Mark McKinney of the Kids In The Hall once had this monologue about the necessity of the preacher character. “Every comedian has a preacher character. Every comedian uses the preacher character as a reliable solid comedy device. And why not, I say. Say an ordinary line like “Get off the phone,” and you got nothing. Say it as your preacher character, “Get off the phone, Sinner!” and you’re half-way to a joke.” and i, for one, could not agree more: preacher characters are always good for a laugh, and i’ve tried to base mine on the rantings of my former supervisor, who seems to love Jesus, Hennessy and the large asses of women in equal amounts.
but why stop at just preacher characters when we can celebrate all sorts of religious characters? so, with further ado, in the absence of a real update, yet another listicle!
13 BEST FICTIONAL RELIGIOUS FIGURES OF CINEMA AND TELEVISION
honorable mentions: Father Callahan (‘Salem’s Lot) was a solid, interesting character until the Dark Tower connection(s) ruined him for me almost entirely; Father Mulcahy (M*A*S*H) is not without his charms even as Alan Alda ruins his show; Cardinal Roark (Sin City) is neat in that he’s a criminal priest with whom the religion has basically nothing to do with his crimes; and Father Guido Sarducci (Saturday Night Live) is, well, funny, and funny is enough.
Brother Maynard… declaring that five is “right out”
13. Father McGruder (Dead Alive)
i always have to start a discussion of this film by saying that Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive (or, if you prefer, Braindead) is a weird movie for me: i respect Jackson’s work (even King Kong) and i love ANYTHING to do with zombies, which Dead Alive has a lot of… and yet this film never did much for me. and considering how much zombie fans seem to like it, i feel a little bad about that. but all that being said, and whatever reservations i have about zombies sexual reproducing, Dead Alive DOES have the stellar moment of Father McGruder declaring loudly that “i kick arse for the Lord” before bursting into some anti-zombie martial arts explosion, and i’d watch the film for that scene alone. i’d probably turn the movie off after that scene, though.
11-12. Father Karras/Father Merrin (the Exorcist)
now, it might be that the Exorcist was followed by some poor decisions meant to cash in on the shock and awe of the film’s success: Exorcist II was an unqualified failure that no one liked; Exorcist III was solid (probably thanks to being once again based on Blatty’s work) but had that weird, shoehorned-in exorcism thing which i am pretty sure was created and added AFTER the film was done; and the attempt to make a prequel became a two-film cluster fuck (just ask Paul Schrader about THAT mess). but the original film was excellent and gave us our classic, heroic exorcism-performing priests who may or may not have been informed as to where their mothers were sucking cock (the correct answer would apparently be “in hell”). and Karras’ later reappearance in the series wasn’t total garbage either; but then again, i have been known to go to bat for Exorcist III.
10. Brother Maynard (Monty Python & the Holy Grail)
yes, i know, Monty Python & the Holy Grail was much funnier before people repeated its jokes to you 13000 times; i’m sorry, there’s really nothing i can do about it but sympathize. and hey, i think the funniest moments aren’t the Black Knight or the whole Knights Who Say “Ni” as well. but it’s not like this is the first film ruined by its fan base, and said ruining doesn’t stop a priest who cruises around with a Holy Hand Grenade (of Antioch, no less) and reads ridiculous religious tomes about its use (“O Lord, bless this Thy hand grenade that with it Thou mayest blow Thine enemies to tiny bits, in Thy mercy”) from being a most excellent fictional religious figure; it just means that no one will want to have a conversation with you about it. or, if they do, they might just be a terrible human being who’ll scream “Ni” at you several times. i recommend using a punch to the face on THOSE guys.
Dillon… about to reeducate some of the brothers
09. Reverend Timothy Lovejoy (the Simpsons)
granted, Reverend Lovejoy doesn’t seem awesome on immediate recollection of his character (he’s not as quotable as, say, Milhouse or Ralph Wiggum), but he’s always having moments that crack me the hell up: fleeing a meteorite while screaming “it’s all over, people, we don’t have a prayer”; fighting baboons to save Ned Flanders; declaring “see you in hell, Simpson! …from heaven!” plus, he’s got that cool hairstyle going for him and he’s a walking stereotype of that 1970s-era “rappin’ about God” priest that Kevin McDonald would run with as Pastor Dave (another solid fictional religious figure in his own right) on That ’70s Show.
08. Dillon (Alien 3)
while many people hate on the third installment of the Alien series, whether because they have some irrational devotion to the characters of Hicks and/or Newt or simply because, you know, they’re stupid, i, for one, am a big fan of it (Alien > Alien 3 > Aliens > Alien: Resurrection; i’m just sayin’). and while the reasons for that are numerous (dog alien dog alien dog alien), one of them is the crazy religious sect of convicts and their religious leader Dillon, played by an angry Charles S. Dutton (like he’s ever NOT angry, am i right?). he prays fiercely, he beats would-be rapists with a length of metal pipe, and he shows aliens absolutely no respect (“so i say fuck that thing!”) what’s not to love?
