In case you're not familiar with the show, Greatest Heroes and Legends of the Bible was a bold little venture that dared to ask one controversial, but vital question: What if we took the most gruesome and awful parts of the bible, paid North Korean sweatshop workers to hastily animate them and then jammed a precocious, androgynous child and its mentally retarded Scooby Doo camel into the whole mess to sing kindergarten rock songs about murder and rape over a Three Stooges sound effects reel?
That's a confusing question to ask, I know. But the good news is that Greatest Heroes has an answer for you; the bad news is that the "answer" is just furious screaming and a slide whistle. The show is balls deep in madness and never wants to pull out. Within the first 10 seconds of the actual animation, we have cougars, holy lasers, cougars running from holy lasers and a John Woo style dove explosion. Within the first minute, we have sex-offending dragons, time-traveling fruit and gunshields.
Now, let's meet our cast of characters: Here's the first "angel from God" who visits Samson's mother, an Israelite oppressed by the Philistines, to answer her prayers for a child. He chooses to manifest himself on Earth in the holiest form our culture will ever produce: A winged Sebastian Bach.
Samson's mother follows all of Bach's inexplicable riders -- don't eat or drink from the fruit of the vine, don't cut the boy's hair, only Crunchberries and whores allowed in the dressing room -- and in return he does what Sebastian Bach does best: He impregnates the holy hell out of her. She then produces Samson, and here's our hero now, looking like the answer to the question "What if Steve Perry was The Incredible Hulk?"
Perry Hulk soon meets a Philistine girl, the first of many bullet points on the thesis Greatest Heroes is writing about the tragic underuse of misogyny in our society. The Philistine woman, like all women in this cartoon, is an evil, conniving slut here to tempt and betray the righteous man. But poor Samson, he was lost the second he laid eyes on her. I mean, what could he do in the face of such beauty?
The pair meets, and almost instantly falls in love. Possibly because she used the Pathway of Mirrors to climb behind Samson's pupils and become him from the inside out.
"You love me, Samson." "But you look like somebody hit Brooke Shields with a shovel!" "You. Love. Me. Samson." "I. love. you...master."
Everything seems to be going along swimmingly, as far as nailing your racial nemesis goes, and then the pre-marriage celebration comes around. Samson, as Philistine tradition dictates, is given 30 escorts for the next seven days. In the spirit of camaraderie, he proposes that they all play a fun little game: He'll come up with a riddle, and if they solve it before the wedding, they'll each get a new robe. Isn't that neat? That's how you design a good game; the mechanics are simple, everybody is equally involved and the stakes are just low enough to keep everything friendly.
But then those dirty Philistines go and ruin everything. They try to coerce Samson's weak-willed, treacherous woman-beast into giving up the answer to this benign little riddle game. This turns out to be quite easy, actually: They make a few patriotic pleas, a couple of threats and when that doesn't work, they just eye-slave that bitch.
Hey, turnabout is fair play.
After a few days trapped in the Phantom Zone behind the Philistine woman's dead, dead eyes, Samson's escorts return just before the ceremony to solve his riddle.
Man, what a shitty thing to do. Cheaters shouldn't ever prosper. Samson would be totally within his rights to not honor this bet, but then, what kind of lesson would that teach to the kids? He's no welcher, cheating or no. So our hero -- our protagonist, the strong-jawed, noble main character that's been the spearhead of every lovable, wacky shenanigan so far -- honors his part of the bargain. He goes out and he gets those robes ... by murdering 30 completely unrelated, innocent people in an alleyway.
Now, I know this is Biblically accurate, Christians, and you don't want to teach the kids half-truths or falsehoods about something as sacred as the bible, but was there no better way to treat this scenario in a children's cartoon? Couldn't you have cut to narration, or tasteful editing, or hey -- maybe you could have stopped just short of recording the agonizing death screams of innocent men echoing through the empty city streets?
But that's not how Greatest Heroes rolls. The only hand-holding this show does is when it's burning off your fingerprints, and it thinks "restraint" is that thing you use to keep your Collection from escaping their cages during feeding time. So we see every second of Samson's constantly escalating revenge on the Philistines for winning his fun party game. You know, maybe he should've been clearer on the terms of this friendly little wager when he proposed it:
Samson: I'll bet you 30 robes you cannot solve my riddle, however! If you do solve the riddle, I'll not only give you the robes -- fresh from the backs of innocent corpses -- but I'll throw in absolute genocide for all your people!
Philistine 1: That doesn't sound like a fun wedding game.
Philistine 2: I've got Apples to Apples in my chariot.
Samson: I don't know ...
Philistine 1: OK, how about this? Let's do Apples to Apples first, then, if you're not having fun, we can do your Casual Massacre thing later? Cool? All right, here we go. First card says: Neighborly!
Philistine 2: You ... you don't say it, you just pick one of these cards in your hand to turn in and ... you're writing "blood-typhoon" on the card now, aren't you? We're playing Casual Massacre after this no matter what, aren't we?
Samson's red-mist fury only worsens when the woman he rejected (after murdering half of her town) gets married to somebody else. So Samson -- and I'm serious here -- Samson goes out and captures stray foxes, ties their tails together and then lights them on fire to burn the Philistine's crops. I know what you're thinking: That sounds pretty dark, but it is in the Bible. The kids have to know it, but it's kind of a complicated thing, introducing young children to a story like that. But don't worry, Greatest Heroes handles it all very tastefully.
