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Western Animation / Moral Orel

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"People know who you are by the words you use, not the things you do."

"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"
— "Beforel Orel"

In the town of Moralton, Statesota lives the Puppington Family. Twelve-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!

... until it doesn't.

Moral Orel is a Stop Motion animated show that first aired on [adult swim] from 2006 to 2008, created by Dino Stamatopoulos (writer for Mr. Show, Community, and Late Night with Conan O'Brien). Originally conceived as a satire of sitcoms from The '50s and The '60s, and designed to resemble an Affectionate Parody of Leave It to Beaver (not Davey and Goliath, despite the art style), the show, despite copious amounts of Executive Meddling, ultimately evolved into one of the darkest pieces of Western animation of the 2000s. It is notable for being one of the first animated dramedies on television, having come out a near-decade before the critically acclaimed Bojack Horseman hit Netflix.

Every member of Orel's family shows some form of dysfunction: father Clay abuses alcohol, abuses Orel (emotionally and physically), and fails to hide his closet bisexuality; mother Bloberta cheats on Clay, often finds herself depressed yet hides it with a smile, and has an unhealthy obsession with cleanliness; and little brother Shapey is so neglected by his parents that he has the emotional maturity of a toddler despite being seven years old. The population of Moralton (a town placed precisely in the middle of the continental United Statesnote ) fare little better; most of the 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.

With this in mind, 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 — specifically those who don't practice what they preach.

The show's shift from its satirical roots to a bleaker tone was initiated by Dino moving the focus away from Orel midway through the first season, caused by a rough divorce he was going through at the time. He then began to explore the dark underbelly of the seemingly happy-go-lucky townspeople of Moralton, which culminated in the two-part season 2 finale "Nature". The network higher-ups loved the two-parter, with Mike Lazzo, then the head of Adult Swim, asking Dino to make the show's third season as dark as humanly possible.

Dino complied, but Lazzo and Adult Swim instantly regretted it.

The show almost entirely stopped being a dark comedy and instead prioritized bleak psychological drama with only small bits of comedy sprinkled in (the season 3 premiere "Numb" only has one joke throughout the entire episode). While critically acclaimed, the lack of comedy caused Adult Swim to not only scale back the season's episode count from 20 episodes to 13 but cancel the series altogether.

Fans kept hope alive for a revival, and while Adult Swim only played reruns of the show sporadically after 2007, the network began rerunning the show in chronological order on weeknights in late 2011. When Dino learned of this, he said that "[if] enough people watch, there may be hope for a special or two". A month in, Dino updated fans on a call he'd received from Adult Swim's head raving about the reruns' ratings, and said that at such a rate, a special would be "imminent."

Dino followed up on this on Halloween of that year 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 would explain "the origin of Orel's religious nature and the birth of his brother, Shapey". The special aired on November 19th, 2012.

