"The Joy of Sect" is the thirteenth episode of The Simpsons' ninth season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on February 8, 1998. In the episode, a cult takes over Springfield, and the Simpson family become members.
David Mirkin conceived the initial idea for the episode, Steve O'Donnell was the lead writer, and Steven Dean Moore directed. The writers drew on many groups to develop the Movementarians, but were principally influenced by Scientology, Heaven's Gate, the Unification Church ("Moonies"), the Rajneesh movement, and Peoples Temple. The show contains many references to popular culture, including the title reference to The Joy of Sex and a gag involving Rover from the television program The Prisoner.
"The Joy of Sect" was later analyzed from religious, philosophical, and psychological perspectives; books on The Simpsons compared the Movementarians to many of the same groups from which the writers had drawn influence. Both USA Today and The A.V. Club featured "The Joy of Sect" in lists of important episodes of The Simpsons.
|"The Joy of Sect"|
|The Simpsons episode|
|Episode no.||Season 9|
|Directed by||Steven Dean Moore|
|Written by||Steve O'Donnell|
|Original air date||February 8, 1998|
|Chalkboard gag||Shooting paintballs is not an art form.|
|Couch gag||Tiny versions of the Simpsons climb on the couch, and a normal-sized Santa's Little Helper comes up to the couch, takes Homer in his mouth, and runs off with him.|
Steven Dean Moore
At the airport, Bart and Homer meet recruiters for the new religious movement, Movementarianism. They invite Homer and many Springfield residents to watch an orientation film. The film explains that a mysterious man known as "The Leader" will guide Movementarians aboard a spaceship to the planet Blisstonia. The lengthy film brainwashes the attendees into worshipping The Leader.
After Homer joins the cult, he moves his family to the Movementarian compound. Though defiant at first, all the Simpson children are converted to Movementarianism. Marge is the only family member to resist, and escapes from the heavily guarded compound. Outside, she finds Reverend Lovejoy, Ned Flanders, and Groundskeeper Willie, who have all resisted the Movementarians, and with their help, she tricks her family into leaving the compound with her. At the Flanders' home, Marge deprograms her kids by baiting them with fake hoverbikes and then works on Homer with a glass of beer. However, as a drop of beer lands on his tongue, he is recaptured by the Movementarians' lawyers.
Back at the compound, Homer reveals to a crowd of Movementarians that he is no longer brainwashed and opens the doors of the Forbidden Barn to expose the cult as a fraud, but he and the crowd are surprised to find an actual spaceship. However, the crude spaceship disintegrates as it takes flight, revealing The Leader on a pedal-powered aircraft fleeing with everyone's money. He then crashes into Cletus Spuckler's front yard, where Cletus forces him to give over the money at gunpoint. The Simpsons return home to watch Fox television.
The episode was the second and last episode written by Steve O'Donnell and was based on an idea from David Mirkin. Mirkin had been the show runner during seasons five and six, but had been brought back to run two episodes during the ninth season. He said he was attracted to the notion of parodying cults because they are "comical, interesting and twisted". He conceived the episode after hearing a radio show about the history of cults whilst driving home one night. The main group of writers that worked on the episode were Mirkin, O'Donnell, Jace Richdale, and Kevin Curran. The episode's title "The Joy of Sect" was pitched by Richdale. Steven Dean Moore directed the episode.
Aspects of the Movementarians were inspired by different cults and religions, including Scientology, Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple, the Heaven's Gate group, the Unification Church, the Oneida Society, and Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. In particular, the leader driving through the fields in a Rolls Royce was partly inspired by the Bhagwans, and the notion of holding people inside the camp against their will was a reference to Jim Jones. The name "Movementarians" itself was simply chosen for its awkward sound. The scene during the six-hour orientation video where those who get up to leave are induced to stay through peer pressure and groupthink was a reference to the Unification Church and EST Training. The show's producers acknowledged that the ending scene of the episode was a poke at Fox as "being the evil mind controlling network". The episode's script was written in 1997, at roughly the same time that the members of the Heaven's Gate cult committed mass suicide. The writers noticed strange parallels between Mirkin's first draft and Heaven's Gate, including the belief in the arrival of a spaceship and the group's members wearing matching clothes and odd sneakers. Because of these coincidences, several elements of the episode were changed so that it would be more sensitive in the wake of the suicides.
