A Fact-Check for the Four-Color World

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Whatever Happened to Ned Flanders?

The Simpsons Super Bowl episode.

Tivo means never seeing things when everybody else does. So I finally watched the Simpsons Super Bowl episode tonight, and aside from it not being very funny (the Simpsons hasn't been very funny at all this season, has it?), it had a gigantic flaw right in the middle of it. They seem to have replaced Ned Flanders with a soulless lookalike.

For 16 years, Ned Flanders has soldiered on, sticking to his principles and turning the other cheek no matter what. All of a sudden he's making ghastly bloodbath Bible story movies (tip of the hat to Mel Gibson), but even worse, he's *GASP* changing the text of the Bible! Ned might possibly film a gory movie, but he would stick to the story; he's a stickler for accuracy.

I can only assume that the writers couldn't be bothered to do any research into the gruesome tales to be found in the King James, so they just made up their own versions of some stuff they half-remembered from sunday school. There's no other logical reason for the scenes they came up with; Solomon did suggest cutting a baby in half, but only to determine who the real mother was from their reactions. The Simpsons' version was just pointless.

Rather a pity, since there are some stories in the book of Judges that would curl Wes Craven's hair. For example, Judges 3:12-30 tells the tale of the defeat of Moab, including this bit:

As the king rose from his seat, Ehud reached with his left hand, drew the sword from his right thigh and plunged it into the king's belly. Even the handle sank in after the blade, which came out his back. Ehud did not pull the sword out, and the fat closed in over it. Then Ehud went out to the porch; he shut the doors of the upper room behind him and locked them. After he had gone, the servants came and found the doors of the upper room locked. They said, "He must be relieving himself in the inner room of the house." They waited to the point of embarrassment, but when he did not open the doors of the room, they took a key and unlocked them. There they saw their Lord fallen to the floor, dead.

Nice, huh? Can't you see Comic Book Guy playing the king?

Or how about this one, from Judges 4:
Barak, the leader of the Israeli army, has defeated the armies of Sisera. Sisera seeks refuge in the tent of an ally. The ally's wife, Jael, invites Sisera in, gives him something to drink and a place to sleep. Then...

But Jael, Heber's wife, picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay fast asleep, exhausted. She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died. Barak came by in pursuit of Sisera, and Jael went out to meet him. "Come," she said, "I will show you the man you're looking for." So he went in with her, and there lay Sisera with the tent peg through his temple--dead.

There's a particularly gross one in Judges 19-20, but I'll leave that as an exercise for the student. If you're wondering what is the point to these hideous tales, I'll just mention that most chapters in the Book of Judges begin and end with the words "In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit." There's a lesson in that.

But I digress.

The point, and I did have one, was that the producers sold out the character of Ned Flanders by having him engage in behaviors that go 180 degrees opposite to everything we know about him. Yes, he's frequently narrow-minded and judgmental. Yes, he could find himself making horrific movies of Bible stories, full of death and blood and scattered entrails. But the fact is, you're more likely to find Ned passed out on the floor of Moe's tavern with a transvestite hooker than to find him rewriting Bible stories to make them more gory, especially since he'd know perfectly well where the really awful stories are. The result is a real lowering of the formerly high standards the Simpsons once reached for, and the betrayal of a formerly well-delineated character for the sake of a few lame jokes.

Ned deserved better than this.

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