Students and Stress and the Simpsons

[I wrote this persuasive speech for my Communications 310 "Rhetorical Methods" class at BYU, with the intention of getting others to watch the Simpsons. I originally gave the speech on Wednesday, January 26, 2000. It was supposed to be in an extemporaneous style, so this text isn't exactly what I said during my speech, word for word, but it's pretty close.

I began with a video clip from The Simpsons episode [3G03] "Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala-d'oh-cious," which goes something like this:

Dr. Hibbert: Mrs. Simpson, there's no physical reason why your hair should be falling out. This thing has me buffaloed. [chuckles]

Nurse: Phone call, Mrs. Simpson. Lines one and two.

Bart [line one]: Ma, I need a glass of milk.

Lisa [line two]: Me, too.

[as Marge grunts, a bit of her hair falls out]

Hibbert: I think the problem may be stress.

Then I started my speech:]

Today, we're here to talk about stress. I am going to try to convince you that while stress is a problem for everyone, and for us as college students in particular, there is something we can do about it. And the clip I just showed you has something to do with the solution.

You've all felt stress in your career as students. You have to write a ten-page paper by Tuesday, and you haven't even started researching. You have to balance your part-time job with your studies. Your roommate keeps you up until four in the morning playing video games. You are frustrated. These things are part of college life, and they increase your stress level.

Experts, such as Richard Hamilton with Oklahoma University's Department of Public Safety, say these factors, along with increased social pressure, bad sleeping and eating habits and many others, wreak havoc on college students.

When your body feels stress, it makes adrenaline. Too much adrenaline can disrupt the digestive system and weaken the immune system. This causes heartburn, increased susceptibility to colds, and indigestion.

So what can we do about all this stress?, a web site devoted to helping college students, suggests eating right and getting regular exercise. These activities make it easier for your body to release endorphins, which alleviate some of the physical problems associated with stress.

Another way that experts suggest to deal with stress is to laugh. It has been shown scientifically that laughter releases those very same endorphins. And one of the best ways I have found to laugh, is to watch my favorite show, The Simpsons. This is my solution to stress, and it can be yours too.

In addition to being a sharp satire and social commentary, the show is consistently one of the most quotably funny comedies on television. Jeff Richardson, a member of the Simpsons newsgroup,, said "when the wife and I have a [crappy] day, we put in a Simpsons tape to relax, and get into a better frame of mind." Other members of the group agreed with his comment, saying they used the show as a way to decompress after a hard day of classes and jobs.

There are other benefits to viewing the show. The Learning Skills Center at University of Texas says that when you take a break from your hectic school schedule, such as half an hour to watch the Simpsons, you actually allow your study time to be more effective.

Watching the show can be educational in and of itself. For instance, in the past 10 years, the show has referenced numerous cultural icons, from the literary works of Ayn Rand and Edgar Allen Poe, to the art of Leonardo DaVinci and Andy Warhol, just to name a few. Also, I've remembered answers in my classes because they related to something I'd seen on the Simpsons. You can even use the show's characters and dialog in a paper, as I did last semester in an analysis of the film The General. My teacher loved it, and I understood the concepts of my paper better.

Now, I know that some of you have probably never even seen the show, because you thought it was bad when you were in junior high school. But now, as college students, you can overcome that "junior high" mentality and enjoy it on many more levels. I'm going to challenge you to watch the Simpsons with an open mind for a week. Monday through Saturday at 6:00 pm, and twice on Sundays, 5:30 and 7 pm, all on Channel 13. If you do so, you might just find yourself somewhat enlightened by the experience. The world will be a beautiful place, filled with laughter. And most importantly, you won't have to worry about losing all of your hair from stress.