The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, September 5, 2001-- hA
Author explores rich spirituali of the Simpsons
Los Angeles Times
Mark I. Pinsky says the secret to writing his
new book, "The Gospel According to the Simp-
sons," an appreciation of the surprisingly rich
spiritual life of the Simpsons and their Spring-
dneighbors, was to weave a couple of the
s w's jokes onto each page.
"I'm mildly amusing at best," says Pinsky,
whose book hit stores Saturday. "There's a laugh
on every page of my book, no thanks to me."
Between the jokes, Pinsky, a religion writer for
the Orlando Sentinel, has sandwiched plenty of
theological meat, all taken from the adventures
of Fox's most popular animated family.
To a degree unappreciated by many viewers,
writers for "The Simpsons" have dealt with
many major and minor religious themes during
t show's 12-year run: the nature of God and
h ans, the existence of hell, the effectiveness
of intercessory prayers - even whether hooking
up illegal cable breaks the eighth commandment.
The show, which had 14.7 million weekly
viewers last year and 4 million more watching
syndicated reruns, has given America:
One of its most recognized evangelical
Christians in the lovable Ned Flanders, the Simp-
sons' next-door neighbor, so devout that he has
h church's and pastor's phone numbers on
s d dial.
The wonderfully complex Jewish characters
of Krusty the Clown ("I'd like to thank God for
all my success, even though I never worshiped or
believed in him in any way") and his disappoint-
ed father, Rabbi Hyman Krustofsky of Temple
especially for an animated show, where, as Mar-
tin says, "everything is a little less real.'
The show's writers included atheists, nonprac-
ticing Jews and Christians, and a few church-
and temple-goers, Pinsky said. Yet the atmos-
phere often turned spiritual during the writing
sessions, Martin said. "We did nothing but think
all day," he said. "So naturally a lot of thought
turned to life's big questions.'
The edginess and irreverence of the show at
first drew criticism from conservative Christians.
Yet many of them now embrace "The Simpsons"
as a cutting-edge depiction of American religion.
"There is more spiritual wisdom in se
episode of 'The Simpsons' than there is in-an
entire season of 'Touched by an Angel,"' n-
cluded The Door, a Christian humor magazine.
After Bart Simpson said this prayer at dinner,
"Dear God, we paid for all this stuff ourselves, so
thanks for nothing," best-selling author Lee Stro-
bel wrote a sermon titled "What Jesus Would
Say to Bart Simpson?' In it, Strobel contended
that in many ways, Bart was "merely more hon-
est than most."
The show's effectiveness lies in its ability to
make the religious pluralism of Springfield, from
Flanders' evangelism to Apu's Hinduism, seem
merely part of the town's basic fabric.
"When their guard is down, these things can
come into their consciousness rather painlessly,"
Pinsky said. "It's more religion than people in the
general population are usually willing to listen to
outside of their sanctuary.
"What I discovered is that you can find God in
the funniest places."
Beth Springfield. "Seltzer is for drinking, not for
spraying," he admonishes his son, the clown.
"Pie is for 'noshing,' not for throwing."
U The nation's first regular Hindu character in
Apu Nahaasapeemapetilon, the owner of the
Kwik-E-Mart who has to deal with the ignorance
in Springfield. When the Rev. Timothy Lovejoy
categorizes Apu's religion under "miscella-
neous," the immigrant explodes, "Hindu! There
are 700 million of us!" To which the reverend
replies condescendingly,"Aw, that's super"
In the end, readers will experience a revelation
that religious scholars and hip clergy have known
for some time: "This is one of the really interest-
ing places in the culture where religious diversity
is getting on the air," said Kate McCarthy, the co-
editor of the book "God in the Details: American
Religion in Popular Culture?' "'The Simpsons' is
totally ironic and satirical and pokes fun at every-
thing, but ultimately it represents the celebration
of religious diversity."
Thanks, says Tom Martin, a former senior
writer "for the show, but most of that is by acci-
dent. "People think it's a result of some deep
effort. Mostly it's just about trying to be funny."
Pinsky, 54, who earlier in his career worked
for the Los Angeles Times, had his own
epiphany about "The Simpsons" two years ago.
He was doing some television scouting for his
two kids, who wanted to watch the show. He
hadn't seen the program before, and soon came
to the belief that not only was it appropriate for
his children, but that religion played a major role
in the lives of the characters.
"I thought I had something.... It's a funny,
counterintuitive subject," he said. He watched
about 150 of the 269 episodes, reviewed scholar-
ly work on "The Simpsons" and talked with the
show's writers and fans.
Much of the religious material on "The Simp-
sons" came out of necessity: When characters
never age, you must go deeper for fresh materials
and points of view. Religion, normally unexam-
ined on television yet a part of so many Ameri-
cans' daily lives, was a perfect target -
Continued from Page IA
"The band looks for a great leader and good role model.
