The popular television series “The Simpsons” has had a loyal following of viewers since it’s debut on December 9th, 1989. Acquiring such a wide variety of viewers does not happen without being appealing to multiple races, genders, and last but not least religions. In today’s media, putting your own satirical twists on situations can separate you from the pack of other television series, and the Simpsons is not excluded from this group. Taking satirical jabs at religious matters has become somewhat of a norm for the Simpsons writing staff, basing over twenty-five episodes off of religious topics. The episode titled “Thank God Its Doomsday” addresses yet another religious topic, this time being the subject of the rapture. When watching this episode, although I was aware of the sarcasm, I found myself relating to many of the situations they were making fun of, which as a result; left me thinking “Why were the subjects of these jokes completely different between media discourse and academia discourse”. Writers such as C.S. Lewis bring into play facts, educational tones, and precise analogies about the same topics. The difference between the two styles needs to be acknowledged as well as the answers to the question “why” do they need to differ.
The Simpsons: "Thank God its not Doomsday"Edit
Ideas of the second coming of Christ are becoming polar opposites in the academic discourse and the media. We will begin looking to answer this question by examining The Simpsons episode “Thank God Its Doomsday” and how the rapture is portrayed in popular media, later comparing the details to the Bible and an article edited by Dr. Lyle Dorsett entitled “..The most embarrassing verse in the Bible: The essential C.S. Lewis: from The Worlds Last Night and other essays”. Firstly a quick summary of the episode is needed. The Simpsons episode begins with Homer attending a “He is risen” film called “Left Below” portraying the end of the earth for non-believers. Homer leaves the theater anxiously looking for ominous signs of the upcoming apocalypse. He uses numerology to predict the rapture and spreads the word to the people of Springfield. After the second attempt Homer is taken into heaven where his guide shows him the newest attractions in Heaven. Homer finds God and pleads with him to turn back time and put off the apocalypse for a few years. Shortly after the main character finds himself descending back to earth where his first stop is back at the local bar.
Looking Into The SimpsonsEdit
There are a few parts of this episode however in which a deeper analysis is needed to understand the goals of the writers. When the word doomsday is spoken many people have different beliefs of what that means. In this rhetorical analysis the word doomsday refers to the rapture which Christ will make everything new, however the Simpsons has put their own twist on it. There are many clear differences between the way the television show outlines their “apocalypse” and the way John outlines it in the book of Revelation. The first difference I noticed was how the idea of the rapture came about. In the bible John is to write down everything he sees in his vision and send it to the seven churches. The Simpsons episode begins with Homer attending a “He is Risen” film called “Left Below” portraying the end of the earth for non-believers, which is a more appealing way for the younger generations to relate to the topic.“But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.” (Mark 13:32) The differences between these two details lie in the tone and the audience to which each plea to. The Simpsons will catch the attention of a younger array of viewers whereas academic writers such as C.S. Lewis will be found more in the educational and religious realm.
Comparing to Facts of C.S. LewisEdit
The two writers of the episode, Don Payne, and Michael Marcantel, confront another vast difference between the two discourses of the subject in Homer’s attitude towards being accepted into Heaven. Like many people today, Homer believes he will be taken to Heaven by his last minute good deeds. Taken from “The Worlds Last Night” C.S. Lewis states “If you do not believe our Lord’s words, why do you believe in his return at all? And if you do believe them must you not put away from you, utterly and forever, any hope of dating that return?” (C.S. Lewis). These wise words from the poets novel are not just void words, the bible also says clearly “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:22-23, NASB). This verse is the harsh reality many Christians can not accept, which is why the Simpsons incorporated this specific joke into their broadcast. For many people the way the Simpsons depict the ascension into heaven is the idea they place their own hope into. With such a wide range of viewers the Simpsons are also exposing the stories of the bible and the last night for the first time, toning down the information in a way. In contrast, Dr. Dorsett has edited the works C.S. Lewis the Oxford graduate, who’s writing contains graceful but well designed analogies, considerable amounts of expert rhetoric, which appeals to a more educated and insightful audience.
The phrase “There is always a time for everything” pertains to different types of writing as well. The academic and media discourses acknowledged in this analysis differ in many ways, many of which have already been addressed. However there are a few other points needed to be acknowledged. Looking at the media discourse, such as the Simpsons, we can see they often will use satire and humor to connect to their audience. Popular trends in society are identified and incorporated in episodes to attract more viewers and connect with a larger fan base. The ways in which each character speaks will relate to a specific age gap as well as develop a sense of community between you and the characters. For example, Homer and his family use balloons to ascend into heaven, which can connect with children as well as adults who can reminisce on memories. On the other hand academic writing found from C.S. Lewis and Dr. Dorsett will use rhetoric from their expertise, drawing more intellectuals and educational figures. The objective of academic writing is not so focused on humor, you will be writing to inform rather then entertain. Academic writing will be formal and complex; thus, the phrases will be lexical and precise. Learn to identify your audience and how to connect with them specifically. Pay attention to the small details, do not overwhelm them with facts, provide your reader with comic relief at times but also make sure you are taken seriously by the language you use.
NASB Compact Reference Bible: New American Standard Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House, 2000. Print.
Dorsett, Lyle W. "...the Most Embarrassing Verse in the Bible." ...the Most Embarrassing Verse in the Bible. World without End Ministry, 2002. Web. 11 Apr. 2014.