Western Animation: Moral Orel
"Dear Orel: Always remember, son, even though you are the perfect candidate for brainwashing in this town, you're also too pure and good-hearted to be corrupted. Love, Grandpa"
In the town of Moralton, Statesota
lives the Puppington Family. Eleven-year-old Orel Puppington, a devout Protestant Christian, thinks of Jesus as his biggest role model. He always pays rapt attention in church, taking the advice of the local preacher's sermons to heart, but due to his age, he doesn't always understand some of the topics, which leads to Orel acting on them in his own special way. Needless to say, Hilarity Ensues
...or maybe not.
Originally conceived as a satire of sitcoms from The Fifties
and The Sixties
, and designed to resemble an Affectionate Parody
of Leave It to Beaver
(not Davey and Goliath
, despite the art style), Moral Orel
ultimately evolved into one of the darkest pieces of western animation in years.
Every member of Orel's family shows some form of dysfunction: father Clay abuses alcohol, abuses Orel (emotionally), and fails to hide his closet bisexuality
; mother Bloberta cheats on Clay, often finds herself depressed, and suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder; and both parents spoil Orel's rambunctious little brother Shapey rotten. The population of Moralton (a town placed precisely in the middle of the United States) fare little better; most of Moralton's adults lead lives as dysfunctional as Orel's family—if not more so—while putting on a show of being Good Christians and Good Neighbors.Moral Orel
is less a critique of Christianity itself than a Deconstruction
of religious fundamentalism. The show aims its real critique towards authority figures
who pay lipservice to their inferiors' religious beliefs as a way of preserving their authority — especially when such people make horrible authority figures and role models.
In short, it's not a criticism of religion specifically, but of hypocrisy itself.
The show served as an affectionate (and adult-oriented) quasi-parody of Leave It to Beaver
until series creator Dino Stamatopoulos (aka Starburns
) began to move the focus away from Orel midway through Season One. Dino began to explore the dark underbelly of the seemingly happy-go-lucky townspeople of Moralton, which culminated in the two-part Season Two finale "Nature": after getting drunk during a hunting trip with Orel, Clay shoots his own son in the leg, shattering Orel's innocence for good in the process.
The network higher-ups loved the two-parter, and bigwig Mike Lazzo asked Dino to make the show's third season as dark as humanly possible. Stamatopoulos complied, but Lazzo and Adult Swim instantly regretted getting exactly what they asked for
: after a screening of the darkest episode of the show's run — "Alone" — Adult Swim cancelled the series and cut Season Three down to thirteen episodes, which forced several key arcs to be abandoned. (Dino did provide a sliver of hope amidst the despair, however, with a happy ending for Orel.)
While the show was cut short, fans kept hope alive for a revival. After 2007, Adult Swim only played reruns of the show sporadically, but in late 2011, the network began rerunning the show in chronological order on weeknights. When Dino learned of this, he said "[if] enough people watch, there may be hope for a special or two" on a Facebook post. A month into the reruns, Dino made another comment: "Got a great call from the Head of Adult Swim yesterday raving about the ratings that the Moral Orel reruns have been getting. Great job, everyone! Keep watching and the Moral Orel special will be imminent." Dino followed up on this on Halloween with a surprise appearance from Orel in the last bump of a Mary Shelley's Frankenhole
mini-marathon, where Orel said a new Moral Orel
special would come "sometime in the near future". At its May 2012 upfront, Adult Swim confirmed Orel's return with the announcement of Beforel Orel
, a half-hour special that [as] promised will explain "the origin of Orel's religious nature and the birth of his brother, Shapey". Beforel Orel
aired on November 19th, 2012.The whole series is legally streaming on adult swim's website.
Moral Orel provides examples of these tropes:
- Aborted Arc:
- Clay's father, introduced in a flashback episode in Season Three, was supposed to join the cast in the second half of the season; when the show was cancelled, the arc was deepsixed. Also deepsixed was the Miss Censordoll's scheming to take control over the town via seducing Clay (revealed to be the Mayor of the town in the second-to-last episode of the series) as well as the implications that Censordoll may or may not have manipulated Clay's shooting of Orel. Clay's father does play a role in "Beforel Orel".
- There were hints in the third season that something would happen involving Miss Sculptham and Mr. Creepler but once this was revealed in "Alone" the show was cancelled and some episodes were deepsixed. If one saw the scene in "Innocence" where Sculptham was clipping out a newspaper article, that article was about a serial rapist that turned out to be Mr. Creepler. A episode that was scrapped called "Raped" would've brought this to light and another scrapped episode "Abstinence" did show Doughy witnessing Creepler and Scultpham together but Doughy just brushed it off. To make things even more darker and disturbing, if the series continued, Miss Sculptham would have discovered herself pregnant with his twins and that she had aborted only one of them. With Dr. Potterswheel finding out about her pregnancy, it is possible she would have given birth to the child.
- Activist Fundamentalist Antics: Any group led by Ms. Censordoll falls under this, with her Establishing Character Moment in the first episode.
: Are you really going to burn The Bible
Ms. Censordoll: Only the Jewish parts.
- Adult Fear: While a somewhat comedic line, this exchange between Bloberta and Orel provides a sobering look at the effects of alcohol and alcoholism.
Orel: Well, it's just that, when he drinks, he changes. Bloberta: Oh, he doesn't change, Orel! That's just his true nature coming out.
- Adults Are Useless: Every adult except Stephanie and maybe Nurse Bendy at least as far as Joe is concerned, also Reverend Putty later on in the series. Grandpa Puppington tried to avert this, at least with Orel, but Clay forced them to never see each other again after the events of Beforel Orel.
- Advice Backfire: Constantly.