Also the band looks for a strong marcher,'Nix said.
While England has tried out for the position for the past
three years, she said she had no idea whether she would be
selected this time. "It was so hard to tell - it could have gone
one way or the other. You don't really know how everyone
else will do because you practice on your own;' England said.
"I didn't know how much I had improved, but my intentions
were to do my best"
England said one of the drum major's trademarks, the
pregame back bend, is not as hard to perform as it looks.
"I've been doing the back bend since my freshman year and
it has taken a lot of time to perfect it. You have to keep in con-
dition to do it - coming up is a lot harder because you can
get stuck;' England said. "I was more worried about being
Nix, who is in his first year of leading the band, said the
band will focus on presenting a wide variety of music and
working on marching ability.
With the marching season underway, England said she
wants to continue to work on continuity within her perfor-
mance. "I want to toss higher and just be as flexible as possi-
ble. I need to be ready to help out wherever I'm needecd"
- Daily Staff Reporter Kristen Beaumont contributed to
Continued from Page 1A
Some students apparently aren't
impressed with some of the teaching
methods used on campus, as the Univer-
sity was also recently ranked No. 8 in
the Princeton Review's category of
"professors suck all life from materials."
In addition, the Review's 2002 col-
lege guide ranks the University as the
No. 2 jock school and No. 5 in the list-
ing of major fraternity and sorority
Erik Olson, editor of the Princeton
Review's Best 331 Colleges 2002 Edi-
tion, said nearly 400 undergraduate stu-
dents from the University completed
this year's survey of 72 questions that
attempt to gauge students' academic
and social lives.
"Our survey asks the questions that
prospective college students might not
know to ask or might be embarrassed to
ask," Olson said.
"There must be a high degree of con-
sensus for a school to end up on any
list," he said. "For example, to gauge
how popular the jock scene is we look at
how popular intramural sports are.
We've also found that schools with a lot
of jocks tend to rank low in questions
about the popularity of theater and ciga-
Kinesiology freshman Margot Wool-
ley said she was scouted by several
schools including Michigan State and
Notre Dame for rowing, but she chose
Michigan for its kinesiology school.
"I came here to row," she said.
"Michigan had the best group rowing
program and academically it was the
Woolley said she likes the bond that
has already begun to form with her
"We've already become really close
this week and we're all pretty excited to
start practice,"she said.
University spokeswoman Julie Peter-
son said the University's rating as a big
jock school involves more than student
involvement in varsity sports.
"We are not only outstanding in so
many different intercollegiate sports,
both men's and women's, but we also
have a thriving intramural sports sys-
tem," she said.
Peterson said she is proud of the Uni-
versity's presence on all of these lists,
but looks at them more as fun than sci-
"As I watch all the various rankings
that come out, the main thing I take
away from it is that regardless of the
ranking, U of M tends to come out near
the top,"Peterson said.
"That's true whether the ranking is of
research productivity, the quality of our
academic programs, the successes of
our student-athletes, quality of life in
Ann Arbor, or a whole range of other
things that make up the University of
SWr Karen England leads the marching band this year as its
first-ever female drum major. "it was very exciting to make
history, but that's not the reason I tried out," she said.
Continued from Page 1A
students have to claim their space;'
Levy said yesterday. "Every year we
have a certain no show ratio."
wioms that have yet to be claimed
Pwi first given to students temporari-
ly living in the Oxford Conference Cen-
ter. After those students are placed into
permanent rooms, students currently
residing in residence halls "swing"
rooms wil be transferred out.
Momot said she considers herself
and her roommates lucky to be living
in improvised housing.
"It's got a little bit of air condition-
ing and more space. It's a little bit
fu >r away from the bathroom, but
tha eally doesn't bother me," Momot
said. "It'll pay off."
To remedy the problems caused by
a second move, the University will be
providing students with help when
they are switching rooms.
"We certainly don't expect parents
to return to do another move-in,"
further ease parents' concerns,
stU nts assigned to the temporary
housing were also given a discount in
their room and board fees.
However, the problem. can be
expected to arise again in the future.
Although a new residence hall on
Central or North Campus is currently
in the planning stages, there will not
be an automatic surplus of space.
University spokeswoman Julie
Peterson said the new hall will not
im diately alleviate the space
cr h but will instead be used to
replace residence hall rooms that are
out of commission during renovations
that are scheduled to happen in
"They are going to be renovating
the existing halls and you can imag-
ine that renovating while people are
still living in them is not an efficient
way-o do it," she said.
y said the new hall is expected*
to be roughly the same size as the
Couzens or Stockwell residence halls.
Contloued from Page 1A
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yond the classroom
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