07. Reverend Preacherbot (Futurama)
and in keeping with my aforementioned devotion to preacher figure stereotypes, here’s one that’s not only a preacher stereotype, but also a robot! and robots are excellent! while i admittedly don’t have a much more in-depth argument for his inclusion this high on the list beyond maybe throwing out there that his theology clearly pitted him against an awesome robot devil… i mean, come on, he’s a robot! yeah, okay, i’m a little obsessed, but there’s really no medication out there that can help me with this.
06. Reverend Harry Weston Smith (Deadwood)
some many consider this sort of a weird addition to the list when you consider that Reverend Smith only managed to last through the first season of the show, but i choose to take that as a sign of the character’s strengths: if he’s weird, he’s also earnest and sincere about the whole religious thing; Ray McKinnon does a great job and the whole scene about “not feeling Christ’s love as i used to” is super melancholy even if a whore DOES try and ruin it with a sour attitude. and more than anything else in the first season with whores and/or cripples, it’s the Reverend Smith’s circumstance that allows Swearengen to be a well-rounded character and not just a villain with a soft spot for a whore. and any fictional priest that can make my sister’s favorite fictional character of all time even better gets on this list!
Alexander Anderson… about to consecrate someone with a bayonet to their face
05. Monsignor Martinez (King Of The Hill)
the good Monsignor is a fictional gun-toting priest who spends a lot of his time escaping outrageous situations and gunning down his enemies while spouting his catchphrase of “vaya con dios”; this is basically the job i personally would like to have. you get a clerical collar, you get a couple of pistols, and most of all, you get the respect: what’s not to like? anyway, one additional thing i learned when making this list was that there was apparently talking of making a live-action spin-off series based around said Monsignor. this is truly one of those times where i am incredibly retroactively bitter about something i never knew. what’s not to like about a Catholic priest going around shooting at people? oh, wait, i think i see the problem.
04. Kareem SaÃ¯d (OZ)
i’m not sure if dropping a quote is enough to make the case for OZ’s most excellent Muslim being this high on the list, but here goes: “god does not need you to defend him from a moron. what god needs you to do is to reign in your basic instincts. what god needs you to do is just to be a little patient, brother.” okay, maybe that didn’t do it for you, so maybe you recall this one: “ADEBISI LIVES!” oh, come on, he was stabbing the shit out of a fucking Nazi in the latter scene, and if there’s one thing we can all get behind, isn’t it stabbing Nazis? also, almost uniquely for OZ, there weren’t a lot of scenes that involved SaÃ¯d and man-on-man sex. and that has GOT to count for something.
03. Alexander Anderson (Hellsing)
i have to break the Smilez-created rule to, quote, “never talk about anime” and do just that, because Paladin Alexander Anderson is a completely ridiculous Catholic… well, Catholic something (he’s sure as hell a Catholic, but he better not be a priest) who runs around slaying vampires (and non-vampires that get in the way) with a flurry of Bible pages and harshly-flung… bayonets. yes, that’s right, a Japanese-created character who eschews swords for bayonets for SOME reason. there’s also some insane regenerating powers and a pair of gloves that declare “Jesus Christ Is In Heaven” (as if he’d be somewhere else). granted, no one REALLY wants to nerd it up to the level of watching anime, but he really must be seen to be believed. he just doesn’t make sense and that’s why he’s awesome.
02. Reverend Harry Powell (Night Of The Hunter)
now i admit that this might be kind of sort of cheating, because Harry Powell isn’t so much a preacher as he is a con man and serial killer who packs a switchblade, hates women and sex and declares that he’s doing God’s work because “God’s book is full of killin’s.” so you can see why he’s awesome enough to make the list; he’s also the origin of characters tattooing “love” and “hate” on the knuckles of their hands (i will spare you the related sermon). and Night Of The Hunter is such a COOL little film that everyone should really watch it once anyway. also related to this, when my grandmother claims that Robert Mitchum was “cute” back in the days of this film, and i point out that he was always playing psycho killers like Powell, it doesn’t dissuade her at all. what the hell, man?
we reveal our inmost self unto our god! glory be to the Bomb, and to the Holy Fallout. as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. world without end. amen.
01. MÃ©ndez and the rest of the worshipers of the Divine Bomb/Bomb Almighty (Beneath The Planet Of The Apes)
post-apocalyptic scenario? check. worshiping a world-destroying atomic weapon and the related fallout? check. featured in a film that ends with -sorry, but here comes a spoiler- the world being destroyed? check (though it’s weird that it does and, yet, is followed by THREE sequels, isn’t it?) mutants with mental powers? well, i wasn’t going to give a check for that one, but fuck it, check! anyway, MÃ©ndez and his mutant friends also fill in for the Fallout/Fallout 3 characters from the Children of the Cathedral and Children of the Atom, respectively, that couldn’t make the list because they weren’t in television and/or the movies, but who ALSO worship nuclear weapons and/or their use.
and like i always say, anything that turns Anglican rites into nuke worship gets a massive two thumbs up from me. may the blessing of the Bomb Almight, and the fellowship of the Holy Fallout, descend on us all, this day and forever more. amen!