- The third-season episode "Innocence" plays into this, as the town agrees to stop giving Orel advice in an attempt to avoid the trope's occurrence.
- Ironically Putty's advice backfired spectacularly because all of the people tried to pass off Orel to the next unfortunate shmuck, as well as trying to plea with god on a technicality that Orel was just "eaves dropping on them talking to themselves" so they dont end up in hell.
- Ambiguously Brown: Mr. Figurelli and his family are... Italian? Greek? No, Italians are white so.. maybe 1/4 Arab? (Contrast the Jews for Jesus, who are the closest thing to a different religion that exists in the town, being ex Jewish Christians and still doing Jewish stuff out of habit, but their skin happens to be white.)
- Anachronic Order: Most of Season Three takes place before or during the events of the Season Two finale, "Nature"; episodes take place as either flashbacks or as events during / before the fateful hunting trip.
- Animal Motifs:
- The blue bird in "Nature"—likely meant to symbolize Orel's innocence, the bird appears in key scenes throughout the first part before flying off at the end of the episode when Orel finally fires off his dad's pistol. It stays missing until the end credits of the second part.
- Likewise with the flies that appeared in the same episode, symbolizing Clay's desolation. They appear in the end credits with Orel's bird, symbolizing that his innocence has been stained.
- Florence (a name associated with cows in reference to the character's weight) has a fixation with zebras. Cows resemble zebras in that they both have black and white coats, but the latter is generally thought to be prettier; Florence yearns to be a zebra rather than a cow.
- Anti-Love Song: Used to great effect to highlight the hate-filled and miserable relationship between Stepford Smiler Bloberta and Clay Puppington.
- Apathetic Teacher: Miss Sculptham's shown to only do the bare minimum of her job, often refusing to "teach" her students about anything after class hours. Like most of the characters in the show, she has deeply-rooted problems of her own.
- Arc Words:
- "There are no accidents."
- Each episode's title usually ends up littered throughout the episode as Arc Words, though "Nature" is one that has shown up throughout most of the series outside of its origin episode. Most poignantly in "Beforel Orel" as Orel's grandfather's explanation for things (as opposed to God).
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: At the end of his big tirade in the episode "Sacrifice", Clay remarks (well, rather scowls) that it's people like Putty, Dr. Potterswheel and Papermouth that are the reason his son is sensitive.
- Art Evolution Season 3's art is a drastic improvement from the art of seasons 1 and 2.
- Auto Erotica: There's a couple of shaking cars parked out at Inspiration Point when Orel goes to visit Christina.
- Awful Wedded Life: Clay and Bloberta are a rather unfunny example.
- Awkward Father-Son Bonding Activity: The infamous hunting trip in both parts of "Nature" although "awkward" is a bit of an understatement.
- Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Averted. After all the crap they've put each other through, Clay and Bloberta genuinely hate one another, and their own children. The only Aw Look They Really Do Love Each Other moment even vaguely suggested in the show is the fact that Clay tears up for a split-second when talking about the mistakes he's made during a drunken rant. The other residents of Moralton fare little better, though there are enough Pet the Dog moments to keep it from being an irredeemable Crap Sack World.
- Babies Ever After: The Distant Finale shows Orel and Christina happily married with a boy and a baby girl. Also a dog that looks similar to Orel's deceased dog Bartholomew.
- Bad Future: At some point in the future, Moralton will encompass all of the United States and will be the only landmass on the planet. Damn. Which is exactly how the fundies want it.
- Bad Humor Truck: Mr. Creepler, the local Ice Cream man, is a serial rapist and a pederast. By the third season however, he's revealed to have died in prison.
- Bears Are Bad News: In the second season finale, Orel's father Clay gets drunk, accidentally shoots Orel, and promptly passes out after Orel calls him out. It is only then that a grizzly appears and begins sniffing around the camp. When Clay's drunken sleep-muttering attracts the bear's attention to them, Orel reluctantly empties the revolver he has to kill the bear and save his father.
- Behind the Black: "Nature" revealed that the opposite side of Clay's study (the one the 'camera' would be in) contains a vast, obvious hallway covered in weaponry. Orel says he never noticed it before, and is given the response "It sort of blends into the woodwork."
- Belief Makes You Stupid: Cleverly subverted. The people of Moralton are all either naive, clueless idiots, vain hedonistic hypocrites, or barely-hidden sociopaths (and often more than one), and they're all very deeply religious. But as the series goes on, it becomes abundantly clear that religion has nothing to do with it and the majority of the town are really just self-absorbed scum whose piety is skin-deep and mostly for the sake of appearances. The Reverend is actually one of the nicest and most intelligent people in the town, even though being the Shepperd to this particular flock has given him a pretty heavy dose of cynicism.
- Black Comedy: Really, really black comedy—with the comedy aspect eventually being ditched in Season Three. The light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train. On fire.
- Black Comedy Rape: Orel raping women with a pastry bag, in order to be able to masturbate in season one.
- Blipvert: The last episode, "Honor" opens with the very end of the first episode "The Best Christmas Ever" with Orel believing deeply that God will fix everything, and he still has hope, followed by a rapid fire montage of scenes from the series during the one year between both episodes. The montage ends with Orel getting his cast off his leg after being shot in "Nature." showing the extreme contrast of the once innocently faithful Orel one year prior, to the more depressed Orel who's endured innocence shattering events by the end of the series.
- Blood Bath: The episode "Innocence" sees Orel learn about blood's powers to show one's innocence to Godnote and remain young forever (based on Elizabeth Bathory) in separate conversations with the Christians and Coach Stopframe, as well as seeing him recruit Doughy, Billy, Tommy, and Maryenetta to provide blood for Orel to bathe in. The episode "Grounded" begins with Clay finding Orel in the tub and covered in blood with the other kids around him, bleeding from their wrists. The show itself, however, presents all this in Anachronic Order with the conclusion to these events in "Grounded" being aired first and the set-up in "Innocence" being shown later.
