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program reviews

The Simpsons

Moral Rating: take caution
Primary Audience: Teen to Adult
Genre: Comedy
Length: 30 min.

    TV CREDITS

    Starring: Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, Maggie, Patty, Grampa, Selma | Produced by: Matt Groening, James L. Brooks, Mike Scully

The Simpsons

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A BIBLE-STUDY ON THE SIMPSONS…
Christian animator Lance Wilder reveals this surprise news and also says why he works on the popular show

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

Lance Wilder is the background design supervisor of The Simpsons television show which is made by Film ROMAN in Hollywood, and in an interview before the Christian Film & Television Commission's 10th Annual Faith & Values Awards Gala March 20 at the Skirball Cultural Center in Bel Air, California, he revealed that he is not the only Christian working on the hugely popular show.

"Behind the scenes, there is a Bible study that goes on and I would say about 20 churchgoing Bible-believing Christian artists now working on ‘The Simpsons’," said Wilder who was attending the star-studded event with his wife Maria.

Wilder then explained how he got the job on The Simpsons. "I went to the Rhode Island School of Design and I graduated in 1990 and the show premiered back in December of 1989," said Wilder. I was taking animation and illustration and I was just a huge fan of the show and I knew the show was going to be something big. However, I never thought it would last this long, but I wanted to be part of it. I really thought that it was something that could last maybe or two or years or so and I took a few animation tests but I failed the first group and so I asked them what was right and wrong about it and I followed directions and gave it to them within 48 hours and they hired me. The day after I graduated, I moved out here and that was going on 12 years ago. As a matter of fact, we just started our 14th season three days ago."

When asked if he, as a Christian working on the show, was able to influence anything on The Simpsons, "Some things I am," said Wilder. "I am able to certainly put in my creative bit according to what the writer's have written. I certainly put in things that are appropriate to the show or the characters they have written or whatever the episode happens to be focusing on. Sometimes I have a say and sometimes I don't, like anyone on a show that involves about 80 to 100 artists and 15 writers."

Lance Wilder and wife Maria He said that one of his favorite characters is Side Show Bob, the evil genius played by Kelsey Grammar. "It looks we are going to be doing another one of those episodes. We have already done seven in the past with him and we are going to be doing a new one in the upcoming season as well."

When asked if he would ever wish to leave The Simpsons, he replied, "I'd never leave as long as the scripts are really top-notch. The writers always joke about the fact that they have to come up with 22 new ideas for a new season, and yet every season we have some of the best episodes that we have ever done and I am to the point to where if they wanted to keep it going for a few seasons - like they have talked about doing a three-picture movie deal - there are so many great ideas and so many characters in the show. We have not only 10 or 20 main characters, but we have about 200 secondary characters that are my favorites and seem to be some of the fans favorites as well."

He then answered the critics who condemn its movies.

"I think you get out of it what you put in and certainly there are good-meaning talented writers, producers and artists in Hollywood. There is so much going on here that here that it takes a talent and there is a lot of good-hearted not only Christian people, but people who really want to say something, write about something or produce something that is worthwhile and not just gratuitous sex and violence. There is enough of that in the world without spending hundreds of millions dollars to make more of it, but there are so many wonderful stories about different people, religion and cultures, that can be uplifting and positive.

"That's one of the things that I love about The Simpsons and personally one of the things I love about good television and good film-making, whether it is animated or not, is just working with so many wonderful talented people who care about doing something here in Hollywood that has some benefit for people and certainly if Christians with good values abandon this place, just like any other business, you are going to get garbage.

"So if people are putting their talents into it, they are going to get good things out of it and that's why I am here at the MOVIEGUIDE Awards Gala and why hundreds of people are here supporting the best in film and television. That's why I support this. It is just tremendous."

--March 2002

Questionable—In the midst of all the talk being put forth about the unChristian nature of this show, it would seem this show fosters some degree of Christian animosity. I would like to point out that in a recent episode when the Springfield School had a science fair, in all the confusion during the fair there was a science display very visible in the background which read: "Evolution: Theory Taught as Fact". I was shocked. Was this the same Simpsons that's been on the tube for the last 10+ years? Sure was…same show, taking a blatant shot at evolutionary dogma. Good stuff!
   —Shane Drever, age 22