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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.
  • Absurdly Youthful Mother: Implied with Doughy's parents. Not only do they act young, they're supposed to be the same age as Stephanie, who, as Reverend Putty's daughter would be significantly younger than most of children's parents.
    • Nurse Bendy said her 12 year old son Joe’s age was half of hers in the script for the scrapped episode Narcissism, suggesting she’s in her early 20s.
  • Abusive Parents: All over Moralton. Orel's father is drunk and emotionally and physically abusive, and his mother is neglectful, while Doughy's parents are Highschool Sweethearts that never actually moved past High School.note 
  • Accidental Truth: Nurse Bendy, while praising Principal Fakey's maturity to her teddy-bear family, says that "he must be more adulterer than anyone I know!"
  • Activist-Fundamentalist Antics: Any group led by Ms. Censordoll falls under this, with her Establishing Character Moment in the first episode.
    Group Member: Are you really going to burn The Bible?
    Ms. Censordoll: Only the Jewish parts. (Tears the Bible in half and tosses one half into the fire)
  • 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. And even Stephanie has some unhealthy qualities like getting a piercing every time she has a thought she doesn't like. 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 "eavesdropping on them talking to themselves" so they don't end up in hell.
  • Aerith and Bob: We have names such as Shapey, Block, Bloberta, Doughy and Nursula. Then there’s Orel (a normal albeit slightly rare name), and all of those mixed in with names like Clay, Agnes, Frances, Christina, Norm and Daniel.
  • The Alcoholic: 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.
  • The All-American Boy: Orel is a Deconstruction. He's raised to be something akin to the titular character of Leave It to Beaver; a hard-working, patriotic, God-fearing, authority-respecting American boy. But everyone in his hometown is so completely and utterly screwed up, sometimes irredeemably so, that all of Orel's hopes are dashed very quickly. What little he holds on to can be said to be a mask.
  • All Animals Are Dogs: In the Nature two-parter, a deer licked Orel's face like a dog would.
  • 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 with the Mountain Goats No Children bookending the episode.
  • 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 Symbol: Coach Stopframe has rotating crosses to symbolize his constant vacillation between Christianity and Satanism.
  • 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. For one, the character movement is much more fluid and sometimes quite realistic looking compared to the slightly more stilted movement that the first season had.
    • ”Beforel Orel” is an even bigger improvement, with even more fluid movement, as well as better effects, whereas the effects in the original show looking quite obviously superimposed and cost-effective.
  • Artistic License – Chemistry: Rubbing alcohol is vastly different from alcohol made for human consumption. Drinking even a little bit would make you vomit blood, and downing an entire bottle like Clay does in "Nature" would assuredly kill you.
    • While no doubt a hyperbolic portrayal, long term alcoholics have been known to drink rubbing alcohol and survive. Household versions of the substance can range from 60-95% alcohol with the rest being water. 500 millimetres of isopropyl alcohol is roughly equivalent to 30 beers. So, while Clay would likely risk brain damage, both internal chemical burns and internal bleeding, as well as (obviously) alcohol poisoning, it’s not a guarantee he would die. Although the speed at which he consumes it wouldn’t bode well for his survival odds.
  • Asshole Victim: The No-Holds-Barred Beatdown Joe delivers to his elderly, Alzheimer's-stricken father in "Dumb" should be horrific... except for the implications that Dr. Secondopinionson impregnated Joe's mother (Nurse Bendy) when she was just thirteen, and that his claims that she died in childbirth kept her and Joe apart for years.
    • Clay Puppington's life has been full of genuine tragedy: he accidentally gave his mother a fatal heart attack when he pulled a cruel prank on her, he began to associate self-worth with physical abuse thanks to his dad, and he's trapped in a loveless marriage with a woman who hates his guts (and vice-versa) and kids he didn't want (one of whom is clearly not his). However, he's also an unrepentant, sociopathic Jerkass who is well aware of his faults but consciously refuses to change for the better, making it hard for viewers to feel any kind of emotion about him, let alone pity.
  • 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 an unfunny example. Clay's alcoholism, in particular, has ruined both of their lives. And they refuse to get a divorce because Moralton is a strong believer of the phrase "'til death do us part" and they don't want to be the subject of gossip.
  • Awkward Father-Son Bonding Activity: The infamous hunting trip in both parts of "Nature" although "awkward" is a bit of an understatement.
  • Aw, 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 closest to some Aw Look moments even vaguely suggested in the show are the fact that Clay tears up for a split-second when talking about the mistakes he's made during a drunken rant, or Bloberta giving Orel fatty food after seeing a sign at the doctor’s claiming this is good for you. The other residents of Moralton fare little better, though there are enough Pet the Dog moments to keep it from being an irredeemable Crapsack 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.
    • Coincidentally, despite it being several years into the future, technology has not changed in the slightest. Perhaps a deeper statement of how conservatism can lead to stagnation?
  • 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.
  • Barbie Doll Anatomy: Happens quite a bit, including in "Satan", "Repression", "Grounded", "Nesting" and "Beforel Orel" where the characters lack genitalia.
  • Bears Are Bad News: In the second season finale, 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 into the bear, save himself and his father, but killing the bear.
  • 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 (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; the majority of the townsfolk are 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 shepherd to this particular flock has given him a pretty heavy dose of cynicism.