Chris Turner's book Planet Simpson: How a Cartoon Masterpiece Defined a Generation describes the Movementarians as a cross between the Church of Scientology and Raëlism, with lesser influences from Sun Myung Moon and Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. Planet Simpson also notes the Simpsons' chant at the conclusion of the episode as evidence of a "true high-growth quasi-religious cult of our time", referring to television. The book refers to a "Cult of Pop", which it describes as "a fast growing mutation ersatz religion that has filled the gaping hole in the West's social fabric where organized religion used to be". Martin Hunt of FACTnet notes several similarities between the Movementarians and the Church of Scientology. "The Leader" physically resembles L. Ron Hubbard; the Movementarians' "trillion-year labor contract" alludes to the (Scientology) Sea Org's billion-year contract; and both groups make extensive use of litigation. The A.V. Club analyzes the episode in a piece called "Springfield joins a cult", comparing the Movementarians' plans to travel to "Blisstonia" to Heaven's Gate's promises of bliss after traveling to the comet Hale–Bopp. However, it also notes that "The Joy of Sect" is a commentary on organized religion in general, quoting Bart as saying, "Church, cult, cult, church. So we get bored someplace else every Sunday." Planet Simpson discusses The Simpsons' approach to deprogramming in the episode, noting groundskeeper Willie's conversion to the philosophy of the Movementarians after learning about it while attempting to deprogram Homer. Author Chris Turner suggests that Marge should have instead gone with the "Conformco Brain Deprogrammers" used in the episode "Burns' Heir" to convince Bart to leave Mr. Burns and come back home.
In The Simpsons and Philosophy: The D'oh! of Homer, the authors cite "escaping from a cult commune in 'The Joy of Sect'" as evidence of "Aristotle's virtuous personality traits in Marge." As the title suggests, the book The Psychology of the Simpsons: D'oh! examines "The Joy of Sect" from a psychological point of view. It discusses the psychology of decision-making in the episode, noting, "Homer is becoming a full-blown member of the Movementarians not by a rational choice, ... but through the process of escalating behavioral commitments." The Psychology of the Simpsons explains the key recruitment techniques used by the Movementarians, including the charismatic leader, established authority based on a religious entity or alien being (in this case "Blisstonia"), and the method of taking away free choice through acceptance of the Leader's greatness. The book also analyzes the techniques used during the six-hour Movementarian recruitment film. In that scene, those who rise to leave are reminded that they are allowed to leave whenever they wish. They are, however, questioned in front of the group as to specifically why they wish to leave, and these individuals end up staying to finish watching the film. The book describes this technique as "subtle pressure", in contrast to the "razor wire, landmines, angry dogs, crocodiles and evil mystery bubble Marge confronts to escape, while being reminded again that she is certainly free to leave". The Psychology of the Simpsons writes that "the Leader" is seen as an authority figure, because "he has knowledge or abilities that others do not, but want". Instead of traditional mathematics textbooks, the children on the compound learn from Arithmetic the Leader's Way and Science for Leader Lovers.
In Pinsky's The Gospel According to the Simpsons, one of the show's writers recounted to the author that the producers of The Simpsons had vetoed a planned episode on Scientology in fear of the Church's "reputation for suing and harassing opponents". Pinsky found it ironic that Matt Groening spoofed Scientology in spite of the fact that the voice of Bart Simpson, Nancy Cartwright, is a Scientologist, having joined in 1996. Pinsky notes that Groening later "took a shot at Scientology" in Futurama with the fictional religion "Church of Robotology". Groening said he received a call from the Church of Scientology concerned about the use of a similar name.
The episode contains several references to popular culture. The title of the episode is a spoof of the book The Joy of Sex by Alex Comfort. When Marge attempts to leave the compound, she is chased by the Rover guard "balloon" from the 1967 television program The Prisoner. Neal Hefti and Nelson Riddle's theme music to the 1960s Batman series is used in the episode to indoctrinate Homer, while "I Love You, You Love Me" sung by Barney the Dinosaur on the Barney and Friends/Barney and the Backyard Gang series is used to brainwash babies. When Mr. Burns introduces his new religion, most of the sequence is a parody of the promotional video of Michael Jackson's 1995 album HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I. Willie scratching his nails along the church window to get Marge and Reverend Lovejoy's attention is a reference to the 1975 film Jaws, in which the character Quint performs a similar action. The Springfield Airport contains the "Just Crichton and King Bookstore", referencing Michael Crichton and Stephen King, authors famous for their airport novels, carrying only their works.
In its original broadcast, "The Joy of Sect" finished 27th in ratings for the week of February 2–8, 1998, with a Nielsen rating of 9.6, equivalent to approximately 9.4 million viewing households. It was the fourth highest-rated show on the Fox network that week, following The X-Files, King of the Hill, and Ally McBeal.