- Book Ends:
- The Christmas special was aired as the pilot due to a scheduling mix-up; the series' finale is also a Christmas episode (and has a few callbacks to the former, such as the carol "If the Lord Were Alive Today"). Also, the show's opening credits all end with Orel waving up at God/the viewer. The final shot of the series includes Orel's baby daughter waving up as the camera pans out. D'awwwwwwwww.
- "Numb" begins and ends with the song "No Children" by The Mountain Goats playing. It also begins and ends with a top-down shot of Clay and Bloberta in their beds.
- "Help" starts with a slideshow of seemingly happy pictures from Clay and Bloberta's wedding. At the end, the camera zooms out on the pictures to show that they're all moments that were ruined by Clay's newfound alcoholism.
- Brainless Beauty: Nurse Bendy. Hidden Depths reveal that being this has also crippled her psychologically. Sadly, she's (dimly) aware of this.
- Break the Cutie: Orel. So very, very much. It ultimately fails. Could be Clay's intent, as a means of justifying his own shittiness by trying to show that Orel's own purity is built on a foundation of sand. It isn't.
- Brick Joke: There's a few. Orel bathing in blood and, earlier, declaring he'll "never do THAT with THOSE, in THERE, for that LONG ever again!", and the Lost Commandments.
- Clay's lousy dead-end job is ultimately revealed to be mayor.
- And in a Funny Background Event in "Alone", one of the headlines involving a serial rapist is "This time, it's not Orel!" And while the cause for it is a Tear Jerker, we later see the "Papa Bear" from "Alone" tied into his seat.
- There is season 1 episode titled "God's Chef." Not only is this where the above Brick Joke comes from, but it is also referenced in the season 2 episode "Geniusis," in which Rev. Petty is seen wearing an apron with "God's chef" written on it.
- Brought Home the Wrong Kid: The Posabules actually moved with Shapey. The Orels got their kid back (but didn't switch) about half a season or a whole season away, depending on how you look at it.
- Calling the Old Man Out: Orel to Clay in "Nature." Joe and his father (much more violently) in "Dumb", though this is more due to Joe being furious that his elderly alzheimer-stricken father wants nothing to do with him. Or rather is unable to be the kind of father Joe wants because of his age and his illness with the added revelation that he lied to Joe about his mother and kept the two apart.
- Catch Phrase: Before every Spoof Aesop spouted by Clay, he would find Orel and say a sentence that ends with "In my study." Cue gulping.
- Caught with Your Pants Down:
- Subverted. What appears to be a reaction to this is later revealed to be to something much more dangerous. Not a Cerebus Retcon. Given this series, it was indeed a plot hook, not a case of going back to make what was funny darker.
- In "God's Chef", Clicky the janitor catches Orel in a bathroom stall—with his pants down.
- Cerebus Syndrome: Everything from the second half of the second season on. The show dropped any pretense of being a comedy in the third season, after which it's just religious hypocrites torturing each other socially, physically, and mentally.
- Chess Motifs: Miss Censordoll has a miniature model of Moralton and its inhabitants so she can evoke this trope. Also to play God.
- Chocolate Baby: Clay and Bloberta are brunettes. So is Orel. That Shapey's blond is a hint that he might not be Clay's son. He is in fact Coach Stopframe's. Based on that same sort of clue, it's possible Block and Bloberta's brother Lunchbox were also Chocolate Babies.
- Christianity Is Catholic: Averted, and possibly inverted with all the Moralton townsfolk mocking and occasionally reviling Catholicism. In fundamentalism, only protestants are true Christians, while Catholics might as well be godless pagans. And sadly, this is Truth in Television for certain fundamentalists. Notably to the point where speaking the profane tongues of the Necronomicon is still better than speaking in Latin like a Catholic.
- Christian Rock: A pious heavy metal band nanemed Multiple Godgasm.
- Claymation: The show itself, and Orel's hobby. During the ending credits of one episode, we see Orel, a claymation figure, making a claymation video of himself making a claymation video. A show inside a show inside a show. Becomes a Brick Joke when Orel shows off his show to friends and family, summarizing previous episodes and inadvertently showing their hypocrisies.
- Cold Turkeys Are Everywhere: On an episode, Orel was grounded from church for a month. He started seeing churches everywhere, thought everyone was saying the word "church", had very weird dreams and even dressed like a church.
- Companion Cube: Nurse Bendy has a teddy bear family at home she treats as actual family figures, up to making meals and talking broken child-talk with them. This is due to her loneliness and her feeling that men only want her for sex. Which is why she doesn't take it well when the Hubby teddy accidentally falls on her behind. Later on she is reunited with her real son and chooses to abandon the fake teddy-son for the real thing.
- Continuity Porn: It's got a surprising amount, considering it's an 11-minutes-per-episode Refuge in Audacity comedy show.
- Conviction by Contradiction: Parodied. Orel starts a detective agency. There are two suspects when the contents of Reverend Putty's collection basket is stolen: Joe the Devil in Plain Sight, and a clearly-innocent Susie. Orel ignores the expensive ice cream Joe has bought, and the fact Susie wasn't even in church at the time, and bases his conclusions on which Commandments they broke (or didn't break): Joe honored the Commandment about keeping the Sabbath Holy by refusing to cut his grandfather's lawn, while Susie broke the Commandment of honoring her parents by volunteering at a retirement center instead of going to church like she was told. If she broke one Commandment, then surely she would be the sort of person to break "Thou shalt not steal".
- Couch Gag: The way Orel waves to God at the end of the opening varies.
