Lifetime of Simpsons

S09 E08 – Lisa the Skeptic

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Well look what we have here! Another great episode about Lisa fighting with faith. I really had forgotten how often the Simpsons tackled issues about faith, and I find it fascinating. It’s pretty well established on this site that I’m not a religious person at all, and often find most aspects of organized religion, especially Christianity, ridiculous, much as Lisa does, so I’m always on board for Lisa exploring the more insane things people believe, like angels! Let’s learn about angels.

The episode starts off with a hilarious little gag where Chief Wiggum, Eddie, and Lou have figured out some ridiculous scheme to catch a bunch of criminals in Springfield, instead of doing leg work and finding them. They’ve sent out flier to criminals, telling them that they’ve won a free speed-boat. And of course, only the stupidest criminals would fall for that, so Homer is one his way! He gets there right at the same time as Snake, ready to get his speed-boat, even after seeing the police arrest and beat Snake. Turns out Homer has 235 unpaid parking tickets, so instead of beating him up, they just make him write them a check for the fines and leave, boatless.

And as the family quietly drives home after that ridiculous shaming, they come across a new mega-mall being built on the outskirts of town. The family is pretty stoked for it, always up for some shopping, except Lisa, who is horrified that they’re building a mall on some place called Sabertooth Meadow, where they found a bunch of fossils. She gets all bent out of shape, saying that they need to do an archeological survey of the land before letting a mall be built over it, and even gets Lionel Hutz to come down to the built-site with her to complain. And the men making the mall kind of blow her off at first, until they decide letting some kids do a survey would be good publicity, and they agree to let Lisa do some digging.

So Lisa heads to school and has a meeting with Principal Skinner, calling in a favor he owes her since she apparently didn’t sue to school when she found a scorpion in her apple sauce. So Skinner makes an announcement that all the honor students are being rewarded with an archeological dig, while conversely all the detention students are being punished with an archeological dig. And since that Venn Diagram covers all the students we care about, they all head out to the Meadow to start digging. And so they spend a day under the hot sun, futilely digging in the dirt, finding absolutely nothing, as everyone starts to lose faith. All the students, and Principal Skinner, pretty much give up, and start to leave. But Lisa, desperate to find something, keeps going. And it just so happens that right as they’re about to leave, she finds something. It’s a human skeleton. So Lisa begin uncovering the skeleton, as news quickly spreads around the town, drawing a huge crowd. But as the whole town stands there, gawking at the remains, Lisa makes an even more shocking discovery. There appears to be wings on the skeleton.

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And since Springfield is a stupid, stupid place, they all immediately decide that the only logical explanation is that they just happened to find the fossilized remains of an angel. Lisa does her best to explain that there’s no such thing as angels, and that there must be a logical explanation, but no one really cares about that, and just argue about who owns the skeleton. And while that debate is going on, Homer just steals it and drives off. He apparently just wants to keep it hidden in a closet full of other useless crap, but when the rest of the town starts showing up to see the angel, Homer sees some capitalistic gains he can make from it, and decides to charge admission to see the “angel.”

Meanwhile, Lisa still is pretty disgusted with the towns’ idiocy, so she decides to prove her point. She sneaks into the garage in the middle of the night and cracks off one of the angel’s toes, bringing it to Dr. Stephen Jay Gould to be analyzed. And the next day she comes to the angel exhibit and proudly informs all the people who are gawking at the angel that she’s gotten the ball rolling in disproving its existence. But right as she’s bragging about how smart she is Dr. Gould shows up and says that the results were inconclusive, just giving the morons more firepower. They town starts making fun of Lisa, saying that that test proves religion is right and science is wrong, and just start mocking her. So Lisa goes inside, complaining about how everyone in town is stupid, and ends up having a shocking conversation with Marge where she admits that she believes in angels too, making Lisa pretty much the only voice of reason.

So Lisa is under a lot of strain, which is made worse when all the religious idiots in the town go crazy and decide to burn everything scientific in town, including the museum, the planetarium, a robotics lab, and hilariously a Christian Science Reading Room. And all of this finally breaks Lisa, who decides to go destroy the angel. Unfortunatly, when she goes out to the garage with a crowbar, she’s shocked to find that angel gone. And right on time the rest of the town shows up to save the angel from the un-believer, and obviously assume Lisa has hidden their holy relic. So they arrest the eight-year old girl, and put her on trial.

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Luckily though, right as the court case is about to begin, Lenny saves the day by noticing that the missing angel is right outside the courthouse, on a hill. The town stops caring about Lisa’s crazy court case, and go out to check out the angel, only to find that an inscription has been made on the fossil. “The End Will Come At Sundown.” Which obviously makes everyone in town freak the hell out, assuming that the Apocalypse is coming. So everyone starts getting ready for the End in their own ways, including the Simpsons:

Bart: “Why are we getting dressed up mom? Are we going to Black Angus?”

Marge: “Well, you might say we’re going to the best steakhouse in the universe.”

Bart: “So…we’re not going to Black Angus?”

Hilarious. But after that the family joins most of the rest of the town on that hill, awaiting the End. And as sundown approaches everyone but Lisa starts to get freaked out. And then the twist happens. Sundown happens, the angel lifts off the ground and starts speaking with a booming voice. But instead of causing the Apocalypse, it turns out the whole angel thing was just a scam by the mega-mall, and it’s there to welcome them to the grand opening. At first people are disgusted, but then they decide they want to go shopping, and stop caring. The whole town runs down there, even Dr. Gould, who admits that he just didn’t run that test. And the episode ends with a really sweet scene where Lisa and Marge talk about faith and acceptance.

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I really love this episode. I’m not a religious person, and never was. Even as a kid it all sounded ridiculous. My folks never took me to church or anything, so I was always learning about religion from the outside. I never had to grow up with people telling me that things like angels are real. So most of Christianity’s mythology went right along with stuff like Greek or Norse myths, just less exciting and interesting. It was all equally as fake. But if there’s one thing I quickly learned when dealing with religious people, it’s not okay to talk like that. I don’t presume to have all the answers, but I’m pretty sure all of the magical stuff that religions believe is all not real. But it’s jerky to talk about that. People can believe what they want to believe. It’s when people use their religion as an excuse to be horrible that issues come up with, and makes me mad. Lisa in this episode is a pretty accurate representation of what I was like a kid, openly mocking religion. And really, that’s not the best way to be. Yeah, I personally think stuff like God, angels, and prayer are ridiculous, and kind of detrimental to society, but it’s not my place to tell people they’re wrong. That’s just being an asshole. Whatever gets people through the day, you know? If believing this stuff helps people, good for them. I think it’s ridiculous, but who cares what I think. Yeah, when I hear people say stuff like that they don’t want health insurance because prayer is the best medicine, I can get angry, but whatever, it’s their life. And this episode really does a great job at showing Lisa learn that lesson. Because it can be a hard lesson to learn. Lisa is right so often, that she gets used to being a know-it-all. She loves telling people they’re wrong. And this was a great example of her learning that telling people they’re wrong may not be the best way to go through life. Yeah, the people of Springfield are idiots, but she’s going to be even more miserable in life if she does nothing but point that out to them.

Take Away: You don’t need to express all of your opinions, because it reaches a point where you’re just hurting people.

 

“Lisa the Skeptic” was written by David S Cohen and directed by Neil Affleck, 1997.

 

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