In a 2006 article in USA Today, "The Joy of Sect" was highlighted among six other episodes of The Simpsons season 9, along with "Trash of the Titans", "The Last Temptation of Krust", "The Cartridge Family", "Dumbbell Indemnity", and "Das Bus". The A.V. Club featured the episode in its analysis of "15 Simpsons Moments That Perfectly Captured Their Eras". The Daily Mirror gave the episode positive mention in its review of the Season 9 DVD release, calling it "hilarious". Isaac Mitchell-Frey of the Herald Sun cited the episode as the highlight of the season. The Sunday Mail highlighted the episode for their "Family Choice" segment, commenting: "Normally, a show about religious cults would spell doom and gloom. Only Bart, of The Simpsons, could make a comedy out of it but then, he and his cartoon family are a cult in their own right anyway!"
Jeff Shalda of The Simpsons Archive used the episode as an example of one of the "good qualities present in The Simpsons", while analyzing why some other aspects of The Simpsons make Christians upset. The authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide commented that the episode was "an odd one" with "a lot of good moments", and went on to state that it was "a nice twist to see Burns determined to be loved". However, the book also noted that "The Joy of Sect" is "another one where the central joke isn't strong enough to last the whole episode". In a lesson plan for St Mary's College, Durham titled An Introduction to Philosophy: The Wit and Wisdom of Lisa Simpson, the episode is described in a section on "False Prophets" as applicable for "... studying the more outrageous manifestations of 'religion' or those simply alert to the teachings of Christ on the subject".
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Events in 1998 in animation.A Token of My Extreme
"A Token of My Extreme", by Frank Zappa, is a song on the 1979 concept album Joe's Garage [Part II]. The main character from this triple-album rock-opera has his mind messed-up by Lucille then "finally does something smart" and "pays a lot of money to L. Ron Hoover and the First Church of Appliantology."Airport novel
Airport novel(s) represent a literary genre that is not so much defined by its plot or cast of stock characters, as much as it is by the social function it serves. An airport novel is typically a fairly long but fast-paced boilerplate genre-fiction novel commonly found in the reading fare offered by airport newsstands.
Considering the marketing of fiction as a trade, airport novels occupy a niche similar to the one that once was occupied by pulp magazine and other reading materials typically sold at newsstands and kiosks to travellers. In French, such novels are called romans de gare, "railway station novels", suggesting that publishers in France were aware of this potential market at very early date. The somewhat dated, Dutch term 'stationsroman' is a calque from French.
Designed to meet the demands of a very specific market, airport novels are superficially engaging while not being necessarily profound as they are usually written as to be more entertaining than philosophical challenging.Bart Carny
"Bart Carny" is the twelfth episode of The Simpsons' ninth season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on January 11, 1998. Homer and Bart start working at a carnival and befriend a father and son duo named Cooder and Spud. It was written by John Swartzwelder, directed by Mark Kirkland and guest stars Jim Varney as Cooder the carny. The episode contains several cultural references and received a generally mixed critical reception.Das Bus
"Das Bus" is the fourteenth episode of The Simpsons' ninth season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on February 15, 1998. In an extended parody of Lord of the Flies, Bart, Lisa and other students from Springfield Elementary School are stranded on an island and are forced to work together. Meanwhile, Homer founds his own Internet company. It was written by David X. Cohen and directed by Pete Michels. Guest star James Earl Jones narrates the final scene of the episode.David Mirkin
David Mirkin (born September 18, 1955) is an American feature film and television director, writer and producer. Mirkin grew up in Philadelphia and intended to become an electrical engineer, but abandoned this career path in favor of studying film at Loyola Marymount University. After graduating, he became a stand-up comedian, and then moved into television writing. He wrote for the sitcoms Three's Company, It's Garry Shandling's Show and The Larry Sanders Show and served as showrunner on the series Newhart. After an unsuccessful attempt to remake the British series The Young Ones, Mirkin created Get a Life in 1990. The series starred comedian Chris Elliott and ran for two seasons, despite a lack of support from many Fox network executives, who disliked the show's dark and surreal humor. He moved on to create the sketch show The Edge starring his then-partner, actress Julie Brown.
