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Jesse Russell, Ph.D. | Remnant Columnist

Throughout the later twentieth and early twenty-first century, a time period that basked in the economic prosperity and upbeat cultural mood of the Clinton 90s, humor in the West was largely the province of the political left who helped advance the long march of Frankfurt School, Cultural Marxism through the hearts and minds of Christians who sat glued to their television watching and laughing along as their religion and values were mocked. 

The greatest case in point is Fox Network’s grand slam series, The Simpsons, which, reaching its apex of pop culture aesthetic (if not moral) quality in the 1990s, routinely ridiculed Christianity and the Catholic Church, the American family, the working class, the Republican Party,  masculinity,  the nuclear family, and even God Himself. 

 

Beginning in 1989, when John Paul II was starting his ascendency as the world’s most popular pope and George H.W. Bush was crafting his disastrous one term precedency, The Simpsons, “the first primetime animated family since the Flintstones,” has gone on to become the longest running primetime scripted TV series in American history. Since its inception, The Simpsons was a controversial and provocative show, which sought to inculcate radical views in its audience. In fact, during the 1992 campaign against the hip Arkansas governor William Jefferson Clinton, then President Bush took aim at the crude series as representative of the culture that Bill Clinton would produce, instead promising an America in which families would be “a lot more like the Waltons and a lot less like the Simpsons.”

The funny thing was that the Simpsons, in retrospect from our time in which the Western family has almost completely disintegrated, were, at first, much more like the depression era Waltons than the “modern family” of 2018. Marge, Homer, and their children went to church every Sunday, their family was intact, they ate dinner together every night, Homer had a job that could provide for the family while Marge stayed at home, and Springfield was a low crime, cohesive community. 

Yet, this conservative veneer is what has made The Simpsons so appealing and, as we will see, so deleterious to the moral wellbeing of the viewer. The show was not only very funny, but was and perhaps, in a certain sense, still is very likeable. 

Who would not want to grow up in a town like Springfield? 

However, this appeal has made The Simpsons a noxious moral trap for viewers, for the show, has served as vehicle for ushering in the culture of death and the destruction of traditional values. 

While there are many points at which The Simpsons attacked traditional American Christian values, the midwifing of the LGBT movement, in subtle, incremental ways is one of the most pronounced.

Since the shows inception, the primary gay character has been Mr. Waylon Smithers, who first appeared in episode 3 of the series, “Homer’s Odyssey.” Mr. Smithers was carefully packaged by Simpsons creator Matt Groening and the show’s writers as a likeable and quirky character. The personal assistant of Mr. Burns, the WASP nuclear plant owner, Smithers is kind, soft spoken, and deeply loyal to Mr. Burns on whom he has an odd crush. This crush on an elderly man seems novel and humorous in the show’s early seasons and allowed audiences to see Smithers’ homosexual attraction in a nonthreatening and goofy manner. If Smithers was dating men or was engaging in sexual acts in the early nineties, audiences, who still retained a strong Christian ethos, would have immediately been turned off. Like Will Truman of the NBC series, Will and Grace, which, as much as any other cultural artefact in the late twentieth century, helped to soften TV audiences to homosexuality, Mr. Smithers is a likeable person, someone you would want as a next door neighbor, whose sexuality is softly muted and hidden behind “harmless” gay jokes like Smithers’ love of Malibu Stacy Barbie Dolls or his love of big hair, doo wop music. 

Over the years, as the LGBT movement pushed, with increasing aggression, for tolerance, rights, and then enforcement of their agenda, so too did The Simpsons prepare its audiences to adapt to the new queer orthodoxy.

The Simpsons gave the gay movement a boost when they addressed the issue of “homophobia “in episode 168, “Homer’s Phobia,” which aired on February 16, 1997, the annus mirabilis in which what would become Millennial culture was born—Pokémon was introduced that year as was Harry Potter.

 “Homer’s Phobia” depicts Homer Simpson, the blue collar, everyman dad of the series, as having an irrational fear of homosexuals from which he must be cured. The episode is, in effect, a process of social conditioning in which the viewer, along with Homer himself, through humor and kindness, is manipulated into realizing that homosexuality is not so bad after all. 

In “Homer’s Phobia,” the Simpson family is introduced to John (played by film maker John Waters) the owner of a crudely named curiosity shop in the Springfield mall. Homer is initially frightened by John, but his apprehensions are overcome as he is eventually rescued from a group of aggressive reindeer by the curiosity shop owner. 

