Dives into a new world of religious satire illuminated through the layers of religion and humor that make up the The Simpsons, South Park, and Family Guy.
Drawing on the worldviews put forth by three wildly popular animated shows – The Simpsons, South Park, and Family Guy– David Feltmate demonstrates how ideas about religion’s proper place in American society are communicated through comedy. The book includes discussion of a wide range of American religions, including Protestant and Catholic Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Native American Religions, New Religious Movements, “Spirituality,” Hinduism, and Atheism. Along the way, readers are shown that jokes about religion are influential tools for teaching viewers how to interpret and judge religious people and institutions.
Feltmate, develops a picture of how each show understands and communicates what constitutes good religious practice as well as which traditions they seek to exclude on the basis of race and ethnicity, stupidity, or danger. From Homer Simpson’s spiritual journey during a chili-pepper induced hallucination to South Park’s boxing match between Jesus and Satan to Peter Griffin’s worship of the Fonz, each show uses humor to convey a broader commentary about the role of religion in public life. Through this examination, an understanding of what it means to each program to be a good religious American becomes clear. Drawn to the Gods is a book that both fans and scholars will enjoy as they expose the significance of religious satire in these iconic television programs.
Feltmate's enticing title promises much, but delivers most of it in a humorless and dreary manner. Feltmate, a sociology professor at Auburn University at Montgomery, wisely focuses on three popular television programs that not only overflow with religious references but also often humorously subvert accepted ideas about religious beliefs and practices. Engaging in close readings of over 200 episodes of these shows, Feltmate explores the ways that they satirically question sacred texts, cults, Jesus, sacred sites, and various world religions. Such readings are the highlight in a book otherwise weighed by the heavy dullness of jargon: "Satirists take appropriate incongruities that arise from a conflict between the moral boundaries established by the different legitimations that support institutionalized religious plausibility structures and reinforce their own plausibility structures by denigrating their opponents." Feltmate's sometimes intriguing book loses its sense of humor in tiresome and repetitious language that obscures the real value of these television programs.