  • Bestiality Is Depraved: Coach Stopframe seems to also enjoy getting “intimate” with animals on occasion, such as bringing a dog with him to the bed in addition to three prostitutes in “Presents for God”, and is implied he was gonna do something to the stuffed bear that Orel shot in “Honor”.
  • Big "NO!":
    • Shapey does this at the beginning of "Charity" when Clay messes with his hair.
    • The audio of Shapey yelling is recycled in numerous episodes, including three times in "The Best Christmas Eve" and by his conterpart Block in the episodes "Numb" and "Closeface".
    • Nurse Bendy says this when her toy bear lands on her back in the episode "Alone".
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: A textbook example, really. Clay is alcoholic adulterer who emotionally abuses and neglects his whole family (Bloberta too for the most part); Shapey is a 7 year old who acts like he's 3 at best, and Orel, despite good intentions and the most 'normal', ends up doing very messed up things just to show his love for God.
  • 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.
  • Bottle Episode: The vast majority of the entire episode "Sacrifice" is set in the bar. Only the very beginning and end take place outside of it.
  • 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 constantly gets told, directly or indirectly, never to be optimistic about anything. 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. Turns out, Orel's faith and purity are both a little stronger than that.
  • 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.
    • In a Freeze-Frame Bonus in "Alone", one of the headlines involving a serial rapist is "This time, it's not Orel!" Though, oddly, the cause for it is a Tear Jerker, we later see the "Papa Bear" from "Alone" tied into his seat.
    • "Nature" and the first few episodes of season three are where it evolves into straight-up Continuity Porn. "Nature" starts with Orel delivering the "never do that with those" line, which is then explained a few episodes later. Said episode ("Grounded") also starts with Orel inexplicably bathing in his friends' blood, which is then explained in the next episode ("Innocence"), which was also the direct aftermath of the ending of "School Pageant", when Orel realized he accidentally got the entire town to sing about how much they hate Jesus, and now thinks he started The End of the World as We Know It, interpreting events from past episodes as signs of the apocalypse. During Orel's Near-Death Experience in "Grounded" there's also a line from "Innocence" of the Reverend saying "You think God can't see into the future?" which plays over events from "Nature", which chronologically takes place after either episode.
  • Brought Home the Wrong Kid: The Posabules actually moved with Shapey. The Puppingtons 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.
  • Catchphrase: 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.note 
    • In "God's Chef", Clicky the janitor catches Orel in a bathroom stall—with his pants down.
  • Cerebus Retcon: The Lost Commandments are originally just a recurring gag throughout the first season, but by the third season, it's explained that Clay made them all up, and got the idea from his mother.
  • 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.
  • The Chain of Harm: As a child, Clay was abused by his father. As an adult, he abuses Orel both physically and emotionally. Orel ultimately breaks the chain, being a loving father to his own children.
  • Cheerful Child: Orel almost always remains happy and hopeful in spite of everything around him. Downplayed with Block and Shapey, who are only really cheerful when they're spoiled.
  • 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. As far as the people of Moralton are concerned, only Protestant Fundamentalists 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 named Multiple Godgasm.
    "BUUURN in Heaven!"
  • Christmas Special: Two episodes take place around Christmas, one serving as the Grand Finale.
  • 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.
    • The season two finale and all of season three downright revel in it.
  • 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: During most episodes, the opening sequence ends with God tearing the roof off the church and Orel waving to him in various ways.
  • Crapsaccharine World: How things start out, before the facades start to fall.
  • 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.
  • Credits Gag: During most episodes, the closing credits run as Orel works on making a stop-motion movie with his toys and a clip of the finished product is shown. In the final episode, once he finishes working, he packs up all his equipment in a box and puts it under the Christmas tree as a present for Shapey and Block.
  • 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 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 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. And indeed, 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.
    • By the third season the show deconstructs itself, taking many of it's previously two-dimensional Straw Characters and examining just what made them such deeply dysfunctional individuals, while allowing some of them to finally find redemption and personal betterment.
  • Decon-Recon Switch: Eventually the show becomes one of these for the very concept of faith and religion, while many of the authority figures and religious leaders in Orel's life are horrendous role models, religion itself was not solely to blame for their issues. The first two and a half seasons are largely dedicated to showing how destructive religious ideology can be when taken to extremes, its dangerous effects are a result of cruel and damaged people misinterpreting it to justify their own actions — but crucially, for characters like Orel and Reverend Putty, they refuse to allow the cruelty of the world destroy their faith in God, (and in Orel's case, his Incorruptible Pure Pureness ultimately motivates Reverend Putty to change for the better) and that faith is ultimately what grants them some measure of personal happiness and salvation instead of giving in to despair and wallowing in misery and self-pity for the rest of their lives.
  • 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 (even though it's obvious he got it from Nurse Bendy). 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.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Clay is an interesting case. While he's shown to have relationships with both men and women, he's really only interested in people who give him the time of day, such as Coach Daniel (pronounced "Danielle") Stopframe.
  • 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.
