VeggieTales: Josh and The Big Wall

I’m supposed to be doing chapter 3 of OBAW, but reading that book is just too much for me right now, so you all are going to join me on a distraction. We’re going to go over a nice, Sabbath appropriate video, Veggie Tales!

Veggie Tales has been popular for years, and was developed by Big Idea. The main characters, Bob and Larry, are actually fruit. Originally the creator of Veggie Tales made one of the characters a candy bar, but it was suggested to him that parents might prefer something healthier. I think this show actually would discourage one from eating vegetables because who wants to be eating Bob and Larry? We used to make jokes about that at the academy cafeteria. “Oh, I’m cutting up Bob, we’re going to eat him today in a salad.”

Overall I like VeggieTales. It’s the only Christian show that even compares to mainstream media. Yes it’s preachy, but it’s not over the top, and one doesn’t get the feeling that one is being beaten over the head with the message. Or at least, I didn’t as a child, we’ll see how I feel about it as an adult.

In any case, I can’t do too many Veggie Tales reviews because it’s actually pretty hard to get ahold of copies for free. The DVD I have now was generously provided by the public library. So, while I will be able to do a few VeggieTales reviews, I will not be able to do all of them. Sorry.

After the theme song, Bob the Tomato and Junior Asparagus are hosting from the kitchen counter. Larry was a little tired from the last show, so they’re letting him sleep in a bit. Junior is helping Bob for now. Junior’s so cute. He’s clearly a little kid on TV for the first time and loving it.

Bob tells us we have a letter from Victor, who has a problem. This kid named Louis hit him in class yesterday. If this were the 1940s/50s, the advice would be to punch him back. This being the 1990s, conventional wisdom is closer to “be nice to the bully and it will all be ok” bullshit. At least if you hit someone back they know they can’t just hit you whenever they want with no consequences.

Victor wants to hit Louis back, but God says to be nice to Louis. What should Victor do. I put a period instead of a ? there because this really isn’t a question.

Junior: I know exactly how you feel Victor. Sometimes the things I learn in church don’t sound like very much fun

That’s because they’re not.

Bob says he has a story for that, and tells Junior to close his eyes. The do, and when they open them, they’re in a desert.

Junior: How did we get here?

Bob: We’re using our imagination

I’m… less of a fan of this particular plot device, but, eh, we’ll work with it.

Bob gives Junior a rundown on the story of the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt, nodding to the fact that God gave them shitty directions.

Seriously, Bible students all over the place have noticed that, if you trace out the Israelites’ travels on a map, it doesn’t really make sense. God didn’t exactly lead them to the Promised Land very well, and it’s good to see the show acknowledge this, even slightly.

God gives directions like a dyscalculiac.

Bob: All the Israelite’s had to do was follow God’s directions, and they’d go right to the promised land!

Bob says, as he shows us this map. These, apparently, were God’s directions. Which makes Bob’s next sentence

“but they didn’t always follow God’s directions”

seem like a good thing. God punished the Israelites for not wanting to follow these ridiculous directions by making them wait 40 years in the desert.

In the meantime, Joshua has replaced Moses as the leader of the Israelites.

Bob: they were wandering around in the desert, but now it’s time–

Gourd: It’s time? It’s time? He really say it’s time?

This starts off a song about how great the promised land is going to be because the desert is so awful. This song is mostly about food. The Israelites are dreaming and singing about the good food they’re going to be able to eat now that they’re finally going to the promised land.

May I remind the audience that the last time the Israelites complained about Manna and dreamed about better food, many of them got the death penalty.

That’s not why this isn’t my favorite VeggieTales song, it just isn’t my favorite VT song. It’s… largely forgettable.

In any case, as Joshua tries to lead his people to the promised land, but Jericho is kind of in the way.

 

And I mean that literally. There’s no real reason that I can see that they don’t just go around Jericho. It is surrounded on all sides by open desert, which is kind of silly because a city like that is practically indefensible.

We cut from this scene to Silly Songs with Larry, the part of the show where Larry comes out and sings a silly song. This time it’s The Song of the Cebu, which is one of my favorite Veggietales songs, and I’m probably not the only one who thinks that.

Larry starts telling the story of the 3 Cebus, a sad cebu, a mute cebu, and a sick cebu. And also a hippo.

Archibald the asparagus comes in and is skeptical.

Archibald: Hold it! You call this a multimedia event? This is a slide
projector and a bed sheet! And what on Earth is a cebu, anyway?
Larry: It’s kind of like a cow. See?
Archibald: Yes. Well, very good. This could be interesting. Carry on!

And so they continue singing, until Larry says “uh-oh,” and clicks his projector. The next few slides are blank.
At this point, Archibald comes in and starts doing my job for me.
Archibald: Wait! What happens next?
Larry: Um …
Archibald: Does the hippo see them? Is the poor mute cebu successful in
communicating the imminent danger to the other passengers? Is the boy
injured? Why is the sad cebu sad? Is the canoe wood or aluminum?