- Crapsack World: Especially by the final season. Though it was always crapsack, really. Orel (and the viewer) has just become more aware of it as its mask slipped.
- Crapsaccharine World: How things start out, before the facades start to fall.
- Crying Indian: Parodied with the mascot of Diorama Elementary. The mascot is called "The Vanishing American" and is a stereotypical Indian chief with a teardrop painted on his cheek.
- Crystal Dragon Jesus: This was the obvious purpose of Orel's short lived dog Bartholomew, who was killed because he spread too much joy to the townsfolk.
- Darker and Edgier: Season 3 turned it Up to Eleven by turning the show (which was already dark in its own right) into quite possibly the darkest piece of western animation ever made, prompting the show's cancellation out of Mike Lazzo's buyer's remorse.
- Dark Is Not Evil:
- Stephanie. Despite her "punk chick" look, she's generally one of the warmest (and easily one of the most sane) citizens of Moralton.
- Invoked in the episode "Holy Visage", in which the sheltering nature of darkness is mentioned. Unfortunately, the person stating this is a stupid, ignorant teacher referring to the Dark Ages in Europe.
- A Date with Rosie Palms: Reverend Putty. To his eternal, bitter ire, it's the only sex he gets.
- Well, except for that time Orel sent him some "sinners".
- And he almost got there when Orel's mom came to him, but her request ended up being all he needed.
- Believe it or not, his was how Stephanie got concieved.
- The main focus of "God's Chef" when Orel is caught doing it and Putty tells him it's a sin despite the fact he does it all the time.
- A Day in the Limelight: Done for most episodes in the second season, and a little bit in the third. Notable examples are "Satan" for Coach Stopframe, "Courtship" for Doughy, "Offensiveness" for Ms. Censordoll, "Be Fruitful and Multiply" for Reverend Putty, etc. A notable third season would be the episode "Alone", one of the darkest which focuses a bit more on Ms Sculptham, Nurse Bendy and Censordoll; the former two were considered more one-dimensional before this episode. Creator Dino Stamatopoulos at one point wanted the show to be called "Moralton."
- Deconstruction: When you can rival and "beat" the majority of other attempts at a deconstruction and how dark an animated television show can become, and how much you can rip apart every little thing about the "perfection" of the comedic aspects of the show you're watching, you're falling into this category. Not only is the series as whole a Deconstruction of the Moral Substitute, but most every episode also deconstructs a dubious or tautological Christian Fundamentalist tenet by way of having Orel follow scripture to horrifying - completely logical, but horrifying - conclusions. You might say Moral Orel is a deconstruction of biblical proportions.
- Defenestrate and Berate: Principal Fakey finds out that he has an STD while having sex with Nurse Bendy. He immediately comes to the conclusion that his wife is cheating on him. He angrily marches down to his house and throws out his wife and then her possessions while calling her a whore. He has his pants down the whole time.
- Delivery Stork: There's an entire book out there with stories of this nature to tell children instead of telling them the truth about where babies come from. Clay telling Orel about 'God's chef injecting women with his glaze' to make babies is what sets the main plot of the second episode in motion.
- Devil in Plain Sight: Joe. Though, since he's still a child, it's more of a Jerkass In Plain Sight. He lacks the power to do real damage... for now.
- Dissonant Serenity: Orel was pretty chipper considering a plot point in season 3 had him standing in a bathtub full of blood let from a bunch of his friends.
- Faux Yay: Stephanie's best friend from school was this - Stephanie thought it was sincere.
- Feel No Pain: In "Numb", sexually frustrated Bloberta Puppington starts using power tools as sex toys. Rather than addressing the actual problem, Dr. Potterswheel prescribes painkillers. After he increases the dosage a few times, she's seen humming to herself as her hand catches fire in the course of cooking without utensils.
- Feuding Families: The Puppingtons and the Posabules hate each others' guts because they use slightly different versions of the Lord's Prayer. Slightly as in "Forgive us our debtors" and "Forgive us our tresspassers." One word. This sticking point also doubles as a Cavemen vs. Astronauts Debate.
- Flashback: Most of the episodes in season three are flashbacks, or parts of earlier episodes told from the point of view of people that aren't a Puppington.
- For the Evulz: Orel in the Halloween episode. He decided that the only thing that can scare him is God—so he methodically breaks all of the Ten Commandments in one day. ALL. Including that one.
- Fourth Date Marriage: Clay and Bloberta marry after one date (and it's kinda hard to call it a date since they just decided to attend a reception together after attending the wedding separately). Subverted in that both of them know they're making a mistake, but they go through with it anyway since Clay wants someone to help him and Bloberta wants to be the one getting married. Poignantly, when asked by Orel why they married, all Bloberta could answer is "Why not?".
- Freudian Excuse:
- Clay's an asshole because his insanely religious mother raised him like a spoiled prince (because all of her ten previous pregnancies never made it to term because of her constant drinking and smoking which she stopped when pregnant with Clay because she was too preoccupied with praying to God that he would make it) and his father (who was never able to create a good bond between his son due to his wife's constant spoiling and protective nature and never forgave Clay for the prank that led to his wife's fatal heart attack) emotionally shunned his child, to the point of telling him that he wasn't even worth the effort of punishing him physically, which led to Clay becoming a hellion if only to get slapped by his father, which for Clay was the only emotional response he could ever get out of his father. Bloberta, meanwhile, is the unwanted middle child of an emotionally abusive mother who treated her second daughter like an unwanted pet; she became an obsessive-compulsive neat freak to replace her addiction to booze, after introducing Clay to alcohol and watching him become a massive jerk with his first drink.