  • Distaff Counterpart: Christina, to Orel. She's pretty much Orel (even sharing the same Voice Actress, Carolyn Lawerence) but with a different last name.
  • Distant Finale: The last scene of the final episode skips to Orel as an adult, who was able to raise a fully functional family with Christina. Especially noteworthy is the picture on the wall of Orel's parents. As horrific as Clay was to Orel, Orel's above exiling the old man from his life. There are two other pictures of a fireman and policeman, presumably the adult versions of Shapey and Block.
  • Divine Race Lift: Parodied somewhat where Buddha has the voice and mannerisms of an effeminate southern man.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • Christina has invited Orel to Make-Out Point after their parents have forbidden them from seeing each other. They meet up, are ecstatic to see each other, then slowly lower out of camera view while lovingly saying each other's names... then the camera pans down and you see they're praying.
    • On "Alone", Nurse Bendy has one of her bears fall on her upraised rump while she's cleaning a spill, having some milk spilled on her face in the process, which triggers a panic attack.
  • Don't Make Me Take My Belt Off!: Played for Laughs Once an Episode (the actual threat is never made—we just see Orel pulling up his pants back up). In "Nature", it's Played for Drama. This "humor" becomes less and less funny as the series progresses, even though the "joke" remains the same.
  • Downer Ending: There are so many, but the ends of "Nature", "Sundays", "Alone", and the Christmas Special are especially bleak.
  • Do Wrong, Right: Many of Clay's "aesops" amount to this when correcting Orel.
  • Driven to Suicide: Orel kills himself multiple times in "Grounded" in an effort to meet God.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Clay, "burdened" with a loveless marriage and a "stinking dead-end job", does this constantly.
    (drink) Still hate her. (drink) Still hate her. (drink) Toler-hate her. (drink) ...tolerate her!
  • Dysfunctional Family: An excellent example! Clay is emotionally distant and abusive, his wife is a cleanliness-obsessed basket case who married him for all the wrong reasons, Shapey is seven but developmentally is three, and Orel is the Only Sane Man. For a given value of "sane", anyway.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Everyone in Moralton is deeply and profoundly flawed.
  • Eagleland: Type 2 is Parodied and Exaggerated in the intro. The United States is depicted as a whole continent separate from Latin America and the rest of North America.
    • Moralton itself is a Type 2, a town full of middle class, self interested, bigoted and hypocrite protestants who believe their own lies.
  • Ear Worm: In-Universe, the titular song from "Turn The Other Cheek" becomes this after Orel plays it over and over again. It gets to the point where even Bloberta starts singing it with Orel.
    • Another In-Universe example is "I Hate You, Jesus", which is so catchy the Reverend leads a sing-along of it in church.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: A poster for "The Crucibles" shows up well before the episode featuring them does.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • Some season one happenings don't really jive with the rest of the series. The pilot had the use of magic to bring back the dead, and cause a zombie apocalypse. Magic is never used again in the series, aside from some moments regarding faith which fall into Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane.
    • The pilot has Clay and Bloberta mocking Reverand Putty while giggling together, a far cry from what we would see of their relationship later on. Clay also doesn't seem to know who Stopframe is during the peeing scene.
    • Orel impregnating all the women in town was a more out-there moment. Both did get mentions in season 3, with a flashback to the apocalypse, and a newspaper saying that the rapist (Mr. Creepler) wasn't Orel this time. Unreleased plans for the next series may have had Ms. Censordoll using voodoo to control Clay.
    • In the second episode, Clay admits that Orel's latest mishap is really his own fault for not being honest enough, something he'd never even contemplate doing in later episodes. In general, Clay comes off a lot more sincere and well-intentioned in the early episodes, though he's not really any better a person in practice. Orel also behaves strangely in that episode: when Clay tells Orel that God's chef is "a mystical fellow like Santa or Charles Darwin", Orel bluntly tells him, "I'm too old to believe in that stuff, dad"; the Orel of later episodes would never challenge an authority figure so brazenly (his Character Development post-"Nature" notwithstanding), though the Clay of later episodes would also punish him severely if he did.
    • Some things were defined in Season One that were later undone for the purpose of drama. One such example is Joe's family. Joe is introduced as Coach Stopframe's nephew, and a second-season episode has him have a grandfather. Season 3 has him with a very elderly father (with last name that isn't "Stopframe") and no known mother.
    • Nurse Bendy is called "Nurse Blinkless" in "Maturity".
    • The animation in season one is a bit rougher than the later two, with character movement being somewhat stilted, character’s eyes sometimes not being positioned correctly and makes them look as though they’re staring out into space, and the use of clay around their eyes in certain scenes where they seem to completely wrap around their sockets looks quite off. This was fixed by the next season where it was dialed back to where it was only used for the eyelids, which looked more natural.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: The finale. And boy, is it a case of "earning" it. Orel finally escapes the clutches of his parents and grows up to be happily married with a family of his own, while his mother and father continue to be stuck in a loveless marriage.
  • Escapism: Nurse Bendy's room looks like that of a little girl, full of bright colors and toys. She acts out the role of a mother to a loving family with a teddy bear husband and teddy bear son. She does it to escape from being constantly used, being utterly alone, and having no one who really thinks about her thoughts and feelings and treats her like a real person. However, once she is reunited with her actual son Joe, she throws away her "son" doll, because she finally has a real son who cares about her a lot. Very arguably one of the most positive portrayals of anti-escapism in television.
