The Simpsons, "New Kid on the Block"

Linda S. Ghent, Eastern Illinois University
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This is an excellent clip from The Simpsons to demonstrate the concept of diminishing marginal utility and marginal analysis. Homer and Marge go to an "All-You-Can-Eat" seafood buffet. Marge chooses not to eat anything, while Homer goes a bit crazy and eats and eats. At the end of the clip, the owner of the restaurant tosses Homer out.

After the clip, a discussion of Homer's behavior will allow students to first, discuss the law of diminishing marginal utility and second, understand why individuals have a tendency to overeat at buffets than at traditional restaurants with menu-pricing.

Learning Goals

  • To demonstrate the law of diminishing marginal utility and its implications.
  • To use marginal analysis to understand why individuals tend to overeat at buffets.

Context for Use

This clip is appropriate for a Principles of Microeconomics course. The clip is best shown after the instructor has defined marginal utility and discussed the concept of diminishing marginal utility.

Description and Teaching Materials

After discussing the law of diminishing marginal utility, show the clip from The Simpsons episode "New Kid on the Block." It is from Season 4, Disc 2 and can be found from 8:24-8:49 and 9:21-9:55.

Once the clip is over, ask students whether Homer's behavior violates the law of diminishing marginal utility. This should prompt a discussion in which students realize that the marginal cost of another plateful of food is zero at the buffet. Thus, Homer should continue eating until his marginal utility falls to zero.

Ask students about their own behavior at an "all-you-can-eat" buffet. Do they tend to overeat? Why?

The clip and discussion should take between 5 and 10 minutes.
Diminishing Marginal Utility (The Simpsons) PowerPoint slides (PowerPoint 212kB Aug4 10)

Teaching Notes and Tips


Ask students to create a table showing their utility for slices of pizza. Have them calculate the marginal utility of each slice. last, have the students discuss how the number of slices they actually eat would vary when

  1. slices are sold at $3 each
  2. slices are part of an all-you-can-eat buffet that costs $5.

References and Resources

The TV for Economics website contains a list of clips from television series that can be used in the classroom. These are especially appropriate for Principles courses.