Mirkin left The Edge during its run and became the executive producer and showrunner of The Simpsons for its fifth and sixth seasons. Mirkin has been cited as introducing a more surreal element to the show's humor, as shown by his first writing credit for the show, "Deep Space Homer", which sees Homer Simpson go to space as part of a NASA program to restore interest in space exploration. He won four Primetime Emmy Awards and a Peabody Award for his work on The Simpsons. Mirkin stood down as showrunner after season six, but produced several subsequent episodes, co-wrote The Simpsons Movie (2007) and in 2013 remains on the show as a consultant. Mirkin has also moved into feature film direction: he directed the films Romy and Michele's High School Reunion (1997) and Heartbreakers (2001).Dumbbell Indemnity
"Dumbbell Indemnity" is the sixteenth episode in the ninth season of the American animated television series The Simpsons. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on March 1, 1998. It was written by Ron Hauge and directed by Dominic Polcino. The episode sees Moe trying to keep his new girlfriend by using a large amount of money, but when it runs out, he decides to commit insurance fraud. Homer helps him, but is caught and sent to jail, and attempts to take revenge on Moe when he does not bail him out. Helen Hunt makes a guest appearance as Moe's girlfriend, Renee. The episode contains several cultural references and was generally well received.Hell Is Other Robots
"Hell Is Other Robots" is the ninth episode in the first season of the American animated television series Futurama. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on May 18, 1999. The episode was written by Eric Kaplan and directed by Rich Moore. Guest stars in this episode include the Beastie Boys as themselves and Dan Castellaneta voicing the Robot Devil.
The episode is one of the first to focus heavily on Bender. In the episode, he develops an addiction to electricity. When this addiction becomes problematic, Bender joins the Temple of Robotology, but after Fry and Leela tempt Bender with alcohol and prostitutes, he quits the Temple of Robotology and is visited by the Robot Devil for sinning, and Bender is sent to Robot Hell. Finally Fry and Leela come to rescue him, and the three escape.
The episode introduces the Robot Devil, Reverend Lionel Preacherbot and the religion of the Temple of Robotology, a spoof on the Church of Scientology. The episode received positive reviews, and was one of four featured on the DVD boxed set of Matt Groening's favorite episodes: "Monster Robot Maniac Fun Collection".Jose Chung's Doomsday Defense
"Jose Chung's Doomsday Defense" is the ninth episode of the second season of Fox's Millennium. Controversial writer Jose Chung (portrayed by Charles Nelson Reilly, reprising his role from The X-Files episode "Jose Chung's From Outer Space") comes to the aid of criminal profiler Frank Black and the Millennium Group when a bizarre religious group known as Selfosophy (a parody of real-world Scientology) targets him for harassment because of his authorship of a short story concerning the cult. The question becomes, as Frank puts it, "What the hell is going on here?"Kwik-E-Mart
The Kwik-E-Mart (spelled "Quick-E-Mart" in "Bart the General") is a convenience store in the animated television series The Simpsons. It is a parody of American convenience stores, such as 7-Eleven and Wawa Inc., and depicts many of the stereotypes about them. It is notorious for its high prices and the poor quality of its merchandise. It is run by an Indian-American named Apu Nahasapeemapetilon. It first appeared in the episode "The Telltale Head" and has since become a common setting in The Simpsons.
In July 2007, eleven 7-Eleven locations in the United States and one in Canada were transformed into Kwik-E-Marts as part of a special promotion for The Simpsons Movie. Also in 2007, gift shops modeled after the "Kwik-E-Marts" were opened in Universal Studios Florida and Universal Studios Hollywood, where they are a companion to "The Simpsons Ride".
In August 2018, the world's first fully realized Kwik-E-Mart opened in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina at Broadway at the Beach. The Aztec Theater with a new Simpsons in 4D opens later this year. SimEx-Iwerks Entertainment developed the attraction in collaboration with Gracie Films.Land of Sunshine
"Land of Sunshine" is the opening track to Angel Dust, the fourth studio album by the American rock band Faith No More. It was released as a promotional single in 1992 along with "Midlife Crisis" and has been compared in its opening style to "From out of Nowhere", the opening track and first single from the band's previous studio album, The Real Thing. The song's lyrics contain, amongst other things, questions from Scientology personality tests, with one of them, the question "Does emotional music have quite an effect on you?", being described by Tom Sinclair of Rolling Stone as "the perfect tag line for Angel Dust ". The song was one of the three key songs picked out by Robert Christgau from the album in his review, the two others being "Midlife Crisis" and "Midnight Cowboy".Religion in The Simpsons
Religion is one of many recurring themes on the American animated television series The Simpsons. Much of the series' religious humor satirizes aspects of Christianity and religion in general. However, some episodes, such as "Bart Sells His Soul" and "Alone Again, Natura-Diddily", can be interpreted as having a spiritual theme. The show has been both praised and criticized by atheists, agnostics, liberals, conservatives and religious people in general for its portrayal of faith and religion in society. The show can function as a mediator of biblical literacy among younger generations of irreligious viewers.In the series, the Simpson family attends services led by Reverend Lovejoy. The church's denomination is identified as the "Western Branch of American Reform Presbylutheranism" in the episode "The Father, the Son, and the Holy Guest Star." This is generally interpreted as representing the multitude of American Protestant traditions in general and not one specific denomination.Reverend Lovejoy
Reverend Timothy Lovejoy, Jr. is a recurring character in the animated television series The Simpsons. He is voiced by Harry Shearer, and first appeared in the episode "The Telltale Head".