  • Everybody Knew Already: It's revealed some time in the second season that Orel's father Clay is actually the mayor of Moralton... and everyone but Orel and the audience knew it already.
  • Everytown, America: Played straight and lampshaded; notice the obvious generic-ness of "Moralton, Statesota?"
  • Evil Twin: Moralton itself has an "evil" twin in the form of Sinville, which is only a bus ride away and is filled with prostitutes and—to a visiting Orel's horror—Catholics.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: In one episode Orel popularizes a song from the point of Judas called "I Hate You Jesus". It becomes a hit in town, and soon everybody starts singing it in church. Orel is at first pleased with its success, but then this trope comes into play as he says, "Wow, everybody sure hates Jesus! Whoops."
    • Reverend Putty echoes this when he tries dismissing Orel's concerns about the song.
      Rev. Putty: What are you talking about? It's hilarious! "I hate you Jesus, you rotten little fink. Your serm"-uh-oh.
  • Fake Crossover: With ''Frankenhole' as seen here.
  • False Camera Effects: The pilot used fake Jitter Cam for dramatic moments, mainly when Bloberta was alone.
  • 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.
  • Fictional Province: The show takes place in the city of Moralton, the capitol of Statesota, the geographic center of the US. (In real life, if you're just counting the 48 contiguous states, it's just south of the Kansas-Nebraska border. Include Alaska and Hawaii, and the geographic center shifts to the western edge of South Dakota.)
  • 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.
  • Flat-Earth Atheist: Parodied with Link McMissuns, the evolutionary "missing link" between apes and humans who Orel thaws out, and is eventually converted to Christianity and becomes a radio talk show host where he argues against his own existence.
  • 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.
  • 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. They were miserable before they even say "I do." 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 the point: despite all the bad things that happened to Orel, he still got his life back together. Clay's abuse of Orel is to try to bring his son down to his level, so that Clay can convince himself that he's not responsible for what he's become. This is why Orel's continuing intent to goodness makes Clay even more miserable and hateful; despite all of Clay's cynicism and hate, it's not working.
    • 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.
  • 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 1950s or very early 1960s. Especially since we don't see any modern tech, not even television.
    • 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.
    • Played straight at the end of "Geniusis"; even after a million years, Moralton hasn't changed a bit.
  • Generational Trauma: Clay Puppington is a monster in every regard. He takes no responsibility for the actions of his son, grooms him to be the model image of himself, and shoots him in the leg then forces him to say he did it to himself. The only care he expresses towards Orel is that he's willing to spank him with his belt. This is because after he accidentally killed his own mother with a prank, his father gestures to smack him, but stops himself saying "You're not worth it." From then on, he internalizes this as people only being "worth it" when they receive capital punishment.
  • A God Am I:
    • Orel, upon hearing that God is in him (as well as everyone and everything else), starts acting this way, going so far as to pull the plug on a dying woman; granted the woman asked him to do so, but still... it's one of the few times Orel actually outright acts like a jerk.
    • This is how Censordoll acts naturally.
      Censordoll: No mother, I am not holier than thou—but I am holier than you.
  • 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. 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.
  • Hate Sink: The town of Moralton is set in a Crapsaccharine World where many of the denizens mask their true intentions behind a veil of religious convictions. Of those individuals, these two are the absolute worst:
    • Clay is the abusive patriarch of the Puppington family who insults and mistreats those around him as a means of boosting his self-worth regardless of it being good or bad. He reveals his true colors when he shot his son in the legs and then drinking the rubbing alcohol in the first aid kit. While claiming to have no recollection of the incident, Clay later takes pride in what he did when his son was assisting Miss Censordoll when she was running for mayor. Despite having a sympathetic upbringing in the form of his mother dying when he was a child and his father resenting him for it — and getting goaded into a marriage he did not want — Clay nevertheless refuses to acknowledge his own faults, instead pushing the blame onto others, especially in his attempts of molding Orel into becoming like him.
    • Cecil Creepler is an ice cream man who sells biblical-themed ice cream to Moralton's youth. In Alone, Creepler is exposed as a Serial Rapist who sexually assaulted 7 dark-haired women and later rapes and impregnates schoolteacher Agnes Sculptham when she used herself as bait.
  • "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.)
  • Hilariously Abusive Childhood: Played Straight at first, as Orel would get beaten with Clay's belt as punishment for the dumbest of things, but subverted from the Season 2 finale onward.
  • 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:
    Art Posubule: Forgive your debtors!
    Clay Puppington: Forgive your trespassers!
    Art 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.
  • 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!
  • I Need to Go Iron My Dog: Clay's about to go cheat on Bloberta, so he says he has to "paint the lawn"!
  • Insane Troll Logic:
    • Any advice given to Orel will inevitably be twisted by his bizarre thought process and end up either as Gone Horribly Right or Gone Horribly Wrong. But horribly is the one component you can bet on, to the point where Reverend Putty warns the entire town to stop giving Orel advice under penalty of being sent to Hell. It goes about as well as you imagine it would.
    • And the setup for this executed a nifty bit of logic twisting too, as the writer of the musical explains to Orel that Judas could be considered a hero of Christianity due to how pivotal he was in the formation of the religion.
      Mr. Armature: If you look at it in the grand scheme of things, it would never be Christianity if it wasn't for grumpy old Judas.
