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Christianity and The Simpsons
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I haven't regularly watched The Simpsons for years. Mostly because it's just not as funny as it used to be. But I always liked the edge to the show, the irreverence they showed toward damn near every institution and organization, including religion (and not just Christianity through Ned Flanders, they took swipes at everybody...remember Homer offering Apoo's Hindu elephant god a peanut?).

Anyway, James Lileks takes offense at a line in a rerun:

So I’m watching another of these oddly anti-funny
Simpsons episodes from 2004. (It’s like they’re bad on purpose.) Maggie Simpson gets an IQ test. Oh the hilarity: Simon Crowell is the admissions director! She scores high. "Meet Maggie Simpson," he says to another school official. "IQ, 167."

"One sixty seven!" says the other official. "That’s amazing for a Christian!"



Rewind. Context? Anyone wearing a cross? Anyone holding a Bible, or daubing red paint on their palms? Did Homer announce he’d seen the Virgin Mary in the grease of a Krusty Burger wrapper? No: totally gratuitous. Just for fun: insert any other religion in that line and imagine the reaction. That’s amazing for a Muslim! People would, well, have a cow, and for good reason. You’re a genius? That’s amazing for a Hindu! I’m not surprised that the Simpsons takes a poke at Christianity; in its heyday, the show had sharp and funny commentary on organized religion, and I recall writing a long Bleat a few years ago in defense of Ned Flanders, back when the writers were still interested in creating characters instead of ossified archetypes made up of catch-phrases and simplistic attributes. Back when they seemed to protect the show’s ability to aim for the heart, should the need arise. But this wasn’t clever, and all it did was say "we can get away with this, because we’re not particularly interested in anyone who finds it insulting."

To which I would say, lighten up. They throw out lines like crazy in that show, and they were trying to be irreverent. Didn't work, though. Lileks is right that it isn't clever. And worse, it's not funny. But then the ratio of funny/unfunny on the show has been declining steadily for years.

But Lileks does link to this interesting interview from someone who worked on the show, who happened to be Christian. Interesting read.

It's not a Christian show. It's a comedy that comes from about 15 different writers from different perspectives who are very talented, and the reality is that it's just trying to be entertaining, it's trying to be funny.

It makes satirical comments and points about religion, politics, school, family, parenting and marriage. Then people say, "But what about when Homer falls asleep in church?" And I say, "Well, that's funny. Can't most people relate to boring church services and stuff growing up?"

Once in a while there will be a line or something said that I won't agree with, but so what?

Maybe Lileks should try to emulate this guy.

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