Within the episode, the masculinity of the inept Homer, Moe, the perverted and creepy conservative bartender, and Barney, an alcoholic Irishman, is mocked as they fail in their hunting expedition and are rescued by the gay John, who is the hero of the episode. In addition to the hunting scene, “Homer’s Phobia,” contains several moments in which traditional masculinity is mocked or disenchanted—there is one scene in which Homer takes Bart, whom Homer fears to be turning gay, to a steel mill that also moonlights as a gay dance club. 

As with the perennial Simpson’s character Mr. Smithers, “Homer’s Phobia” presents homosexual men as friendly and odd characters who are harmless. Moreover, the episode depicts working class, blue collar men, who, in the mid-90s, still were largely opposed to homosexuality as uptight and mean homophobes, who were probably gay themselves. The point of “Homer’s Phobia” was to create the first step for the triumph of the LGBT movement: tolerance of homosexuality and mockery of those who objected to it.   

With the triumph of social conservativism in the early twenty-first century during the reign of George W. Bush, the first conservative Evangelical president, the left took a more aggressive and politicized approach to advancing the LGBT agenda, and The Simpsons, in good form, followed suit.

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On February 20, 2005, immediately after President George W. Bush dropped efforts for a constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriage, a Simpsons’ episode that gave a full throated endorsement of gay marriage, “There’s Something about Marrying” aired on Fox.  This episode, occurring during a downslope in the show’s quality and popularity, is almost a purely propaganda piece and lacks the subtly and skill of earlier Simpsons episodes. “There’s Something about Marrying” is basically a dramatized argument for economic benefits of same sex marriage. In the episode, in order to buoy the finances of Springfield, the Simpsons’ hometown legalizes same sex marriage. The sourpuss social conservative pastor, Reverend Lovejoy, refuses to perform marriages, so Homer obtains a minister’s license online and performs same sex weddings for $200 apiece. The Simpson family matriarch Marge’s sister Patty also comes out and, although uncomfortable about her lesbian sister, Marge becomes a supporter of the same sex marriage. Thus, as her husband was used to coax males in the 1990s to support male homosexuality—something that works well enough for Homer to perform “gay weddings” eight years later, so too is Marge used to urge any moms on the fence with LGBT issues during the Bush era to let go of their conservative hang ups and take the plunge. 

On June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court opened the way for the legalization of gay marriage with the Obergefell v. Hodges decision. By this point, the LGBT movement had become pervasive throughout the West, and gay characters and even homosexual acts were the norm on TV sitcoms—even fact, gay characters have become so routine as to become blasé. 

The Simpsons reflected this triumph by quietly outing the staple gay male character Mr. Smithers in episode 591, “The Burns Cage,” which first aired on April 3, 2016. In the episode, Smithers, having been rebuffed by Mr. Burns for the last time quits his job and “falls in love” with a Cuban named Julio, whom he eventually leaves to return to Mr. Burns. In many ways, “The Burns Cage” is a victory lap for the left, which was assured that the anticipated election of Hillary Clinton in November of the next year would enable them to solidify their political gains. 

The elderly WASP industrialist Mr. Burns’ acceptance of Smithers was also a ratification that corporate America and the sexual revolution are firmly allied, and there were even hints in “The Burns Cage” that the sexual revolution was going to increase its targeting of children. The episode was a tribute by writer Rob LaZebnik to his son who had “come out” as gay, and, at the end of “The Burns Cage,” Smithers creepily teaches the young boy Milhous the ins and outs of love. Like the other LGBT themed Simpsons episodes, the gay scenes in “The Burns Cage” were full of slap stick humor, and special guest, former Star Trek actor and LGBT representative to the Asian community, George Takei’s jokes about Will Shatner to ease the discomfort that many views may still feel about homosexuality.

As is commonly known, The Simpsons has largely lost its luster. Its viewership has declined and critics routinely pillory the quality of the episodes. With its nuclear family, and its cohesive American small town feel, it seems like a relic of another time. However, for the sexual revolutionaries “the show must go on,” and savoring their political and cultural victories of having normalized adult homosexuality, they have now targeted children. 

One of the most popular and controversial programs currently on Netflix is Big Mouth, a vile program, directed toward children that celebrates “child sexuality” and even whose episode names are unprintable. It seems that pedophilia is the new frontier of the culture war, but the way to our current deplorable state was paved by LGBT-friendly shows like The Simpsons. 

It is time for Catholics to pull the plug on these vile shows. 