  • 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 2-part episode "Nature" and subsequent episodes. In particular, a conversation between Orel and his mom sums it up nicely:
    Orel: But why did you marry Dad?
    Bloberta: Oh, well...(chuckles) why not?
    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.
  • Irony: The pilot has Ms. Censordoll forming a "To Burn" pile of books — among which was Fahrenheit 451.
    • Unlike the rest of the Puppingtons and Posabules, who are either an Identical Stranger (Clay, Bloberta, Art, and Poppet) or a Distaff Counterpart (Orel and Christina), Shapey and Block only act alike. This didn't stop the parents from taking each other's youngest child for a good few months and not noticing any difference.
  • Ironic Echo: The episode "Dumb" has Joe responding to any of his half-sister's attempts to discipline him with the declaration of "You're not my mom!" Near the end of the episode, after Joe finds out that his mother (Nurse Bendy) is alive, and that his dad forgot about her due to his Alzheimer's, he asks his half-sister why she didn't tell him. She responds "Why should I tell you anything? I'm not your mom," giving Joe permission to be with his real mom.
  • 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.
  • Jerkass:
    • Actually, this probably describes everyone in Moralton except for Orel, Stephanie, and Christina.
    • Some characters like Reverend Putty start out this way, but develop into fairly benevolent characters by the end of the series.
    • Clay is the embodiment of this. A self-centered asshole who cares only about himself and will only give someone the time of day if he's given attention.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: In "Loyalty", Clay actually gives Orel reasonable advice for once, telling him not to be loyal to Joe to the exclusion of all his other friends. However, being Clay, he misses the bigger picture and says nothing about Orel beating up other children for being homosexual.
  • Jerk Jock: Doughy's dad. He has the mind of an immature highschooler despite the fact he's an adult.
  • 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.
  • 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 Ludwig von 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.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: One of Orel's hobbies is Stop Motion animation, eventually leading to a Recap Episode done in in-universe Stop Motion... in a Stop Motion show.
  • 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 in Beforel Orel.
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: One of the many, many strains in Clay and Bloberta's Awful Wedded Life is that their youngest son, Shapey, looks nothing like Clay. "The Best Christmas Ever" has the two argue about it directly, revealing that Clay didn't want Shapey because he was convinced Bloberta had an affair, something the entire town knows about. When Clay points out that he doesn't remember conceiving Shapey, Bloberta blames his lack of memory on his constant drinking. It's repeatedly hinted, and later outright confirmed, that Shapey is the result of an affair between Bloberta and Coach Stopframe, who ironically only impregnated Bloberta to get closer to his actual crush, Clay.
  • Manchild: Doughy's parents, who still act like horny teenagers despite having a grade school-age kid (who they regularly neglect so they can make out.) Doughy's father is even constantly wearing his old varsity jacket.
    • Nurse Bendy is probably a better example of this trope in Moral Orel than Doughy's parents, given her living conditions as revealed in "Alone."
  • Marriage of Convenience: "Help" shows that, at the end of the day, Clay and Bloberta's marriage is this. Bloberta's primary motivation for getting married in the first place was because all the other ladies her age were getting married, and she needed to save face (and as an added bonus, getting married could help her get away from her own dysfunctional family). She and Clay met at a wedding reception, and despite numerous warning signs (especially after Bloberta introduced Clay to alcohol), she took the opportunity presented to her. They've both been miserable ever since, but living in ultra-religious Moralton means that there's no way they can get a divorce without taking a severe hit to their reputations.
  • Maternal Death? Blame the Child!: Played with; Clay's mother, Angela, didn't die in childbirth, but rather died from a heart attack after Clay faked his suicide when he found out he had ten miscarried brothers and sisters, and therefore wasn't really Angela's "precious only living ever." Afterwards, Arthur openly blamed his son for killing his wife, but initially refused to physically punish him because "[he wasn't] even worth hitting." In response, Clay began to goad his dad by claiming Angela dying was Arthur's fault, causing Arthur to hit him in retaliation; this, in turn, led to Clay associating physical abuse with affection as an adult.
  • Mature Work, Child Protagonists: The show follows the titular Orel Puppington, a naïve 12-year-old who struggles with growing up in a Christian Fundamentalist neighborhood. Orel's young age and unworldliness often leads to him doing unintentionally terrible things and the show also explores some dark subjects like alcoholism, infidelity, domestic abuse, mental illness and sexual violence (and it's not always played for Black Comedy either).
  • Mirror Character: 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.
  • Neat Freak: Subverted with Bloberta. She cleans everything she sees, even her own cleaning products, not because of being a neat freak, but so she can feel like she's being helpful around the house. Even before she got married to Clay, she was obsessed with cleaning.
  • No Name Given: the redheaded boy that hangs out with Orel and his friends. He's always lumped in as 'the rest' or 'the gang'. Even in the commercial promoting Beforel Orel, he's cut off by Orel before he could say his name. But his name was revealed through a cast sheet in "Orel's Movie Premiere". It's Billy. Which may actually explain why his name was never given: its the same as Billy Figurelli's.
  • Noodle Incident: "I'm never gonna do that in there with those things for that long ever again." Averted after it's explained in a later episode.
  • Not So Above It All: Ms. Censordoll, after Orel gets her favorite food (eggs) banned from the town, goes 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 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!
  • 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.

