Happy Friday, everyone! As you can see to the right of the page, our Televangelist Knock-Out contest has come to an end…or has it? Thanks for helping make it so much fun with your votes and comments!
I’ve got a special Friday list for you. TV shows run a great deal on the power of caricatures. Most every people group is represented on TV – in broad sweeping strokes that make them easy to identify and relate to. People in Missouri who have never been to New York know how New Yorkers act.
Christians, as the dominate religious group in the country don’t escape the satirical spotlight. Maybe you cringe when you see a Christian being roasted a little on TV, but I can’t help but have a little fun with it too. Here’s five of my most memorable, over-the-top, or endearing TV Christians.
Ned Flanders – The Simpsons
This one is obvious, if only because Ned Flanders is such a classic character on a long-running show. Technically, almost everyone in Springfield are Christians, as most of them can be seen attending the one church in town. But Ned and his wife Maude and sons Rod and Todd are the only ones who could be considered ‘born again.’ Ned is Homer Simpson’s unfailingly kind, but overtly annoying neighbor (he even manages to grate of the nerves of the apathetic Reverend Lovejoy.)
Interestingly, Ned rarely serves as a ‘straw man.’ Ned is generally a great guy, a real man, husband and father in contrast to Homer’s selfishness, stupidity, and ineptitude. And Ned’s religiosity has been vindicated from time to time. As Homer’s house burns and the fire spreads to the Flanders,’ Homer notices that God didn’t save the home of the most religious guy in town…at which point, God immediately sends a rain cloud to douse only Ned’s home, which quickly clears to reveal a rainbow.
Angela Martin – The Office
‘The DaVinci Code. I would bring to the island The DaVinci Code…so I could burn The DaVinci Code.’
Angela is the subtle office Christian: a notorious cat lady and ruthless ruler of the Party Planning Committee. Angela dresses in a Puritanical fashion, but has had many secret liasons with co-worker Dwight, who credited her with ‘introducing him to monotheism.’ Angela has been seen to pray when under duress, belt out ‘Little Drummer Boy’ at the office Christmas party, and likes posters of babies dressed as adults. Although she was introduced as a Christian early in the show, the subject of her faith is rarely discussed. Angela Kinsey, the actress is listed by Wikipedia as an active member of Bel-Air Presbyterian Church.
Church Lady – Saturday Night Live
‘Well isn’t that special!’
Dana Carvey’s depiction is the little old lady who has nothing better to do but go to church all the time…and judge everyone else on their lack of piety. Everything she doesn’t approve of is attributable to Satan and subject to damnation, especially fornication. Carvey says that the character was based on a lady in his childhood church who kept track of everyone’s attendance. Church lady seems unbeatably pious, except for one other ‘church lady’ who may have her beat.
Hyacinth Bucket – Keeping Up Appearances
‘It’s pronounced ‘BOUQUET!’ B-U-C-K-E-T! ‘BOUQUET!”
The title of this classic British TV show says it all. Hyacinth Bucket is a hyper-critical social climber who manages to undo her entire agenda by her own obnoxiousness. Her hen-pecked husband, relatives, and Vicar silently tolerate her existence as she insults, manipulates, and puts down everyone she meets. Everything she does is the best way, of course. The younger women at church simply do not know how to put on a proper luncheon! Sadly, I knew a real-life Mrs. Bucket, and she truly was the undoing of an entire church…
Kenneth Parcell – 30 Rock
‘I don’t vote Republican or Democrat…I just write in the Lord’s name!’
Kenneth the page, the assistant to everyone at NBC studios, is the cuddly cute, sugary sweet, impeccably innocent real life Ned Flanders. Kenneth is always extremely happy and helpful, except when helping you would be a sin, but he doesn’t judge you for what you’re about to do. At the end of the day, Kenneth proves that chivalry isn’t dead. He’s someone that everyone can count on and is easy for the audience to love, although he gets about as much adult respect as your little cousin. Kenneth’s actual faith surfaces very little, but just enough that you know what he is. He comes out on top as one of the more positive, though subtle Christian characters on TV today.
So, Christian men are more effeminate and impossibly nice and forgiving than is even possible for most women, while Christian women are more dominating and critical than is possible for most men. Most pastors seem to be more level-headed than their parishoners, if not apathetic. Now you know how to construct a Christian caricature!
What do you think about Christians being portrayed in TV? Are they lighthearted jabs at a powerful segment of our society, or something more sinister? Do Christians get the ‘business’ any more than Jews, Mexicans, Muslims, New Yorkers, Hindus, Gays, Democrats, Republicans, or any other segment of society? Does it make a Christian caricature more tolerable to you if a Christian is playing that part? Who are your favorite Christian TV characters?