First up, The Simpsons: The Movie. Typically irreverent, cheeky and at points bizarre. Unlike Serenity, the writers for the Simpsons managed to transfer the show from TV to movie without suffering too great a loss.

What is dangerous about the Simpsons, though, and this movie in particular, is the universality of their scorn. No one is safe from ridicule–not the Church, not the government, not the audience or the filmmaker. In some ways, the egalitarian nature of their humor is comforting–the writers lack, it seems, an agenda that is broader than making fun of everyone.

But on the other hand, I worry that too much of the Simpsons can cause me to see everything as an object to be ridiculed. The world becomes the playground for my wit, and my wit is then employed not as a flashlight, illumining reality, but as a dagger.  Satire certainly has a place, but I wonder whether the satire of the Simpsons is more toxic than that of Swift.

On a whim, I bought a ticket to the refreshing Ratatouille. While the CGI was stunning, the story carried its own weight. Occasionally, a story and characters manage to be engaging, edifying and entertaining without necessarily being funny. Ratatoullie perched itself delicately into this category.

What impressed me most about the film, though, was its ending.  Ratatouille’s makers exemplified remarkable restraint at making the ending consistent with the narrative, bringing the movie to a fitting and appropriately stirring close.  They managed to evoke just enough emotion to leave the audience pleased, yet not quite sure why.

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Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.


  1. “No one is safe from ridicule…”

    I agree that every institution takes its knocks in The Simpsons Movie, but disagree that it risks making the satire “toxic.” Although the Simpson family is classically dysfunctional, it is a family–and the show defends that family unit, come what may, even a Schwarzenegger presidency. (Environmentalism seems to largely emerge unscathed, as well.)


  2. Jim,

    That’s true. Hilary came off well without even appearing, too (good ad placement).

    It wasn’t so much the content of the satire, though, that makes it different as its ubiquity. It’s just a worry, though, for which I don’t have much evidence.


  3. […] Continuing my summer blockbuster binge, I dropped in to Transformers two nights ago.  In sum, I got about what I expected:  teenagers who are little more than eye-candy falling in love without any clear reason, large explosions and face chase scenes, and sweet scenes of cars, planes and trucks becoming robots.  In other words, all sweetness, no substance. In other words, it was the sort of movie that is perfectly designed for most teenage guys. The acting was at best wooden.  At worst, I found myself wondering which acting performances were the least robotic:  the Transformers or the humans. […]


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