- While it does explain much, it's not much of an excuse. Orel's childhood isn't far off from this. Which was likely was the point: despite all the bad things that happened to Orel, he still got his life back together. And arguably, that was the point of the other point: Clay's abuse of Orel is to try to bring the boy down to his father's level, so that Clay can convince himself that he's not responsible for what he's become, which is why Orel's continuing intent to goodness makes Clay even more miserable and hateful.
- Ms. Censordoll is the way she is because her Mother removed her reproductive organs as a infant which might explain why she looks old despite her age. Sweet dreams readers!
- Friend to All Living Things: Orel in the first part of "Nature". Not so much in part two.
- Frozen in Time: Subverted. The show is (possibly) set in the modern day, yet virtually everything in Moralton looks like it's either the 1950's or (way) early 60's. Especially since we don't see any modern tech (not even television!) I guess that's the way to show people what Christian dogma feels about modern society.
- Possibly the only indication that we get of the show being set in modern time is that there is a "metal" band occasionally referenced in the show.
- Clay DOES mention Lee Harvey Oswald in "Trigger" so the series most likely takes place somewhere during or after 1963.
- A God Am I:
- Go Mad from the Isolation: Orel getting grounded from Church does not go well, resulting in a Room Full of Crazy.
- Gone Horribly Right: Adult Swim wanted Season 3 to go down the same dark road as the Season 2 finale, "Nature". The episode "Alone" went down that dark road—then it got on the highway, swerved into oncoming traffic, and caused a multi-car pileup akin to Final Destination 2. After that episode was screened for Adult Swim executives, said executives cancelled the show and cut its final season down to 13 episodes despite getting exactly what they asked for in the first place. It apparently was that depressing.
- Growing Up Sucks:
- In "Maturity", Clay tells Orel that adulthood means doing things that one hates doing. These things would be "dealing with people who make you unhappy, being stressed about things you have no control over and working soul numbing jobs".
- Joe develops a fear of growing up due to his very old father.
- The Hero Sucks Song: Part of the school play, in which Orel is cast as Judas, is a song-and-dance number about how Jesus is a rotten little fink.
- High School Sweethearts: Mr. and Mrs. Latchkey, Doughey's parents. Not only are they high school sweethearts, they still act like they're in high school, wearing the same jock jacket and cheerleader clothes they did twelve years ago.
- Hilarity Ensues: The usual result of Orel misinterpreting the sermons. (This is nonexistent after the middle of Season Two, though.)
- Hit Me, Dammit!: Clay ends up going into a massive "The Reason You Suck" Speech directed at both the people around him and at the world at large in order to get a negative reaction. However, they just ignore him. Clay wanted them to hit him; his father only ever showed him attention when he was hitting him.
- Holier Than Thou
Miss Censordoll: "No, mother, I am not 'holier-than-thou'. But I AM holier than YOU."
- Hollywood Atheist: Clay's father.
- Hollywood Satanism: Subverted, this is what Coach Stopframe had attempted to get Clay to love him, when he took Orel to an actual Satanist gathering, it turns out they were all just a bunch of sloppy hedonists.
- Hypocritical Humor: In many places; it forms most of the "lessons" Orel learns. A particularly good example:
Mark Posubule: Forgive your debtors!
Clay Puppington: Forgive your trespassers!
Mark Posubule: You owe me a bottle of wine!
Clay Puppington: Get off my property!
- In "God's Chef" Reverend Putty tells Orel it's a sin to masturbate and yet he constantly does it himself and it was how Stephanie came to be.
- Identical Stranger: The Posabule family, Art, Poppit, and Christina, are this to Clay, Bloberta and Orel. The youngest child of each family, Block and Shapey, only act the same.
- I Did What I Had to Do: Often a downright lie. It's usually "I Did What Was More Convenient" or "I Did What Would Get Me What I Wanted", but using this trope as a thin veneer.
- I Drank What?: Orel sells his urine as an energy drink to the school's sports teams.
- Ignored Epiphany: Orel once had an epiphany—but was spanked into forgetting it—when he disagreed with church doctrine about Fluffy Cloud Heaven; perhaps more importantly, Clay has one about his behavior and apologizes for shooting Orel, only to take it back shortly afterward.
- The Immodest Orgasm: Bloberta masturbates with a jackhammer in "Numb". It ends up doing as much damage to her body as you'd expect. At first. Then, she manages to leave it in all night and is still alive when the power runs out hours later.
- Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Provides the page quote with:
Rev. Putty: You are pure pureness in its purest form!
- Insane Troll Logic:
- Insult Backfire: "Nature Part 2", maybe.
Orel: I hate you.
Clay: Hate away, sister. Hate away...
- In Vino Veritas: Clay. Lampshaded and a source of discussion in the "Nature" and subsequent episodes.
- Irony: The pilot has Ms. Censordoll forming a "To Burn" pile of books - among which was Fahrenheit 451.
- I Take Offense to That Last One: Variant; when Reverend Putty says that the beer goggles Clay has on makes Jesus's crucifixion look like Marilyn Monroe, he glares at Putty and declares that he never drinks beer.
- Actually, this probably describes everyone in Moralton except for Orel and Stephanie.
- Some characters like Reverend Putty start out this way, but develop into fairly benevolent characters by the end of the series.
- Jesus Was Way Cool: Orel certainly thinks so.
- Kick the Dog: The townsfolk of Moralton do this quite a lot. Of particular note is putting Orel's dog down because it was causing him to sin—because he loved the dog more than Jesus. They also left a man's wound untreated and infected because it resembled Jesus, and destroying holy symbols is a sin.
- The dog thing is all the more problematic because the dog was almost definitely the second coming of Jesus. note
- Clay shooting his son Orel in the leg while drunk, then blaming the incident on him.