  • Old Maid: The episode "Help" reveals that Bloberta married Clay immediately after meeting him at a wedding reception in order to prevent becoming this. They've both been miserable ever since.

  • 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.
  • 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: Orel's school puts on one of these written by the oft-forgotten member of a band in an attempt to resurrect his career. One of its prominent features is the Villain Song by Orel (playing Judas) about his animosity towards Christ.
  • 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.
  • Quarter Hour Short: Each episode is around 11 to 12 minutes a piece, with Nature being a two part episode and Beforel Orel being a full 22 minute special.
  • Please Put Some Clothes On: Clay explains to Orel the "Lost" Eleventh Commandment which states, Thou shalt be ashamed of thy natural anatomy and that nudity is a horrible thing that should only be committed as a last resort in "The Lord's Greatest Gift".
  • Professional Voice Dissonance: Joe's older sister works as a secretary. When she's speaking on the phone, she holds her nose and speaks in a nasally, feminine voice. When she's speaking regularly, she has a deep manly voice.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Clay tries to act like a well-adjusted adult, but his selfishness, need for attention, and chronic inability to admit when he's done wrong show him to be deeply immature. Not to mention his Oedipus Complex that rules his mentality even as an adult.
  • Rape Leads to Insanity: As shown in "Alone," being raped and impregnated by Cecil Creepler, and then aborting the fetus, has clearly taken a toll on Agnes Sculptham's psyche. Even worse, she seems well aware of how messed up it is that she feels both horror and longing for her rapist.
    • From the same episode, Nurse Bendy is also shown to be suffering mentally due to constantly being taken advantage of sexually by the much older men in town with one encounter when she was only thirteen resulting in her getting pregnant. Her apartment is decorated like a little girl's, and once she steps into it, she literally plays house with a "hubby" and "sonny" bear in order for her to feel some semblance of a normal life. Thankfully, reuniting with her son, Joe, helps her get better.
  • 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.
  • The Reveal: When Oral goes to visit the mayor, he discovers that it's Clay's "lousy, dead-end job."
  • 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...
    • Clay endlessly complaining about his lousy, dead-end job as mayor of Moralton.
  • 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. By the end of the episode, when he has an epiphany about God and Heaven, Clay beats it out of him so he can keep up with Moralton's status quo.
  • 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.
  • Sexless Marriage: Clay and Bloberta, despite having children. It stems from the fact that they absolutely hate each other.
  • 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.
  • Skewed Priorities: The people of Moralton have a very messed up view of what is right and wrong. In "The Lord's Greatest Gift" for example, they didn't care so much that Oral made zombies, but more of the fact that he made naked zombies. And in "Charity", they don't care that he is becoming a crack addict, but more of the fact that he's also using slang words.
  • 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.
    • Angela and Arthur, Clay's parents. When Clay was born, Angela focused all her attention on him and Arthur was left all alone, making him bitter.
  • 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.
  • Social Services Does Not Exist: You'd expect Orel and Shapey to be sent to a foster home due to the immense abuse and neglect both of their parents give them. Then again, considering this is Moralton, this may be justified.
  • The Sociopath:
    • Clay Puppington is revealed to be a self-loathing alcoholic who shoots his son Orel in the leg during a hunting trip and later proclaims that he was glad that he shot him. He tries to invoke reactions from other people regardless if it ends with him being despised out of a desperate need for stimulation; he lacks empathy and remorse for any of his actions; and before his true nature was revealed, he acted like the stereotypical 1950's father as seen in television.
    • Cecil Creepler, Moralton's ice cream man who tries to get Orel's friend Doughy into the back of his van. He later becomes a prolific Serial Rapist who assaulted eight women one in particular being Ms. Stopham.
    • Miss Censordoll a Knight Templar who has the penchant of burning books and later takes advantage of Clay's Oedipus Complex to get what she wants.
  • Spoiled Brat:
    • 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.
  • 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.
    • There's also the lessons Orel learns at the start of most episodes which fuel his antics, which come to a head in "Innocence" when, after Orel's antics in "School Pageant" result in the entire town singing about how much Jesus sucks, everyone realizes how much of a bad idea it is to give Orel any advice, and actively try to avoid him, resulting in Orel gleaning extremely reluctant bits and pieces of advice from random townsfolk that eventually result in him getting his friends to bleed themselves out into a bathtub so he can bath in their blood and gain eternal youth, making him eternally innocent in the eyes of God and allowing him to go to war and kill without divine consequence. This turns out to be the breaking point for Clay, who doesn't even bother delivering his usual end-of-episode lesson.
