(originally aired May 14, 2006)
As he has gone from goody two-shoes neighbor-eeno to psycho Christian conservative, Ned Flanders ends up the subject of greater scrutiny nowadays, even filling the role of minor antagonist. Marge staunchly opposed his ultra-violent religious films in “Homer and Ned’s Hail Mary Pass,” now Lisa butts heads with him in this intelligent design show. In another example of how this show tries (and fails) to tackle hot button issues, Flanders is shocked to find an evolution exhibit at the museum without one mention of the Bible. As such, he and Lovejoy pressure the school to teach Creationism. Seeing the two of them stand by glaring as Skinner delivers the news to the students is unsettling to watch. Organized religion was always poked fun at in the show, but never was it vilified or truly belittled in the way it’s done here. Lisa opposes this curriculum change, citing several conservatives who believe in evolution, because it makes sense for an eight-year-old to know that. When she resorts to teaching evolution in secret, she is promptly arrested for it and prepares to stand trial.
The third act becomes a shitty Inherit the Wind knock with the two representatives that not only mirror Brady and Drummond, but share their fucking names too in case you didn’t get it. The trial is a farce, none of it makes sense, and we’re never told what will happen to Lisa if she loses. What could happen? She’s just a kid. Around this, barely, is Marge and Lisa butting heads on beliefs, kind of like “Lisa the Skeptic,” but more shoddy and disingenuous. Marge finally ends up reading “The Origin of Species” and manages to help Lisa prove her innocence. Established in the trial is the missing link between ape and man, so when Marge gives her husband a bottle of beer, he hollers and thrashes it about like an animal trying to open it, mirroring said missing link completely. This convinces the entire trial, and the case is dismissed. I thought the ending of “The Call of the Simpsons” was a silly stretch, but this is just ridiculous. In the end, Lisa makes amends with Flanders, though I don’t recall them having one conversation in the whole damn show. It’s stunning how the show can’t even mock such an easy topic like intelligent design. In the past, this series managed to deride groups of all kinds, but here all they can come up with is that creationists are retarded. How biting.
Tidbits and Quotes
– The opening with Bart’s last-minute summer vacation fun, I believe was left on the cutting room floor of “I’m Spelling as Fast as I Can” from three seasons back, so rather than waste such great material, they slapped it on here. Never mind the bit where Bart watches a Men in Black type film seemed dated at that point, no one will notice a thing!
– Before Flanders becomes our maybe antagonist, Homer gets in his share of assholery, cutting Ned in line at the museum and getting aggressive when he meekly objects (“Dude, I was totally here! You calling me a liar? In front of my kids! ‘Cause I’d take a bullet for you, man! Right in the mouth!”) The rest of the line takes advantage of his wishy-washy nature, and to the back of the line he goes.
– Everything at the museum is so painful to watch. Maggie pulls a switchblade on her mother. Homer shoots himself repeatedly wearing a bulletproof vest, because it’s safe to have live ammunition at a museum, terrorizing the entire room. Bart uses a medieval body stretcher on Milhouse that audibly dislocates his bones. I could not stop cringing. After that, Flanders is stuck in the horrifying Hall of Man, full of depictions of human ancestors and fossil records. He then proceeds to yell at his kids as they ask dumb questions and do dumb things. The only laugh I got is when Raphael points out the only mention of creationism in the museum: a moving diorama of God’s finger erecting life on Earth to the tune of “What a Fool Believes.”
– Lisa and Marge’s discussion at the kitchen table is an incredibly bizarre scene. It’s like “Skeptic” where the two have differing beliefs involving science and religion, but here Lisa asks her mother point blank, “You really have to choose here between science and belief.” Then we get slow push-ins on them as Marge thinks and emotional music plays… and we end with her running outside and joining her husband bouncing on a trampoline. End of scene. What?
– Act two ends with Wiggum watching and joking as Snake stands atop the Kwik-E-Mart gunning down innocent people. Hysterical!
– Marge finishes reading “The Origin of Species” and she’s truly enlightened. What is her commentary? (“Darwin’s argument is incredibly persuasive! And his ship was the Beagle, which reminds me of Snoopy, my favorite Peanut!”) I honestly don’t understand not only how a writer comes up with a joke like this, but deems it funny enough to pitch in the writer’s room, let alone for it to end up in the actual show.
– Nelson’s disguises the puzzle piece transitions is probably a reference to something. I thought about looking it up, but by this late in the episode, I was so worn out I don’t even give a fuck.