Questionable—To start—I chose a Caution rating because younger children shouldn't be watching The Simpsons, and if you don't know what sarcasm is or enjoy it you probably shouldn't watch either. And Itchy and Scratchy aren't exactly positive. The Simpsons is clearly (to me) a parody of modern society. This means when you see Ned Flanders as a Christian, look closer and notice he has a radical *over*zealous faith. Yes there are some really good parts of his character, but he's meant to represent what the creators view as the stereotypical super-(misaligned-)Christian. Yes this mocks Christianity, but for me it sure is something to keep in mind—be sure of your beliefs, be different from the world, be vocal, but some things are simply stupid. How many of you can't laugh at Rev. Lovejoy giving a bland sermon in a monotone voice? He's a straw man!!! As above, remember that this is what many people (including Christians) mock about the Christians they are used to seeing. If nothing else, he's an amusing fire-and-brimstone era preacher. Following the trend of a previous reviewer—go down the list of the cast. Watch a few episodes and you figure out that each clearly fits a stereotypical mold. So if you enjoy a good attack on the many comedic extremes of our current society, this is your show! Somehow they manage to mock a couple dozen groups in an incredibly short span, and it's even got a plot!
   —Jason, age 22

Avoid—I can't believe that christians have not viewed this show as a more serious threat. Christian faith and values are constantly a viciously targeted at every turn. The show is filthy and subversive. It only gets away with it because it's a cartoon and knows how to occasionally act as if its mocking tone is playful. Anyone who believes otherwise needs to see such episodes where Homer has a crayon removed from his brain thus rendering him a genius. One of his many revelations that follows is his proving the God does not exist. He presents this finding to Ned Flanders and Ned has to agree that he is correct! This is not playful on any level. Avoid the Simpsons at all costs.
   —John Walker, age 20

Usually Ok—When I was a kid my parents wouldn't let me watch The Simpsons - now I know why - it's not for kids! That doesn't take away from it being a great show. The whole show is based on how messed up the world is today and what needs to change. Almost every show has a great moral. I think that it represents all aspects of the world we live in (including Christianity). Give it a chance!
   —Kevin, age 21

Usually Ok—"The Simpsons" makes fun of the world and I don't necessarily think that's bad! They do occasionally push the envelope with humor can be at times caustic, but generally it's just very witty and fun to watch. If you generally look for role models in cartoons and have problems bifurcating real life from animation, then you should avoid this (and any other) show.
   —Doug Osborne, age 39

Usually Ok—The Simpsons simply tells it like it is (although it sometimes exaggerates a bit). Also bear in mind that creator Matt Groening is no friend of the Left. Among other things, the show pokes fun at public education and political correctness (especially in the episode where Homer is falsely accused of sexual harassment). As for your children watching it, use YOUR OWN judgment.
   —Ed, age 22, non-Christian

Questionable—More prayers are on The Simpsons than any other sit-com in recent history. God is taken more seriously on The Simpsons than elsewhere on TV. The family bond is treated with more respect (especially in the first decade of the show) than others, with Homer and Marge still madly in love. It is funny, intelligent, topical, and even touching and cute at times. It makes people laugh and maybe even think. Yes, the show has bad sides too, and others here have focused on that enough, but this forums needed the other side.
   —Justin VanNingen, age 23

Questionable—The Simpsons is a hilarious show, but it's definitely not for young children. I wouldn't let anyone under the age of ten watch it, mostly because of profanities and mild sexual innuendos. Yes, it does make fun of Christians, but I don't take that personally because it makes fun of everyone else: liberals, alcoholics, senior citizens, and the media, just to name a few. If it offends you, don't watch it.
   —Melissa E., age 19

Questionable—"The Simpsons" is great satire, and it is for adults. Sex is a frequent topic and Christianity is often mocked. On the other hand, there have been a few episodes that have been almost touching. Although Ned Flanders (the Christian neighbor) is usually an object of ridicule, I can remember one episode where his faith was taken seriously as he struggled with how to be a friend to Homer who was driving him nuts. Most of the time, the show is not about Christianity at all. It's social satire and makes fun of just about every aspect of modern American life. An equal opportunity offender, if you will - which is what keeps it from offending me. I don't think that Christian values are Groening's target - really, it's modern society in general (and Christians are part of that society so we get mocked along with everyone else.)
   —Tess, age 27

Questionable—With all of its faults, this show portrays a loving and supportive relationship between the husband and wife. Is that a parody itself, in light of all the negative portrayals of marriage on TV. & unloving marriages in our society?
   —Heidi, age 34