  • 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.
  • Status Quo Is God: The people of Moralton take this phrase to heart. If anything goes against their dogma, they become upset and start a riot. In one case, Oral had a near death experience that contradicts their beliefs of Heaven and God, resulting in Clay literally beating the revelation out of him until he's back to his normal self.
    • This is the reason why Clay and Bloberta refuse to get a divorce. Not only does Moralton's religious views frown upon such a concept, but if word got out that that they have troubles in their marriage, they would become the subject of gossip.
  • Stealth Pun: The plot of the episode "Grounded" revolves around Orel electrocuting himself.
  • Stepford Smiler: Much of Moralton qualifies, but Bloberta stands out in particular. She cleans the underside of floor tiles.
  • Stepford Suburbia: Everyone in Moralton works hard to convince everyone else that things are perfect.
  • Subverted Kids' Show: Understatement.
  • Success as Revenge: Implied in the Distant Finale. Orel never sought revenge on Clay for the abuse and manipulation he endured throughout the series, but he got it anyway — him and his brothers have grown up happy and successful, while his parents are still trapped in their miserable facade of a marriage.
  • Suspiciously Specific Sermon: Reverend Putty likes to keep things topical.
  • Symbolic Distance: The Awful Wedded Life of Clay and Bloberta is a major focus throughout the series. Their blatant emotional separation is the result of years of destructive behavior and hatred to the point they will not even look at each other unless they are fully-clothed (shoes included). "Numb" showcases a divisive visual metaphor that serves as the page image for the episode, with Clay and Bloberta on separate beds with a wall between them, looking miserable.
  • 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. Eventually parodied with "Ludwig von Stopmotionanimationname".
    • "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.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: Orel knows what to expect whenever his dad takes him in his study. He responds with a Loud Gulp.
  • Those Two Guys: Parodied by the other two boys in Orel and Doughy's circle of friends, Tommy and "him/the gang."
  • Toilet Humor: "Waste" is a rare example of this trope without Vulgar Humor. Orel learns from his camp counselor that, in a survival situation, one can drink one's own urine to conserve energy and nutrients, which immediately brings Orel to the conclusion that he has to drink his own urine (and he even starts selling it to the rest of the town as an energy drink) because wasting - even something which is explicitly a waste product, like urine - is a sin.
  • Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth: The reason the show got cancelled was that the third season got so dark and depressing that Adult Swim execs developed buyer's remorse and cancelled the show out of fear that it would only get more depressing and disturbing.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: Less of a single unifying secret, and more the dark secrets most adults seem to have, and covered up by putting on a show of being a White Anglo Saxon Protestant.
  • Toy-Based Characterization: Orel, a young boy living in a fundamentalist Christian town, owns Bible-themed action figures like Regular God and Super God.
  • Truth in Television: Unfortunately, as odd as it seems to most people. In fact, the show was produced partially as a response to how powerful and hypocritical bible belt America became during the Bush years.
  • 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.
  • Visual Pun: "God's Blunders" ends with Orel literally standing on top of a soapbox to deliver the episodes' Spoof Aesop.
  • Vocal Dissonance: Principal Fakey's receptionist and Joe's half sister, Ms. Secondopinionson, sounds like a soft spoken 30 year-old man unless she pinches her nose to sound like a female receptionist talking through a loudspeaker.
  • 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 Episode: "Nature" stops beating around the bush about Clay, showing just how terrible of a human being he really is, and how abusive of a father he is towards Orel.
  • Wham Line: In "Nature Part 2", Orel to Clay: "I hate you."
  • White-and-Grey Morality: Orel is a genuinely good kid with Incorruptible Pure Pureness. While Moralton has many horrible people (including his own parents), lots of them are sympathetic, most of whom have their own Freudian Excuse. His parents both had issues with their own parents. While Miss Censordoll is pretty awful, she has one of her own (it's hard not to feel bad for her when you learn her mother removed her reproductive system). Reverend Putty is a bit cynical and jaded, but he has his own Pet the Dog moments in regards to Orel and his daughter Stephanie. Joe's a brat who bullies Orel and beats up kissing boys but he's afraid of growing old and didn't know his own mother.
  • 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.


A Different Voice For Work

Miss Secondopinionson pinches her nose to make her normally deep voice sound higher-pitched and more feminine whenever she's working or in a phone call.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / ProfessionalVoiceDissonance

Media sources: