D'OH!: The Simpsons Jump the Shark

by The Rev. Charles Lehmann

Full frontal Bart. I doubt that anyone really wanted to see that. Homer giving the double bird. Yup, really necessary. The Simpsons Movie is out, and it’s earned it’s PG-13 rating honestly and with very little to show for it.

I’ve been a Simpsons fan for longer than some myHT readers have been alive. The movie could have been a culmination of much of the intelligent, witty humor that has been the staple of the series since day one.

It wasn’t. Most enduring from the film in my memory will be Homer’s theological pronouncements as he enters church. While loudly confessing his own atheism, Homer simultaneously mocks anyone who would take religious belief seriously. This is very different from the mild mocking of religion that takes place occurs in the series. It can nearly always be taken interpreted as the writers poking fun at those aspects of popular religion that are worthy of ridicule: unthinking zealotry, corrupt clergy, commercialization of the church, even the theology of ex opera operato.

The movie takes the mockery up a notch. The screenplay for much of the film could have been written by Sam Harris or any other representative of the “New Atheism.” The Simpsons Movie leaves no room for the existence of a thoughtful, confessional Christianity.

On every level, at every opportunity, The Simpsons Movie begins with the subtle humor of the series and takes it to an obscene extreme. The humor of the Simpsons series is funny because it is intelligent and pushes the envelope a bit. I appreciate it for its restraint and its satirical savvy. The movie is neither subtle nor restrained nor savvy. It doesn’t push the envelope; it shreds the envelope. It doesn’t show intelligence. It shows reckless disregard for good taste.

If these were the only disappointments of the film, I might be able to stomach it. Unfortunately, the movie fails to pay off in the ways that a feature- length version of a television show really has tomust. Sideshow Bob is totally absent. Apu is largely ignored. Some characters that are included are diminished by their inclusion.

Otto’s one scene shows him smoking a bong in the bus, oblivious to the peril that Springfield is in. The suggestion that he was a drug addict was an important feature of the show. Confirming it destroys the mystery and diminishes his character. One will never be able to view Otto in the same way again.

One bright spot is the relationship established in the film between Bart and Flanders. Unfortunately, it serves two purposes. First, it shows what the relationship between a father and a son should properly be. Second, it makes it difficult to respect Homer by comparison.

Marge reinforces the negative impression of Homer when she records a “Dear, John” letter over their only copy of their marriage video. She’s had it, and one gets the impression that she should have abandoned Homer long ago for the good of her family. Such a pro-divorce message is problematic even when it seems justified.

The Simpsons Movie does a good job of pushing the franchise over the edge of the cliff. Everyone’s favorite family has jumped the shark, and if the fish is worthy of its name, it can already smell the blood in the water.

 

Rev. Charles Lehmann, Assistant Pastor for Youth and Education at Peace With Christ Lutheran Church in Fort Collins, CO.

Created: August 2nd, 2007