- Clay grounding Orel in "Grounded", forbidding him from going to church. Not to mention the unapologetic rubbing it in he did to his son, right in Orel's face.
- Killed Off for Real: Mr. Creepler. According to "Alone" he was found dead in his Prison cell, hinting he committed suicide.
- Lampshade Hanging: At least once for all the running jokes. The most blatant was probably having a throwaway character called Mr. Stopmotionanimationname.
- Larynx Dissonance: Miss Censordoll and Joe's half-sister are both voiced by men. In the case of Joe's half-sister, it's very obvious... when she stops holding her nose.
- A Lesson Learned Too Well: Several episodes have Orel taking what an authority figure says to its "logical conclusion" and doing something bizarre.
- Literal-Minded: Four year old Orel takes everything at face value. Everything.
- Light Is Not Good: Most of the citizens of Moralton. By the end of the show, there are definitely, and possibly only, three who could be considered "good": Reverend Putty, Stephanie, and Nurse Bendy. Considering that even Reverend Putty and Daniel Kick the Dog several times, he invokes this trope mildly at best.
- Long Song, Short Scene:
- "Nesting" has its own dark orchestral cover of the opening theme... which is played over some of the lowest-quality visuals the show has ever had. On top of that, the song gets cut off before it's finished by Ms. Censordoll slamming a window.
- Those "lowest-quality visuals" portion was due to Stylistic Suck. For those that don't remember, the opening was made up of the little diorama Ms. Censordoll was tinkering with in "Alone".
- Loud Gulp: Happens in every episode just before Orel's father beats him as punishment for whatever he did wrong that day. In fact, it's a sign of Character Development when Clay's threats evoke a deadpan response and not a loud gulp from Orel, due to him losing all respect for Clay.
- Luke, You Are My Father: Stephanie is Reverend Putty's daughter, and Joe is Nurse Bendy's son.
- Madness Mantra: "Church church churchy church..."
- Make-Out Point: Inspiration Point, the place Christina invites Orel when their parents won't let them see each other. Subverted when, instead of going there to make out, they start praying.
- Man Child: Doughy's parents are this in a very eerie way. They're still mentally in high school, and it shows clearly as they treat him more like a younger sibling than a son.
- Meaningful Background Event: In "Honor", there is a game plan on a chalkboard in Coach Stopframe's office that shows Stopframe's plan to get closer to Clay.
- Meaningful Name: A lot of the characters' names refer to how the show is created (stop-motion claymation), though some of them refer to an important facet of the character.
- Examples: Coach Stopframe, Mr. Figurelli, Clay Puppington, Bloberta, Shapey, Block, Miss Sculptham, Nurse Bendy, Reverend Putty, Officer Papermouth (that's how they get them to talk)... These are so blatantly obvious that I don't know whether to call them Narm or not.
- Doughy Latchkey and Ms. Frances Clara Censordoll (FCC). These aren't so obvious, but they're just as good. Also, Censordoll, "Censored-All".
- As revealed in "Dumb", Nurse Bendy's first name is Nursula. There are possibly two puns in there: the obvious (Nursula) and another more stealthy and significant (Nursula, which besides being a real name, related to ursa=bear, in reference to her teddy bear family).
- Mood Whiplash: Third season, and how!
- In Grounded, Orel's intense and heavily symbolic near death experience sequences are intercut with some of the show's blackest comedy ("It's not healthy to be dead that long").
- Near the end of Passing, Clay's father refuses to pass down Ol' Gunny as the Puppington family tradition dictates, telling Clay that said gun is tainted with blood. Clay responds by asking "You sure it's not just ketchup?"
- Moral Dissonance: All of Orel's lessons essentially boil down to "Do as I say and not as I do", and even then, the morals he learns are horribly skewed.
- Moral Myopia: If you are not going to Reverend Putty's church on Sunday, you aren't even subhuman. Unless you're grounded from Church for a month... at that point (if you're Orel), you go insane.
- The Moral Substitute: Imagine if all media were Christian fundamentalist propaganda? Yeah, this trope is subject to a brutal Deconstruction, showing just how dysfunctional and disturbing such a world would be.
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Mr. Creepler the ice cream man is a pederast and a serial rapist.
- Naked People Are Funny: Even more so as zombies! What stands out even more, is that Orel doesn't get scolded for raising zombies, but rather for stripping them first.
- Nepotism: The only reason Junior Christein was cast as Jesus in 'Crooning Jesus' was because he was the nephew of an influental Broadway producer that Mr. Armiture wanted to suck up to. It backfired spectacularly: the townspeople were not impressed that Orel hadn't been cast as Jesus, and Orel's song and dance number as Judas was the only part anyone liked.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
- "Wow, everybody sure hates Jesus! ...oh."
- A young Clay's prank on his abusive father, which indirectly ends up killing his mother, setting the stage for the adult Clay's abuse of his son.
- Or when Bloberta introduces Clay to alcohol. His instant rampant alcoholism and Jerk Ass behaviour leads her to stop drinking and channel her frustration into to spot-cleaning everything, setting the stage for their miserable marriage.
- Nightmare Sequence: Orel's final near-death experience in "Grounded". Yeesh.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: According to Word of God, Gladys Foamwire bears a strong resemblance to Ruth Buzzi.
- No Name Given: The red-headed freckled kid that hangs out with Orel and his friends, usually lumped in as "the gang" or "the rest" (ex: Doughy, Tommy, and the gang.) Even in the Beforel Orel commercial, he's cut off by Orel before he could say his name. But his name was revealed through a cast sheet in the play episode. It's Billy.
- Not So Above It All: Ms. Censordoll, after Orel gets her favorite food (eggs) banned from the town, as far as Censordoll going to the Moralton black market to get her eggs like the rest of the townspeople. Reverend Putty in "Closeface", who bonds with his daughter after finding out that they both have a snarky sense of humor.
