelters full of horrible cots and crazy people. This being television, of course the family got their home back in the end—but only after enduring time spent as desperate squatters, evicted renters, and abusers of weird laws involving the elderly. Here's the whole thing if you missed it.

Forget what criticism you might have about the general state of television's Greatest Show of All Time. This particular episode just seemed tacky, cruel, and, most importantly, not funny. The millionaires who make the show haw-hawing at distressed people who suddenly find themselves homeless? Yikes. Or were they not laughing, rather trying to show that they relate? Either way it came across as condescending, poorly-timed and not what we were looking for to pick up the mood after spending an afternoon with the depressing Sunday New York Times.

Speaking of which, the always-deplorable Sunday Styles section has soared to new depths of hardy-har pandering to rich folks. Don't like your nanny? Fire her and blame it on the recession! Only making five hundred grand a year? Oh boo hoo for you! Lately they've been veering back to something that's less ridiculous but seems to be something of a farm league for the Nation section: this week, there was a profile of that 14-year-old Hannity-in-training and a look at the state of the pro-choice movement. Can we have our enraging entertainment back, please?

And, yes, this very website could be said to often mock the increasingly large pool of downtrodden and bewildered. The esteemed Time magazine finds our posts about the economic evaporation of the media to be "kick[ing] someone that's already dead." Maybe they're right. We'll cop to that.

But a highbrow newspaper section that makes rich people feel sorry for themselves is just boring and useless on its best days. It's pretty offensive on its worst. And a television mining the death of the middle class for humor, then protecting themselves from feeling too bad by putting a pretty bow at the end? Ugh. Sometimes, you just want something funny to watch on a Sunday night.