Biblical Allusion: “Godfellas” – Futurama

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When I decided to do a Biblical allusion this week, I also decided that I wanted to do something that was a little outside my comfort zone. In order to attain a less than conservative Christian view on something, I went to a friend that has opposing theological views than me. I went in with an idea of what I wanted to do, but he persuaded me to watch the episode of Futurama called “Godfellas”. For those of you that don’t know the TV show, it could be described rather accurately as a satire of all things ever. Moreover, the episode chosen could be described as sacrilegious, but it could also not be viewed as that depending on your perspective of the show as a whole. Nevertheless, the episode contained some interesting Biblical allusions that shed some light on how many people may view the Bible, the Biblical God, and the concept of God as a whole.

The episode contained many Biblical allusions, but in order to see and understand them all, a short synopsis is necessary. The setting of the allusions contains Bender (a drunkard robot in the show) drifting through space. While drifting, a population of micro-people on an asteroid collides with Bender, gets stuck on his front side, and begins to worship him as a God. Bender takes advantage of the situation, and picks a random person named Malachi* to be his spokes person. Afterward there is a scene of a mom weaving a bag that says, “Metal Lord is my Metal Shepherd”* which precedes Bender grabbing Malachi, and telling him to grab a chisel to write down some commands*. The “commands” ends up being one command which was “God wants booze”. A short time period after the command there is a scene in which Bender is drinking beer made by his worshippers. Bender grabs Malachi, who has now lost an arm, and tells him that the beer was good. He questions Malachi about his arm, to which Malachi tells Bender that many have become maimed in the production of the beer, and that the liquor industry attracted organized crime*. Many are hurt and Bender, feeling “moved by their plight” sheds a tear that ends up flooding the whole population of people*. Malachi Jr. begins drowning in the flood, and when Malachi prays to “God” to save his son, Bender does. After this happened, the whole population begins to pray for Bender to help them, having seen his miraculous powers*. One town asks for wealth, so Bender flips a coin to them. However, since they’re micro-people, the quarter kills them. Another town asks for sunlight for their crops, so Bender reflects sunlight their way. However, since they’re micro-people the sunlight sets them and their crops on fire. After these things Bender says, “When you write the Bible you might want to omit that last miracle”*. From that moment on Bender doesn’t help people because he keeps messing things up, but the people begin to lose faith in Him due to their unanswered prayers*. After that Bender gives them all a Bible to read, but wars began and everyone ends up dying due to nuclear attacks.

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The first point to make about all this is that every single bit of it was satire. Every allusion, the portrayal of Bender as God over a people, and every scene I just described is intended to humor an audience. While watching the humorous scenes, I couldn’t help but think about how significant it may be that the Bible is so well known that a huge TV show like Futurama can make a satire out of it. Now, it may just be my own view on art (music, literature, pictures, TV shows, and etc.), but I view art as a historical marker for cultural relevance. When you read a satire like A Modest Proposal you see that in that point in history, poverty and oppression must have been a big deal. Moreover, when you read Huckleberry Finn you can see that seemingly unintelligent dialects and slavery was around and a big deal. Therefore, when watching “Godfellas” in Futurama, whether now or 300 years from now, the audience can tell that the Bible was a relevant topic. So while this episode serves as a satire, it also serves as a reminder that a book that has writings dating from 1900 to 2500 (or more) years ago is still a big deal. That’s a pretty big deal in and of itself.

There were many allusions in the episode, and the interesting thing is that the scenes of Bender as God seem to portray the whole Bible. Bender picks a man named Malachi as a spokesperson just as the Bible portrays God doing with Moses. Moreover, Malachi is the last book of the Prophets in the Old Testament. There is a bag weaved saying “The Metal Lord is my Metal Shepherd”, and God in the Old Testament is described as a shepherd to his people. Bender’s tear flooding the whole place is an allusion to the flood. Bender saving the person and then being begged to do more saving sounds just like the Israelites with God in the Pentateuch, and it sounds like the people that came to Jesus when he was doing miracles. When Bender stopped openly doing things and the people began to complain, that sounds just like the Israelites throughout the Old Testament narratives. Moreover, that even portrays many Christians today. Lastly, Bender gives them a Bible to read about him just as the Bible portrays itself. All of these allusions were purely satirical, somewhat sacrilegious, and somewhat funny, but the impressive part is how much of the Bible and its themes the episode covered in about 15 minutes.

When I began to think about all the allusions and the satire I began to see several things that the episode may have been trying to infer. If not infer, then a portrayal ideas that many may have on the Bible. Like I said earlier, art leaves cultural impressions to be discovered, and these allusions leave impressions of what society may think about the Bible. For instance, when Bender gives one village wealth and the other sunlight the “miracles” went completely wrong. After they go wrong Bender told them to leave those out of the Bible. This scene can give the idea that perhaps our society thinks that there were miracles from God that were left out because they went wrong. Or maybe it opens up the idea that maybe God didn’t do everything right. If you feel the need to keep digging further into this idea, maybe the episode is inferring that questioning God in the Bible isn’t all that irrational. These are just some ideas about what this scene may imply about our society, but there are sure to be more ideas about this specific scene and its implications.

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To contrast this last implication, there was another scene that portrayed the idea that maybe God was right about a lot of things. After Bender demands beer, Malachi said that the production of liquor attracted organized crime. Perhaps what is implied by the episode here is that maybe the God of the Bible isn’t wrong everywhere; maybe we’re wrong sometimes.

Even the beginning and end of Bender’s reign as God could possibly be seen as a reflection of how society views God. The episode began with the people creating Bender (clearly not God) as their God, and ended with war and destruction (the war actually being between those with faith and those without faith). This could be an implication that maybe the God in the Bible is nothing more than man’s invention. Moreover, some parts of society may think that the world would be better off without God. Let me explain. The episode may be leaving an immutable impression from American society’s perspective on the Bible. There are religious wars, there have been for hundreds and thousands of years, these wars may kill us all, and it all started with man’s invention of God. That’s the impression I see, and future generations may gather the same thing. Of course this is just a supposition about the episode’s implications, but the argument can certainly be made.

However, the end of the episode after everyone dies has a rather interesting perspective on the whole event and maybe even the way God in the Bible operates. After everyone dies on Bender, he ends up drifting into some form of the real God. The real God tells Bender, “Being God isn’t easy, if you do too much, people become dependent on you. If you do too little, people lose hope.” This tells the whole story of the Israelites in a nutshell. God did much for them, and they became dependent. God began to do little for them, and they lost faith in Him. Despite all the sacrilegious content that can be seen in the TV show, there ended up being some very interesting insight on how the God of the Bible might operate: He doesn’t. He left a Bible for mankind, and just stopped because of how difficult it is to please humans. Not only does it provide this insight, but it also leaves a cultural impression from the conservative person’s view on the Bible as well.

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Looking back at it all, one of the most interesting things about this whole episode is simply stepping back and thinking about it all. Due to its presence in the show, this satirical TV show illustrates just how relevant the Bible is in modern day America. Furthermore, it had at least five Biblical allusions that left an American (melting pot concept) cultural impression: at least two different points of view on the Bible portrayed. Overall, there was a lot of depth to the episode, but what makes it all so interesting to me is the broad range of opinions shown on the Bible. This shows that not only is the Bible relevant, but it is discussed and debated on a broad range. The historical impression on America’s culture found in this episode will be there for a long time, and will carry with it the question: why is/was the Bible so relevant? A question that has far too many layers to answer in a sentence.

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