- Not So Different: Season 3 makes it increasingly clear that Clay was a lot like Orel when he was a kid and young man, and both were victims of abuse. In the end, Orel manages to become a much better father and husband than Clay.
- Not So Harmless Punishment: In "Grounded", when Orel's father Clay walks in on Orel bathing in blood, he grounds him. To Orel's surprise, Clay specifies that Orel is not grounded from playing with his friends; Orel can play outside to his heart's content. Understandably confused, Orel asks, "then what am I grounded from?" It turns out Orel's grounded from church! To a lot of children Orel's age that wouldn't be so bad. But Orel loves church with all his heart and soul, so to Orel, this is actually worse than not being allowed to play!
- N-Word Privileges: Subverted. When the town learns about the Italian-American Figurelli family, the entire town starts to segregate exclusively against the 4-member family. The always optimistic Figurelli thank the town for it, oblivious to the reason why they did it to begin with. Everyone else in the town just starts to refer to them as Figgurs.
- Oedipus Complex: It turns out that Clay has one, something Ms. Censordoll picks up on quickly to manipulate him.
- Official Couple: Orel and Christina are the most heartwarming couple you'll ever see on television.
- Older Than They Look: Shapey, Orel's little brother, is seven but he looks and acts three.
- Once More with Clarity: The opening of the 7th season 3 episode, "Help", shows the typical images of a wedding. The ending zooms out on them to show how screwed up and unhappy Bloberta and Clay's marriage has been from the beginning.
- One-Word Title: About half of the first and second season episodes have these, but all of the third season episodes have them.
- Only Sane Man: Reverend Rod Putty, who is ironically less blinded by so-called faith compared to everyone else as time goes on. His daughter also counts.
- Out of Order: The Christmas episode was meant to be the first season finale but was aired as a pilot.
- Overly Long Gag:
- The last minute of "Turn The Other Cheek", hilariously justified.
- Orel's father taking a long time and multiple sips before confirming that Orel's special energy drink is urine.
- Passion Play: Where Orel sings a song as Judas about how he hates Jesus.
- Parental Neglect:
- How the Puppingtons and Posabules (minus Orel and Christina) miss for months that Shapey and Block switched places.
- Doughey Latchkey exemplifies this trope, though, as his parents are stuck in a teenage mentality.
- Parental Abandonment: Then Poppet does this to Block when she sees he prefers Bloberta.
- A Real Man Is a Killer: Clay took Orel hunting when he thought "it was time." After Orel couldn't shoot a helpless (and adorable) deer, Clay started drinking and ended up killing and eating a hunting dog before accidentally shooting Orel and leaving him to deal with the wound as he went to sleep. Orel was forced to kill a bear to save his horrible father, but when Clay woke up, he lied and told him Clay had killed the bear.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
- Well over half of the episode "Sacrifice" is just Clay giving these to Potterswheel, Papermouth, Putty, religion, love, and the world in general. He was trying to provoke a violent reaction, because the only way he could make his father acknowledge him as a child was by insulting him until he beat him.
- Joe's narration of the latter half of Orel's movie.
- Recap Episode: When Orel shows his movies to his friends and family, they are the first three episodes. Subverted in no old footage being reused.
- Religion Rant Song: "I Hate You, Jesus!" In-universe as Orel performed it at a pageant that required him to play up hostility against the Jesus character. Kinda subverted when Moralton start singing the song, because they just find it catchy.
- Room Full of Crazy: When Orel is grounded from church in "Grounded", he makes up for it by drawing a crayon church on his wall decorated with various Bible verses, then builds a cardboard church and wears it like a Halloween costume.
- Running Gag:
- Ms. Censordoll's protesting and censorship, the "Lost Commandments", the fact Shapey is not weaned off breast milk yet, Clay standing up after beating Orel, which causes his pants to fall because he forgot to put his belt back on.
- The second and third seasons have Shapey switched with the son of their short term neighbors. Bloberta (who eventually figures it out) and Clay never seem to realize that Block is not Shapey even as Orel tries pointing it out time and time again.
Orel: Dad, that's not...
- Sanity Slippage: Orel in "Grounded" as a result of being forbidden to go to church for a whole month. It gets progressively worse over the course of the episode.
- Satellite Love Interest: Christina. Her relationship with Orel is rather sweet, but it's tough to define her character without him. Since she's just a female version of Orel, looking and sounding exactly the same, defining her character without him is not really possible.
- Scary Librarian: Ms. Censordoll. Especially how she looks old, but she's only 40.
- Self-Abuse: According to "God's Chef", masturbation is a sin worse than murder and a one-way ticket to hell.
- Shock Value Relationship: "Closeface". In a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming, Reverend Putty reveals he was upset because the other girl Stephanie was kissing didn't care for her the way Stephanie wanted.
- Shoot the Dog:
- In "Nature," Clay shoots some other hunter's hunting dog, then proceeds to mount its head and eat it like a deer. Granted, he was drunk at the time, but still...
- Having Orel's dog Bartholomew put down, because the dog was making Orel love him more than Jesus. And annoying the adults.
- Shout-Out: Among the weapons in Clay's weapon room are two golden guns.
- Single Malt Vision: Clay assumes this is the case, when we see from his point of view the events from the end of "Nature": he sees Shapey on the stairs, remembers he already passed Block in the living room, then just takes a look at his shot glass before continuing.
- Single Tear: Orel cries one at the end of Rev. Putty's sermons for most of Season 1.
- Sleeping Single:
- Deconstructed; not only do Clay and Bloberta sleep in separate beds, there's a privacy screen between them.