"The Simpsons" is undoubtedly the smartest satire on television. Especially pertinent is the range of religious conviction displayed in the program. There is the raucous, idiotic ?christian? Homer—the levelheaded and evenhanded christian Marge—and the startlingly fervent faith of christian Ned Flanders. The show almost begs the viewer to chose his position. Most, I would think, side with Marge. Though it is interesting that many Christians find Ned to be a "bumbling nerd", when I think that he is the absolute epitome of what every christian should strive for—supreme faith, with servant humility.
   —Zach Hachfeld, age 21

Avoid—I can't believe that the blatant cynicism and mockery of Christ in the droning character of the town preacher, and Ned Flanders the bumbling nerd/Christian next door neighbor, combined with Bart's consistent cursing don't get this show an Avoid with a capital A. I don't think there's anything Christians should find funny in any of that. Of course, the show *is* meant to be an outrageous parody on life in the suburbs. Although it thankfully avoids sexual innuendo most of the time, it's still pretty disturbing. It's the first show in a sequence of lower standards that have left us with the likes of SouthPark. What's next?!
   —Grant, age 26

Questionable—The Simpsons is a very funny satire. It mocks everything: nuclear energy, dim-witted police chiefs, every cultural stereotype, and yes, sometimes Christianity. In the shows early years, the language was pretty bad, but that's toned down quite a bit now. It's nothing compared to what the average kid hears in school every day, and from what I've seen, kids that are overly sheltered and “protected” usually have the most problems with rebellion. Anyway, it is a hilarious half of television, and is usually acceptable for anyone 7 or older. Besides, many young children can't appreciate the full extent of the humor.
   —Clint, age 19

Young people express their opinions…

Usually Ok—This show is GREAT! Not only it funny but it also has some very cool Christian concepts in it. There's a book I think not only Christian fans of the show would enjoy, but non-Christian fans as well, the book is called "The Gospel according to The Simpsons", it tells in detail about all the Christian ties to the show. I also found out that in the mid-nineties, the show's creators/producers hired some Christian writers for the show. One of my favorite episodes is where Homer decides not to go to church anymore, but at the end of the show he almost dies when his house catches fire, and he is saved by not only his Christian friends, but Apu, the Quicky Mart clerk (Hindu), and Krusty the Clown (Jewish). So, Homer decides that he does have something to thank God for and goes back to church. The final scene shows Homer sleeping in the front pew at Sunday service, having a dream with him walking hand in hand with God. People who say this show is bad probably haven't watched an episode all the way through. In another episode, Homer makes a 10,000 dollar pledge to PBS because a telethon is taking up air time for his favorite tv show. When the PBS people come looking for him, he goes to the church's Pastor, Reverend Lovejoy, asking for help. Reverend Lovejoy sends Homer to be a missionary on an island where its people need to learn about God. He's supposed to build a church, but instead he builds a casino, and as a result, the island people's whole society collapses. In the end Homer does build a church, and the island leader asks Homer "How much do we have to go to church in order to be saved?" Homer replies "Every week for the rest of your lives." Island leader: "Why?" Homer: "Because you're sinful and need to be forgiven." Island leader: "How long have we been this way?" Homer: "Ever since I got here." Like's I said, it's a great show. I could go on and on about the many more Christian ties in it. Don't get me wrong, the show does have its dark spots, but if you watch a couple of episodes from beginning to end, you'll see the good over weighs the bad. I think this is an excellent show for pre-teens, teens, and their parents to watch together.
   —Sean, age 16