...and you're sweeter than the honey from the beeeees / Well, except for the animal burning spreeeeees!
Then it's pretty much just a blurry mess of death and pain as Samson vows and revows revenge (Jesus, maybe the Philistine's should've checked the fine print and seen that Samson only issues Compound Vengeance). Here he is vowing revenge for the Philistine's revenge, and then immediately carrying it out on the nearest frightened old man that walks by. I'm not removing context here, I promise. Look:
The little dude knows what's going to happen; he doesn't even have a line, he just runs for his fucking life the second Samson opens his mouth. But it's too late for him now. For the song, it has already started. He hears its callous rhythm in his own quickened heartbeat: Bomb ba domp ba domp ba domp domp. He now knows the rest of his short life is only terror and agony, and his horrid, screeching squeals are to be percussion for its merry tune.
After killing half a continent, Samson is crowned king of the Israelites because ... well, what were they supposed to do? Tell him no? The man wipes out a species because they're good at puzzles; when he comes knocking, you just give him what he wants and pray he likes you enough to eat your head first.
Cut to 20 years later, and we find our hero "still [taking] time to seek out pleasure with the women." More specifically, we find him in the house of "a woman of the night."
Again, I know, I know: Biblical accuracy. But how strictly relevant was the Whorin' It Up section of this little allegory? Did it need to be explicitly spelled out for the first grade demographic? This proclivity for prostitutes isn't even painted in a negative light -- it's just shown as another thing that this awesome, invincible man-mountain does for fun. He kills and he whores, and when he finds time, he fronts the holy shit out of a Journey cover band down at the Elks Lodge every other weekend.
But oh, we can't all be fun-loving, race-murdering bachelors forever. Sooner or later, one of those awful emotional parasites that God laughingly called "women" will slip their life-draining proboscis into every one of us. Enter Delilah, and once again, Samson falls instantly in love. Which he shows by randomly clubbing four innocent bystanders so hard that their chests cave in:
Then Delilah, in true woman form (it's kind of like a black elephant, but covered in spines and with a giant, empty hole where a heart should be) betrays Samson again. With basically no provocation, she gives the secret of his strength away to the Philistines. They cut his hair, the source of his strength, and capture him. The Philistines gouge out Samson's eyes, and we finally get to see a bit of somber violence carried out on a character we know and love. It's heart-stopping: Samson screams, the villains laugh, Delilah weeps for her cursed womanly weakness. The whole scene really lands with the wrenching emotional impact of an atom bomb ba domp ba domp, ba domp domp:
Come on, kids! You know the words: Gouged out his eeeyyeeeess!
Samson is humiliated, and brought low before the Philistines. In desperation, he apologizes for straying from God's path (although wait, when was he on it? The first thing we see him do is bodyslam a lion, and then execute 31 different flavors of genocide) and in return, God restores his strength. Which Samson promptly uses to pull down the entire Philistine temple on the worshippers' heads. Sure, they're rotten Philistines -- corrupt and wicked -- and they deserved it. That's in the Bible. You can't just omit that part.
What you could have omitted, though, was the distinct, pained scream of a little girl right as the stones start to fall:
That call was totally in your hands, Greatest Heroes. And while the logical, rational parts of my brain want to condemn you for slipping such subtle cues of despair and tragedy into an upbeat children's cartoon, a much larger part of my cerebral cortex is standing up right now and slow clapping the sheer balls of it. What massive stones it must have taken to look at this scene and say: "Looks great, Doug, really good job on the mixing. All it's missing is the death cry of a six year old girl. So just go ahead and slap that on in there and let's hit the T.G.I. Friday's. I am going to absolutely ruin some fucking Queso Shooters."
So what was the moral of all this debauchery? What does the cartoon adaptation of Samson and Delilah teach us about ourselves, our spirituality and how to live our lives? Well, I'll let our precocious, spritely narrator sum up the entire tale. He's a great storyteller, after all. In fact, he only needs one sentence for the entire epilogue:
"Samson died a heroic death, in which he killed more Philistines than he had slain during his lifetime."
Th... that was it? That was the moral summation?
"Samson died, but he killed way more dudes there at the end than he ever did before, so it was all cool."
At this point, I feel like I should demand something of Greatest Heroes and Legends of the Bible. I want to demand that it explain the lessons of this story in greater depth, so as to avoid inadvertently raising a generation of little Christian Wolverines. I want to demand that its proponents account for the overzealous Christian mothers, who hysterically weep over all the pointless violence in our media, and then happily plop their own kids down to watch Conan the Whoremonger: Remorseless Edition. But honestly, if I have only one demand to make of Greatest Heroes and Legends of the Bible, I'm going to go with this:
Make so many more of these, please. This was amazing. If you could just script and film like, 11 more of these things, and maybe slap them up on a webpage next to a monstrously over-Photoshopped Ray Liotta, I would have material for the next year and oh, holy shit:
Truly, it is a holiday miracle. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.
You can buy Robert's book, Everything is Going to Kill Everybody: The Terrifyingly Real Ways the World Wants You Dead, or follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Or you could just kill some Philistines. They're a notoriously fragile race, apparently. Motherfucker can't even skip rope in this bitch without accidentally cappin' a Philistine.
For more horrifying discoveries from Robert, check out Secondhand Nightmares: 10 Horrifying Thrift Store Finds and The 7 Creepiest Real-Life Robots.