- Based on appearances, Doughy's parents have separate rooms, though this is more because they're still at the mentality of high schoolers—Kim's bedroom is decorated like a high school girl's. And it has no effect on their sex lives whatsoever.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: At the beginning, Orel is practically in the wrong show, given how naive he is about the world. The world is deeply cynical, and Orel gradually shifts to a more cynical viewpoint as well, especially after "Nature". However, "cynical" for Orel is... admitting to himself that he doesn't respect and revere his father as he feels he ought, and thinking that perhaps, everything isn't as perfect as it ought to be. It's still a deep contrast, though not as extreme.
- Spoiled Brat:
- Shapey. His parents always order Orel to let him do what he wants, in case he screams and the neighbors hear. He's constantly screaming anyway, so we can see how well that is working out.
- And Clay, as a child, prior to one of his tantrums leading to his mother's death and the subsequent abuse at the hands of his father.
- And Block, who's an exact clone of Shapey.
- Spoof Aesop: The usual result of Clay's talks with Orel in his study take the form of a ridiculous and/or entirely irrelevant lesson. For example, in the first episode, Orel is chastised not for digging up dead people and zombifying them, but for stripping them naked. (He thought they smelled like death because their clothes were dirty.) Similarly, his crack habit earned him a scolding because of all the slang it caused him to learn.
- Stalker with a Test Tube: Stephanie's mother, leading directly to Stephanie's conception.
- Star-Crossed Lovers: Orel and his Distaff Counterpart. It works out in the end.
- Stepford Smiler: Much of Moralton qualifies, but Bloberta stands out in particular. She cleans the underside of floor tiles!
- Stepford Suburbia: Moralton, Moralton, Moralton. Everyone works hard to convince everyone else that things are perfect. "I think you're slipping..."
- Suspiciously Specific Sermon: Reverend Putty sure does like to keep things topical.
- Take That:
- After his movies aren't very well appreciated, Orel concludes that sometimes things are misinterpreted. When asked for an example, he scratches his head with The Bible trying to come up with an answer. Really, the whole series.
- Ms. Censordoll's full name is Francine Clara Censordoll (FCC).
- "Orel's Movie Premiere" seems to be one towards us viewers, Doughy calls Orel "Moral" at one point and Dr. Potterswheel asks if Clay molests Orel during the time in the Study... these are Word of God's pet peeves that we the viewers bring up.
- Theme Naming:
- Many of the characters have names related to the process of stop-motion animation.
- "Passing" reveals that Clay would have been one of eleven siblings with names starting with the letter C. All of them but Clay were miscarriages.
- Verbal Tic: The head Satanist tends to say "and what not" in almost every end of his sentences and what not.
- Villain Song: "I Hate You Jesus" was by far the most memorable song of the school pageant.
- Villainous Breakdown: Season 3 is one long breakdown for Clay ending with him being rejected by Coach Stopframe.
- Villain Protagonist: Clay is arguably the main character of Season 3.
- Wake Up Make Up: Deconstructed. Bloberta wakes up earlier than her husband, grooms herself impeccably, then pretends to go back to sleep. In this show, chances are better than even it's to make him feel inferior to her in one of the few ways she can.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: The aforementioned Bad Future and the story about Censordoll wasn't really explained.
- Executive Meddling. Season 3 was originally going to be 20 episodes, and scripts and animatics had been prepared for all of the episodes—then Adult Swim slashed the order to 13 episodes. This was done after the higher-ups saw rough cuts of the the first couple of episodes, most notably "Alone"—which featured the reveal that not only had one of the female characters purposely allow herself to get sexually assaulted by a rapist in order to have sex, but then be seen performing a coat-hanger abortion upon herself to kill the child conceived by the rape, AND obtain an orgasm as she mentally relives being raped. According to Dino Stamatopoulos, "Alone" got the series cancelled even though its tone was Dino simply following orders to create darker episodes following the success of "Nature". The episode count getting reduced meant that the entire second half of the season had to be aborted (no pun intended), leaving the show with two episodes to deal with the fallout of "Nature", which resulted in a slapdash finale and most of the Censordoll/Clay storyline getting cut.
- Word of God in online commentary expands on Censordoll's story. In "Alone", it was hinted that Censordoll's mother had her reproductive organs removed as an infant, in a form of female castration. This is what causes her obsession with eggs—and is probably why she aged so badly. As Reverend Putty's sermon in that episode says, we need other people in our lives to remind us we're not the center of the universe (which is what Censordoll believes). In "Nesting", Censordoll withdraws from the election when she realizes she can manipulate Clay's Oedipus Complex for his mother to get the town's egg ban lifted.
- Dino posted one of the lost episode's scripts online. It can be found here.
- The series never got around to featuring Arthur, Orel's grandfather and Clay's father, who was only seen in a flashback in Passing. Beforel Orel does redeem this to an extent, but what became of Arthur post-third-season remains unanswered.
- Orel's illegitimate children in "God's Chef." Dino shrugged it off, "written before continuity was an issue. Also, this show takes place during a very short period of time. I suppose most of them are toddlers by the end of HONOR."
- Wham Line: In "Nature Part 2", Orel to Clay: "I hate you."
- You Gotta Have Blue Hair: In a cartoon where everyone has normal hair colors, it's a bit odd that Florence has pink hair.
- Younger Than They Look: Ms. Censordoll, who's only forty, but easily looks like she's in her seventies or eighties.
- Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: Orel lies to Clay when asked if he shot a bear, since he doesn't want to give Clay the satisfaction of making him proud.
- Zombie Apocalypse: Parodied in the first episode - the people are afraid of the zombies because they're nude, not because they're eating brains. When the first episode features a Zombie Apocalypse and the show just gets darker from there...that's the definition of a Crapsack World.