Rev. Lovejoy is the minister at The First Church of Springfield—the Protestant church in Springfield. Initially kind-hearted and ambitious, Lovejoy has become somewhat apathetic towards others because of Ned Flanders's constant asinine scrupulosity.Scientology in popular culture
Scientology has been referenced in popular culture in many different forms of media including fiction, film, music, television and theatre. In the 1960s, author William S. Burroughs wrote about Scientology in both fictional short stories and non-fictional essays. The topic was dealt with more directly in his book, Ali's Smile/Naked Scientology. The 2000 film Battlefield Earth was an adaptation of a novel by L. Ron Hubbard.
Musicians and playwrights have made reference to Scientology on some of their work, with some pieces treating the topic in a negative light by their references, and others in a positive manner. Frank Zappa's 1979 concept album/rock opera Joe's Garage lampoons Scientology in the song "A Token of My Extreme". Scientologist Chick Corea has made reference to Scientology in his work, and two of his albums were influenced by L. Ron Hubbard novels. Maynard James Keenan of the metal band Tool, has been critical of Scientology, and the 1996 song "Ænema" contains a negative reference to L. Ron Hubbard. Both Scientology and the life of its founder L. Ron Hubbard were addressed in the 2003 Off-Broadway musical, A Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pageant. The play took a tongue-in-cheek look at both Hubbard's life and the history of the Church, and received an Obie Award in 2004.
Scientology has also been dealt with in fictional television shows, including sitcoms, cartoons, and dramas. The 2005 South Park episode "Trapped in the Closet" dealt with Scientology, and related the story of Xenu. This episode resulted in a deal of controversy, including the departure of Isaac Hayes, and questions over why the episode was not initially rebroadcast. In season four of the television program Nip/Tuck, characters Kimber and Matt join the Church of Scientology. Issues addressed within Nip/Tuck have included both the Xenu story and a look at deprogramming. In Boston Legal's third season, character Alan Shore helps defend an employer sued for discrimination after firing a Scientologist. The episode delves into some of the employee's more eccentric beliefs as well as a debate on religious bigotry, but Shore ends up winning the case for his client. In the radio sitcom Old Harry's Game, Satan claims he invented Scientology.Steve O'Donnell (writer)
Steve O'Donnell (born July 19, 1954) is an American television writer. His credits include Late Night with David Letterman, The Simpsons, Seinfeld, and The Chris Rock Show.Steven Dean Moore
Steven Dean Moore is an American animation director. His credits include 65 episodes of the television series The Simpsons, as well as several episodes of the series Rugrats. Moore was also one of four sequence directors on The Simpsons Movie. He was nominated for an Emmy award in 2002.The Springfield Connection
"The Springfield Connection" is the 23rd episode in the sixth season of the American animated television series The Simpsons. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on May 7, 1995. In the episode, Marge deals with corruption and crime when she joins the Springfield police force.
The episode was written by Jonathan Collier, with input from David Mirkin, and directed by Mark Kirkland. The episode's story was inspired by executive producer Mike Reiss' wife, who had debated becoming a police officer. "The Springfield Connection" drew on influences from the 1980s police drama Hill Street Blues and the 1971 film The French Connection, and includes references to McGruff the Crime Dog and the theme music to Star Wars.
Reviews in The Sydney Morning Herald and DVD Movie Guide were favorable, and the authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide cited Marge's police training as the highlight of the episode. Contributors to compilation works analyzing The Simpsons from philosophical and cultural perspectives have cited and discussed the episode. Marge's experiences in the episode are compared to the character Rita from the stage comedy Educating Rita by Willy Russell in a literary analysis of the play.The Trouble with Trillions
"The Trouble with Trillions" is the twentieth episode in the ninth season of the American animated television series The Simpsons. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on April 5, 1998. It was written by Ian Maxtone-Graham and directed by Swinton O. Scott III. The episode sees Homer being sent by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to try to obtain a trillion dollar bill that Mr. Burns failed to deliver to Europe during the post-war era.
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