Last Saturday, the National Post ran an editorial on The Simpsons Movie by “Dr.” Ted Baehr and his colleague Tom Snyder — and as with so much else that gets published under their names, there are several bits that make you go “Huh!?” The article begins:
An interesting thing happens during The Simpsons Movie, which recently opened number one at the box office in the United States and Canada. Ned Flanders, often mocked in the television series for his Christian beliefs and strict moral standards, plays just about the most important role in the story.
This newfound respect for Ned in The Simpsons Movie startled young fans at the press screening.
“Startled”? I’d like to see some evidence of that, but this editorial offers none whatsoever. And “newfound”? Where were these guys when Frederica Mathewes-Green wrote her famous essay ‘Ned Flanders, My Hero’ for Beliefnet.com back in 2000? And where were they when Christianity Today ran an excerpt from Mark Pinsky’s book The Gospel According to the Simpsons (my review) under the headline ‘Blessed Ned of Springfield’ back in 2001?
Baehr and Snyder go on to write:
Throughout the 20-year history of the series we have witnessed the testing of his faith and learned that Ned’s character is not infallible. His home was destroyed by a hurricane and he was later institutionalized after his reaction to a failed rebuilding attempt by his fellow citizens of Springfield. His business, The Leftorium (specializing in merchandise specifically designed for southpaws), has had little success and almost closed due to stiff competition from the Leftopolis and Left-Mart. Later his wife was killed in a freak accident at the Springfield Motor Speedway.
Yet, despite the Job-like tragedies, Ned’s devotion towards charity never let up and his faith in God has grown stronger. As leader of the Junior Campers (similar to the Boy Scouts), Ned organized a volunteer day at the Springfield retirement home, he spends one day a week feeding the homeless at Springfield’s soup kitchen and can often be seen at the Springfield hospital reading to sick children.
Um, all true, as far as I know — but I do find it interesting that this article makes no mention of ‘A Star Is Born-Again‘, the 2003 episode in which Ned has non-marital sex with a movie star — a character development that some people thought at the time might have been a reaction on the producers’ part to the fact that Ned had become so popular with conservative Christians.
I guess Baehr and Snyder have forgiven Ned for that lapse in moral judgment — or they have chosen to brush it under the carpet so long as Ned remains useful to their cause of exaggerating the Christian elements in movies that happen to be big hits.