Monday, December 15, 2008

Why I'll Miss Moral Orel

I don't normally do posts about things like TV shows but this is a case where I had to make an exception. I just hope I did justice to what I wanted to get across.

This Thursday will mark the last episode of the TV show Moral Orel, thus marking the end of one of the more bizarre shows to appear on US television and, in some ways, one of the more surprising. The story of Orel (hence the title), a deeply religious 12 year old who wants to do good but misinterprets the somewhat skewed messages given by his family (especially his father Clay, who seems more interested in using his belt than actually teaching his son), school, and church and ends up getting in trouble. While the show has one of those people tend to either love or hate, there is a reason I'll miss the show.

Is it the show's ability to make fun of topics some would consider taboo? There might be some of that. In the shows run Orel's misunderstandings of rules and lessons has led him to raise the dead, get addicted to crack, and unintentionally become a pimp among other things. While I admit sometimes I don't get the direction a certain episode takes, it's been one of those journeys where a stop motion animation show can show us a window on the society at large. But that's not the reason I'll miss Moral Orel.

The real reason I'll miss Moral Orel is simple: the show is probably the most accurate warning shot of what society would be like if the conservative Christian right really controlled everything. The town of Moralton in the show is a place where religion and rules reign supreme and the appearance of piety (in this town the librarian actually burns the books herself) seems more important than what's inside. While the adults in the show appear to be content, they more often than not want to pass the buck (especially when it comes to Orel's quest for advice and help) and then often not realizing their role in what got Orel into trouble in the first place. It's also telling for the show that the character of Stephanie, owner of Moralton's only sex shop, is the one adult that's actually worth a damn, treating Orel with a certain amount of respect and concern, as opposed to the other adults who just brush him off, more concern with their own problems than providing even a remote resemblance of social guidance. With this last season, we learn some of the reasons why the adults around Orel are the way they are and, in a way, how they seem to pass on the mistakes done to them onto the next generation (especially Orel), taking the show on a darker turn, but one that actually added a context to the show other than the feel you're watching an episode of Davy and Goliath gone horribly worng.

In the last couple decades, there's been a lot of talk about a culture war. Social conservatives like to believe that if we can erase the upheaval the social movements of the 1960s helped to create, then things would be more peaceful and orderly, creating a world that's safer and better, especially with the church taking a major role in everyone's life. While this seems like a nice theory, the reality of this society would most likely be exactly like Moralton.

Here's hoping (and to doing what we can) to ensure society never gets to that point. R.I.P. Moral Orel - you will be missed.

1 comment:

bsalyers said...

Really nice commentary. Thank you.