Usually Ok—I think this is the best animated show ever. (however, I don't see many other animated shows). The only problem I've seen other people say they've had with the show are "role models". It's quite true that hardly anyone on that show are good role models, especially Homer. However, I think its true that anyone who has someone on there as a role model shouldn't watch any TV. There are some shows which have their problems, but I think there are more with their good side. Both parents have been tempted to break up, but they always pull through. There have been bad parent/child relationships, but they are always patched up. Bart and Homer should never be taken seriously… They are just there to laugh at :). Reverend Lovejoy seems to be a view of what seems to be somewhat of a hypocrite… Flanders seems to be in good character though. On the issue of swearing/sex/violence: There is a LOT more of this stuff at school… The kids there seem to role model after characters in South Park, which is many times worse than the worst Simpsons episode. Some of the better pieces I can think of: When homer thinks he is about to die from eating blowfish, he feels the need to connect to God by listening to the bible (listen to a tape of it, Homer doesn't like to read:) ) When Bart "sells his soul" because he doesn't believe there is such a thing, he tries to get it back on his own, and eventually gives up and goes to God to get it back. (He prays for it, just then Lisa gives it to him…). When Lisa goes against Homer getting cable illegally. She reads over the ten commandments in sunday school, and she sees, "Thou Shalt Not Steal", and she thinks of how Homer is illegally getting cable. She goes into protest against it, saying various things to Homer when he tries to get her to watch it, such as, "Sorry dad, I'd rather get into heaven." Eventually, she gets Homer to cut the cable wire. There are some bad points, which are bad, and obviously I will not repeat them:). Overall, I give this show an OK to everyone except people who would easily follow what they see on TV or role model after anyone. The primary point of The Simpsons is to get people to laugh, not to get any message across. (although, they do this by making fun of pretty much the whole world, which may offend some people.)
   —Tyler Lusby, age 15

If your kid's over 12, the news might hurt him more than this, but if he's younger, you make up your own rules. At one point in time, this show will probably offend anyone and everyone, but it's still one of the must intelligent and funniest cartoons ever. It makes fun of almost every movie and TV show you can think of, from "Space Oddessy 2001" to James Bond to Sunny and Share to Home Improvement and so forth and so on. It provides the world view of Christians and the Church. And a lot of times, tells it like it is, you can accept it or not, but unfortunately it does. And other times, it goes too far, like from time, Bart payed for dinner, he said, "Dear God, we payed for all this food our selves so thank's for nothing, amen." Everyone at the table was shocked, and Mr. Burns (He was running for Governor and was at a kitchen table meaning, it made fun of politics a lot), he said, "Only a child could get away with such blasphemy. (He said that in a nervous laughing tone of voice) But the truth is, some people are like Homer, some people are like Bart. But it's still one of the funniest cartoons ever.
   —Josh, age 15

…a lot of episodes teach a good moral too. In one episode, a psychologist tells all of Springfield that they should "Do what they feel." It all sounds nice at first, but soon there's problems everywhere because everyone's sinning. It ends with a good note at the end as they all realize that this is wrong and Lisa even mention that happiness can really only be achieved through a Christian life. In another episode, Bart steals a video game that he doesn't have enough money for, and though the plot sounds bad, it's very good. He feels very guilty about it and he doesn't want to tell his parents because of how sad it will make them, so he tries to cover up what happened with lies that only make things worse. At the end, he gives the game back and tearfully tells his parents what happened. Homer and Marge say that they're very disappointed in him, but proud that he did what was right in the end. I basically see this as a modern Brady Bunch if you will. Times have changed, as have our sitcoms, but the Simpsons does teach good morals at the end of almost every episode, and I'd much rather watch this show with my siblings than the filth on any other station. My only problem is it occasionally has an adult theme, in which case I'll turn off the show. Also, the Itchy and Scratchy characters can often be very disturbing. We just change channels until those parts are over.
   —Matt, age 18

Avoid—I think this show deserves a huge bursting red A (avoid) for its rating. Why? There are too many reasons. Some include swearing and unpoliteness, violence and discrimination. Bart swears a lot in the show, and always disagrees with his father, who is NOT a good role model in the family at all! Marge is the only level headed one in the entire show. Sometimes this show has a section about a mouse and cat doing terribly violent things to themselves or each other. It is very disturbing and is terribly graphic (as graphic as a cartoon can be). Also, they make fun of Christianity or are completely against it (There was one show where Bart was praying and I think all he said was what he wanted. And when it came to the thanking God part, he replied "Oh, I don't have to thank God for anything. What did God give me anyway?"—it was something in that context.) I found it very sad that people enjoy this show and it should be placed in the same category as "South Park".
   —NK, age 14

This is given a caution because the jokes and humor is sometimes focused at God and Christians. These can be disheartening, considering the number of people who watch this show daily are infected with these lies about our faith. The show can be quite funny, but there are several problem areas to be avoided. There are also references to sex every now and then, but not regularly. Since this is questionable, "it is better to be safe than sorry." Just don't watch it. We are called not to be of this world, and the truth is that this show isn't going to get you any further in your walk with God. It is humorous, but there are better things to do than to sit around and waste precious time watching this show. Our rewards in heaven are much nicer than a half-an-hour T.V. show about a cartoon family.
   —Barrett Hertel, age 17