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Monday, September 12, 2011

Retro Review: Homer the Heretic

Or the One Where
Homer starts his own religion.

The Setup
After skipping church and subsequently experiencing the greatest day of his life, Homer decides to start his own religion.

Notable Notes
The chalkboard gag in this episode's opening, in which Bart writes, "I will not defame New Orleans" is a reference to the controversy surrounding one of the songs from last episode, and was rushed into production to serve as an apology.

When Homer first meets God in his dream, God has five fingers.

Other than "Mr. Plow" later this season, this is one of the few Simpsons episodes outside of Thanksgiving or Christmas ones to prominently feature snow. In fact, I think about this episode (specifically, Homer's good times at home while the rest of the family is freezing at church) any time the snow is swirling outside and I either get to stay in (yay!) or have go out in it (boo!).

Something I sadly never noticed before until Mrs. Teebore pointed it out to me during a recent rewatch of this episode: near the end, when Homer accidentally sets the house on fire while the rest of the family is at church, he is rescued by Flanders. Except that, of all the people in town, Flanders should be at church, too.


Favorite Quotes
Bart: Hey, where's Homer?
Marge: Your father's ... resting.
Bart: Resting hung over? Resting got fired? Help me out, here.

God: Thou hast forsaken My Church!
Homer: Uh, kind-of... b-but...
God: But what!
Homer: I'm not a bad guy! I work hard, and I love my kids. So why should I spend half my Sunday hearing about how I'm going to Hell?
God: Hmm... You've got a point there.

Homer: Kids, let me tell you about another so-called "wicked" guy. He had long hair and some wild ideas. He didn't always do what other people thought was right. And that man's name was... I forget. But the point is... I forget that, too. Marge, you know what I'm talking about. He used to drive that blue car?

Marge: Homer, please don't make me choose between my man and my God, because you just can't win.
Homer: There you go again, always taking someone else's side. Flanders, the water department, God...

Ned: Homer, God didn't set your house on fire.
Rev. Lovejoy: No, but He working in the hearts of your friends and neighbors when they came to your aid, be they Christian, Jew, or... miscellaneous.
Apu: Hindu! There are 700 million of us.
Rev. Lovejoy: Aw, that's super.


Teebore's Take
This episode, with its portrayal of a down-to-earth, football-loving God, Homer's quest to celebrate his faith in his own way and the notion that God works in the hearts of people of all religions, has probably done more to shape my own personal faith than any story in the Bible. For the first time, The Simpsons takes on some fairly Big Ideas and applies its fractured, satirical perspective on modern life to the subject of religion. The results are genuinely intriguing and theologically complicated, but it's a testament to the quality of the show at this point that it manages to be damned funny while also intelligently tackling a subject from which many shows shy away.

Classic

The Simpsons tackles religion head on for the first time, and the end result is an episode that is both highly thought-provoking and downright hilarious.

13 comments:

  1. Hindu! There are 700 million of us.

    One of my three favorite Apu lines.

    --mortsleam

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  2. This is a Top 5 episode for me. I totally related to Homer when I saw this as a kid, those Sunday mornings when you ended up not having to go to church and got to goof around instead were awesome. I agree that this is an episode that deals with real family issues in an intelligent way while still being really, really funny.

    One of my favorite bits is the play-by-play of the football game Homer is watching, which would easily be the most awesome game ever if it was real.

    "Oh, Doctor! A 98-yard triple-reverse ties the score at 63--63! We have seen nothing but razzle-dazzle here today, three visits from Morganna the Kissing Bandit, and the surprising return of Jim Brown!"

    Just a classic episode.

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  3. i can't believe you overlooked that flanders problem. I remember having a big problem with it as a kid.
    Man, just reading about this episode makes me excited for snow days and junk

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  4. what Sarah said
    Once you said it was the episode where Homer forms his own religion, i couldn't not think about the Family Guy episode where Peter forms a religion based on The Fonz

    man i hope we get some snow days NOT on weekends this year. seroiously- can we get something on a Monday sometime?

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  5. You people all keep talking about "snow" like it's something that actually happens. I'm pretty sure it's only on TV and movies. Maybe some books, but if you hadn't seen it on screen, you wouldn't know how to visualize it.

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  6. @mortsleam: One of my three favorite Apu lines.

    Mine too. Do you know, offhand, what you're other two favorite Apu lines are?

    @Jeff: One of my favorite bits is the play-by-play of the football game Homer is watching

    That is great. It just builds and builds, getting funnier and funnier the more ridiculous it becomes.

    This is definitely one of my all time favorite episodes too.

    @Sarah: i can't believe you overlooked that flanders problem.

    I'm not very proud of it myself...

    Then again, I've always had a bindspot when it comes to plot holes. I tend to get sucked into a narrative and unknowingly turn a blind eye to stuff like that if I'm enjoying myself.

    In recent years, Dr. Bitz has really helped hone my plothole senses, though.

    @Anne: i couldn't not think about the Family Guy episode where Peter forms a religion based on The Fonz

    Yeah, that episode is plenty funny, but this one is much, much better.

    seroiously- can we get something on a Monday sometime?

    Eh. I can work from home as well as I can from the office, so a weekday snowday would just get me out of a commute.

    @Matt: You people all keep talking about "snow" like it's something that actually happens.

    Ha! As Dr. Bitz, Anne, Sarah and myself are all Minnesotans, we can attest that snow does, in fact, exist outside of fiction, and often appears in reality just as it does on TV and in movies.

    In fact, having always lived in places where it snows in the winter, I'm terribly confused as to how people who live in the south/warmer climates know when it's winter without snow. Doesn't time just...run together after awhile?

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  7. "Doesn't time just...run together after awhile?"

    Since you mention it, I do think that spring and summer kind of run together over here in northern California, and I especially think that fall and winter do the same.

    I have seen snow in person; but very rarely -- like maybe four times in my life. You can always see it on the mountains in the distance during the winter, though.

    But anyway... How about those Simpsons?

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  8. Doesn't time just...run together after awhile?


    Hah! Well said

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  9. No snow? That sounds like heaven...and not stupid Iowa heaven either...because it snows there too, Kevin Costner!

    Anyway, this was a good episode...but I don't have too good of memory of it. At least this religious episode didn't have people saying Jebus for the next 90 years.

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  10. "At least this religious episode didn't have people saying Jebus for the next 90 years."

    I hear people say "Jebus" a lot, and many times they're people who I'm sure have never watched The Simpsons. I often wonder how often it's said by someone who has no idea where it even originated.

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  11. @Dr. Bitz: At least this religious episode didn't have people saying Jebus for the next 90 years.

    Oy, ain't that the truth? It's a better episode for that alone.

    My mind still boggles at how quickly that permeated pop culture and everyday vernacular. It seems like within days of that episode airing every idiot out there was saying "Jeebus" and thinking they were hilarious.

    @Matt: I often wonder how often it's said by someone who has no idea where it even originated.

    Me too, me too.

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  12. Other favorite Apu lines...

    Both are sung. Part of I believe two separate musical episodes. So imagine Apu's singing voice, and whatever lines preceded these. All I can remember is that they rhymed perfectly.

    "The extra arms on Vishnu!"

    "And for no reason, here's Apu!"

    --mortsleam

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  13. @mortsleam: "The extra arms on Vishnu!"

    "And for no reason, here's Apu!"


    Ha! I love that second one especially, they way they just dropped it in for the rhyme. It's from the "Lisa's Sax" episode, I think.

    The other one is from the burlesque house episode, which has one my favorite Simpsons songs (from which that line is taken).

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