I used to think Archibald was ridiculous here, but now I think he kinda sounds like me when watching most Christian movies.

Larry clicks the projector desperately, and finds more vacation pictures. There’s one of him and Bob at sea world, another one of the bullfight and….

Another movie reviewer I like pointed out that in this part of the slideshow, he clicks the projector and says. “Oh, I forgot about that one.” We don’t get to see what it’s a picture of, but we do get to see everyone’s reaction to it.

Headcanon: Larry did something sexual.

 

The song ends with the audience standing and leaving, singing: bye bye moo moo bye bye moo moo moo moo.

Back at the Monty Python reference, we have The Israelites arguing with the french peas. The peas react to Joshua and the Israelites the same way I react to meeting new people.

Jean-Claude: It was nice to meet you. Now go away.

Then Joshua tells Jean-Claude and Phillipe the words that are the main cause of a lot of wars.

Joshua: No, you don’t understand. God gave us this land to be our new home. So you’re gonna have to leave.

Basically, Joshua comes to their castle (in the middle of the desert) and tells them they have to leave, because God said so.

Yanno, Joshua’s kind of a jerk in this story, as is God. If there were people already living there, why would God direct the Israelites there? Why not take them to a land that was unoccupied?

My issues with VeggieTales usually don’t have to do with the actual show. They have to do with the source material, and I have a problem with this Bible story. Joshua, here, along with his God, are basically committing genocide.

Joshua is supposed to be the good guy here.

In any case, Jean-Claude and Phillipe refuse to let the Israelites in, so the Israelites leave, Jean-Claude and Phillipe laughing at them.

You may have your God, but we have our wall!

The Jerchoites have something right. I’d definitely rather be protected by a wall that actually exists than a sky daddy who doesn’t. Of course that is not the lesson I’m supposed to take from this movie.

The lesson I am supposed to take from this movie is to follow God’s directions, even if they lead me to wander around in the desert for 40 years.

Pa Grape tells them they should go back to Egypt.

Snorkeling in the Nile, 3 square meals a day, plenty of exercise, oh! it was paradise!

Other grape: We were in slavery!

Pa Grape: nothing is perfect.

I….get what they’re trying to do here, but if you’re not thinking along the lines of “deep spiritual lesson,” this just sounds odd. Although it is true to the Biblical story, so, props, I guess?

I wonder at the veracity of it though. Assuming the Exodus ever even happened (another thing scholars doubt), I think everyone agreed that they were better off wandering in the desert than they were as enslaved Egyptians.

Joshua goes out to the desert, and meets an angel, who tells him to march around the city once with all his men, once a day for 6 days. On the 7th day, March around the city 7 times with the priests sounding the trumpets. The tune to Battle Hymn of the Republic plays as Archib–the angel tells him this.

Angel: Well, have fun.

Joshua and the Israelites think these instructions are… interesting.

Jimmy Gourd: Well, I’m sure that would work great. If the walls were made out of Jell-O!

He’s got a point.

Jimmy Gourd tells everyone that he and Jerry have a better plan. They have a large rocket missile they plan to launch at the wall. How did they make that they are in a desert what the–never mind.

Everyone claps.

Young Grape: How are we clapping?

Pa Grape: I have no idea

I love that the characters in this show are self aware enough to realize that they don’t have arms, legs, or hands. It’s almost like they’re doing my job for me; pointing things out about this movie that don’t make sense. But the show doesn’t feel the need to explain itself to me. It’s just like, yeah, we know, these people don’t have hands so they can’t be clapping. Oh look kids, a rocket!

Junior: Oh no! It looks like they’re gonna ignore God’s directions again!

Because that would be a bad thing.

Joshua sings a song about how God knows what he’s doing and that he will take care of them. He says they should give God’s way a try first.

The next day, the Israelites go to march.

Jean-Claude: What are you doing

Jimmy Gourd: We’re going to knock your wall down

Jean-Claude: by walking around in circles??

Jimmy Gourd: Yes. It’s not because we’re crazy, it’s because God told us to

Because telling him that will make you sound any less crazy.

Jean-Claude: Oh, that’s a great idea. You go ahead and keep walking

Jean-Claude and Phillipe start singing:

Keep walking, but you won’t knock down our wall

Keep walking, but she isn’t going to fall

It’s plain to see, your brains are very small

to think walking will be knocking down our wall

After their song, the guards start throwing slushees at the Israelites, who try to dodge. I’m surprised they don’t try to catch them if they’re that starved for good food. Also, it’s the desert. A slushee to the head would probably feel quite refreshing.

Back at the camp that night, the Israelites are complaining that this whole march around the city plan isn’t going so well, and Pa Grape talks about organizing tours of the Egyptian pyramids.

At this point in the story Junior jumps in to preach at the Israelites about doing things our own way when we should be following God’s directions.  I take it back, this movie is overly preachy. It’s kind of painful, actually, to watch Junior sermonize like this. Junior and Bob have been talking, throughout this whole movie, about the Israelites following or not following God’s directions.