Editor's Note: Before posting this article, we reached out to several students and staff members at Franciscan University (FUS) for their input on this. I’m pleased to report that though the threat detailed here by our columnist, Jesse Russell, is quite real, there is, in fact, significantly more pushback on the FUS campus than had initially been reported. In fact, for the moment I’m happy to say that the actual Catholics at FUS are winning the day.  We're posting this article anyway as a means of making it clear to the "good guys"—the Newman Guide schools—that should their unspoken contract with Catholic parents ever be compromised along these lines, we will not hesitate to call for a boycott and, in fact, encourage our followers to withhold all support and pull their kids from these schools. When the president of Ave Maria University (AMU) decided he was going to go after Cardinal Burke and Archbishop Vigano last month not a few of us publicly stood against him. And while it’s true he's now claiming it was his decision not to renew his contract with AMU, the fact remains he will soon be the former president of AMU. The bottom line is this: there is no reason at all to support these small Newman Guide-approved schools other than the most essential reason of all: They still attempt to uphold Catholic dogma and the Church’s moral theology. As soon as they drop that ball, we drop them. So far, FUS seems to be holding the Catholic ground despite a new loony-Left COO. Should that change, we'll let you know and maybe Mr. Gorman can be encouraged to take a prolonged vacation with Mr. Towey.  MJM 

For the past several years, scandals and rumors of scandals have emanated from Catholic institutions of higher learning promoted by The Cardinal Newman Society, an organization founded in the early 1990s when the collective realization among many American Catholics that something had gone terribly wrong at Catholic colleges and universities reached a crisis point.

Mel Gibson, the world’s most infamous traditional Catholic and one of the biggest stars of the late twentieth century, is in the news again. However, this time, Mel is not in trouble for impolite comments made while under the influence of tequila or for any other “memeable” crime against political correctness.

See Part I here and Part II here.

The 1953 film Roman Holiday starring Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn captures the zeitgeist of post-World War II Western Europe which, dominated by American troops stationed throughout the continent and with the old world of throne and order wiped away by two enormous and destructive wars, fell passionately in love with America and Americanism.

In fact, this is (almost) literally what happens in the film.

“It was real grease ball [stuff]”...

In one of the best of many aesthetically excellent scenes in his classic (but deeply immoral and therefore unwatchable) 1990 Goodfellas, the sadly lapsed Catholic Martin Scorsese depicts the death of the mobster Tommy DeVito, superbly played by Joe Pesci.

Tommy, thinking that he was on his way to “being made” and initiated into the inner sanctum of the Sicilian Mafia, dresses and prepares for his big moment while the actor Ray Liotta provides a wise guy history of the process of “being made.”

The viewer eagerly anticipates the moment when Tommy is going to be made but is violently shocked to see Joe Pesci’s character shot in the back of the head while looking into an empty room.

Part I: War and Rumors of War...

rods mirrors

Former head of CIA counterintelligence and infamous spymaster, James Jesus Angleton, once described the Cold War world of espionage and intrigue as a “wilderness of mirrors.”

As more and more of the clerical abuse scandal is revealed, and layers of conspiracy and confusion are peeled away, many Catholics may feel as though they are walking around in their own wilderness of mirrors, a mess of doubt and confusion in which no one can be trusted.

It's a beautiful day in this neighborhood,
A beautiful day for a neighbor.
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
 – Fred Rogers

It is been a bad year in Fr. James Martin SJ (aka “Uncle Jim”)’s neighborhood, as almost all of Uncle Jim’s neighborly neighbors have run afoul of scandal.

Things have gone from bad to worse for Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, NJ, who had endorsed Fr. Martin’s 2017 manifesto of the new and improved Lavender mafia, Building a Bridge, as “brave, prophetic and inspiring.”

Charles Dickens famously begins his 1859 classic, A Tale of Two Cities:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…”

This sentiment encapsulates the drunken, heady optimism mixed with feelings of doubt and concern that marked the John Paul II era of the Catholic Church in America, which had crested at the turn of the third millennium. 

“Just as the unity of human society cannot be founded on an opposition of classes, so also the right ordering of economic life cannot be left to a free competition of forces. For from this source, as from a poisoned spring, have originated and spread all the errors of individualist economic teaching.” Pope Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno (1931)

Although largely unnoticed in the Catholic press, there has been an odd shakeup at First Things magazine. Once the grand old dame of Catholic neoconservativism, First Things has, over the past two years, dared to question one of the sacrosanct tenets of Catholic neoconservativism: free market economics.

In the midst of trying to distance themselves from fallout from the Cardinal Theodore “Uncle Teddy” McCarrick scandals--one of the most influential, well connected, and well known figures of the post-Cardinal Bernardin American hierarchy--the Catholic left has, in recent weeks, vomited forth a stream of leftist propaganda.

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