I hate the message of this movie. “Do things God’s way even though God’s way doesn’t seem to make sense.” You hear stories about this a lot growing up in Adventism. “I didn’t want to do X, but God told me to, and here’s how it all worked out” are common stories. The stories you don’t hear, however, are stories like mine. “God told me he wanted me to go to Bible school even though it makes more sense for me to be in college. So I applied to 4 different Bible schools and got rejected from all 5 of them.” (Yes, I’m aware I changed the number, no it is not a typo, don’t ask.)

Stories like this are, I’m sure, even more common than the ones that end “and it all worked out great.” But you’re not going to hear them at church during testimony time because no one wants to admit they got rejected from all 5 SDA Bible schools in existence (that I know of).

Movies like this encourage kids to make stupid decisions because “God” told them to. Sometimes these decisions don’t have huge impacts on their lives…and sometimes they do. Even if God actually existed, maybe he wants you to use your own brain and develop a “Wallinator 5000.”

After the song and speech, everyone is pumped to go kill those Jerichites knock down that wall.

Grape Junior: Well Pa, do you still wanna see the pyramids

Pa Grape: Ah, I’ve seen the pyramids. I built the pyramids

Actually, I’ve been reading somewhere that there is evidence that slaves did not build the pyramids. The pyramids were built by farmers who needed jobs in the off season when there were no crops to take care of, and it was an honor to say you had helped build them. I don’t have a good citation for that, though.

Bob narrates as the Israelites march around the City of Jericho while the Jerichites try to hit them with slushies. Which makes me wonder if the real Jericho guards shot them with something else and how many Israelites died in this campaign?

In any case, on day 7, the priests blow their horns, playing “Oh when the Saints go marching in” which is kind of hilarious.

This causes the walls of Jericho to fall, and the Jerichites run away. Which I can see why they did that instead of going with a more Biblical version of events, because this is a kid’s movie.

We return to the kitchen counter, where Bob talks about how some parts of the story–building a rocket and having slushies dropped on their heads–were creative license. I think people watching this know that and I hate it when movies talk down to the audience. You lose cookie points, VT!

The ending theme music plays

And so what we have learned applies to move our lives today

God has a lot to say in his book

you see we know that God’s word is for everyone

and now that our song is done we’ll take a look.

Bob hates this song, and so do I.

After the song, Junior preaches another sermon which is basically just the stuff he already said before about God’s ways being the best way and that we need to follow his instructions. Even if they do leave us wandering around in the desert for 40 years.

The Bible message are absolutely repetitive and annoying in this series. How did I not remember this? Look, even if they’re just kids, you can trust your audience to remember if you only explain the message once. And most times you didn’t even need to do it that much.

Qwerty shows us all a Bible verse: 2 Samuel 22:31A “As for God, his way is perfect.”

No, it is not. The ways God tells us to do things in the Bible are not perfect. Otherwise, we’d still be selling our daughters into slavery. We’d still have slavery.

Bob: So Victor, I know that being nice to someone who hasn’t been nice to you doesn’t sound like very much fun but following God’s directions is always the best idea. And maybe Louis doesn’t need a punch in the nose. Maybe he needs a friend.

I hate messages like these. I’ve been bullied a lot, and this is rarely ever true. In hindsight, I should have punched those bullies in the nose. Actually, what should have happened is that my parents should have taken me out of the school and allowed me to go to a different one, but parents don’t always do the right thing. Sending me to an Adventist school, after all, was them following God’s directions.  And look how well that turned out for me.

So remember kids, use your fucking brains when you make decisions. Don’t just trust some invisible sky daddy to tell you what to do.

Junior: Remember, God made you special and he loves you very much!

And with that we close.

Like I said, the issues I have with this show have more to do with the source material than with the actual show. Do I think they should have done this particular story, no.

Frankly, though, the Bible isn’t exactly abounding with stories that are appropriate for children. If you think about it, most stories that are commonly told to children from the Bible are actually really violent. Sometimes stories have to be adapted so the violence and sex is either offscreen or left out of the story entirely. Esther was not in a beauty pageant, and  the story of Noah’s Ark is mostly about genocide.

So the bar is set pretty low as far as how much violence and implied sex you can have in a children’s story if the story comes from the Bible.

What I can’t figure out is why no one working on the movie ever sat back in their chair and asked. “Do you think we’re the bad guys?”

This is especially true in the episode since there was no real reason to go through Jericho. Jericho is just this big wall surrounded on all sides by desert. By all means, the Israelites could have just gone around it. Not only did Joshua come in and destroy the Jerichites home and city because God told him to, which would make him enough of a villain, he did it for no good reason. Biblical Joshua was a genocidal dick, but at least he did it because they legitimately needed to get through Jericho. Cucumber Joshua just did this because…?

And that’s the main issue I have with the way this movie chose to interpret the Bible story.

 

 

 

 

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