The Simpsons is one of those shows that feels like it will be around forever. Everyone has a favorite Simpsons episode. Its dialogue and jokes have seamlessly become interwoven into the fabric of society at this point. It’s a series that has endured a lot through the years, but still manages to be one of the most intelligent, popular animated series that are out there. It doesn’t get much bigger than The Simpsons.
Even though the series might feel like its invulnerable at times, The Simpsons is still a show that has experienced compromises and examples of censorship, just like anyone else. In fact, international airings of The Simpsons in the UK undergo a rather intensive process of censorship.
Some of these edits are understandable, like when cursing from the series gets removed. However after Princess Diana’s death, UK broadcasts of The Simpsons got especially crazy with their censoring. It was reaching the point where any car crashes and even any mention of the word “royal” were being edited out of episodes.
Many of these more ridiculous examples of when The Simpsons had to concede or when the show got “too real” are completely unknown by even the most die hard of Simpsons fans.
So get ready to learn about the big moments when the show’s subject matter really made them say, “D’oh!” Here are the 15 The Simpsons Episodes That Were Censored.
15. Drug Use In “Weekend At Burnsie’s”
After some ornery crows repeatedly peck Homer’s eyes (just another Sunday with the Simpson family), he finds himself getting a prescription to medical marijuana to ease the pain.
Boldly, this episode explores the idea of Homer forming an addiction to medicinal marijuana and his family beginning to worry that it might be negatively affecting him (in spite of the success it’s bringing him at work).
As funny as the idea of Homer being stoned might be, FOX was obviously uneasy about the episode’s subject matter, worrying that it might be glorifying drug use to young viewers. As a result, the severity of Homer’s drug use was toned back, but it’s still one of the few episodes to receive a TV-14 rating in the US.
The UK was even more concerned about the episode’s subject matter and Sky One refused to air the episode for years. Now, the episode has found itself back in rotation, but it still airs very infrequently due to its “uncut” status.
14. Banksy’s Provocative Couch Gag In “MoneyBart”
One of the more exciting “changes” made during the more recent seasons of The Simpsons involves guest animators getting to come in and provide a personalized stab at the show’s iconic opening “couch gag.”
Many incredible talents have come in to inject the show with new styles and visuals, but one of the most memorable experiments is without a doubt when The Simpsons hired graffiti artist Banksy to do an opening.
The controversial anti-corporate artist is given a surprisingly long leash with his couch gag. The sequence features a staggering amount of Korean sweatshop workers slaving away on The Simpsons while America continues to make money and prosper from the title.
It’s an incredibly jaded, pessimistic slant on the American animation industry, but apparently Banksy wanted to go even further with all of this, but had to accept minor concessions to his vision.
13. “Homer’s Phobia” And The Representation of Homosexuality
“Homer’s Phobia” has since been recognized as one of the best episodes that The Simpsons would produce, with John Waters’ work in the episode also amounting to one of the most memorable guest voices from the series.
In a nutshell, “Homer’s Phobia” revolves around Homer’s “concern” over the fact that Bart might be gay. While acting as The Simpsons’ first foray into LBGT issues, there’s actually quite the sweet message of acceptance here (the entry would also go on to win several awards). The humor is more from Homer’s ignorance rather than any actual criticism over homosexuality.
Typical Simpsons episodes would receive a few line alternatives from the censors, but “Homer’s Phobia” was generating pages of notes for almost every line. The censors were incredibly reluctant to use the word “gay” or discuss it in any context.
The network’s censor notes for “Homer’s Phobia” firmly concluded with, “The topic and substance of this episode are unacceptable for broadcast.” The entire episode was the problem here and if it wasn’t for a changing of the guard with FOX’s president, this episode might have never seen the light of day.
12. Jokes In “Cape Feare”
It must have been pretty rough to be a Simpsons fan in Germany during the ‘90s because “Cape Feare” is undisputedly one of the show’s all-time best episodes. To be missing out on that is more torturous than stepping on a dozen rakes.
“Cape Feare” is a classic Sideshow Bob installment of the series that sees the Simpsons entering the witness relocation program due to Bob’s murder threats towards Bart.
There’s a lot to love in this episode, but unfortunately Germany wasn’t able to enjoy it during the span of 1993 to 1999 and it’s all over a scene that’s extremely disconnected from the rest of the installment.
Sure, “Cape Feare” is all about a killer trying to murder a child, but it’s McBain’s stand-up material at the start of the episode that set Germany off. McBain’s references and “jokes” towards homosexuals was too much for the country, and the episode was accordingly skipped in rotation.
11. “Blame It On Lisa” And Its Depiction Of Rio De Janeiro
A lot of episodes of The Simpsons have seen the titular family going on vacations all over the world and curiously this usually ends up being an occasion for some sort of controversy or censorship on the show’s part.
Season 13’s “Blame it on Lisa” sees the Simpsons heading to Brazil in order to aid Ronaldo, a child who Lisa has been sponsoring over there. In spite of the episode having good intentions, the bulk of the episode’s plot revolves around Homer being kidnapped and held for ransom due to Rio’s dangerous nature.
Ritour, the tourist board of Rio de Janeiro, was so outraged with the depiction of their city, that they even threatened to sue the show. Their actions aren’t exactly surprising, considering the show paints Rio as a place full of crime, slums, rat infestations, and being over sexualized.
Not to mention, a lot of Brazilian culture in the episode is also inaccurately mixed and confused with the cultures of other Latin American countries. Once James L. Brooks issued an apology, Ritour dropped their lawsuit, but the episode still seldomly airs due its controversy.
10. “Day Of The Jackanapes” and Suicide Bombings
It shouldn’t be too surprising that a lot of Sideshow Bob’s entries from The Simpsons end up being triggers in a lot of markets. He’s a character that so often revolves around murder and graphic violence, which is going to be a little much for some people.
“Day of the Jackanapes,” while a later Sideshow Bob episode, is still rather satisfying. It involves Bob becoming set on (once again) murdering Krusty after the Clown has revealed that he’s erased all of the old Sideshow Bob installments of Krusty the Clown Show.
Bob’s malevolent murder plan sees him trying to take out two birds with one stone, by brainwashing Bart to become his tool to get rid of Krusty.
“Day of the Jackanapes” takes a number of nods from The Manchurian Candidate, as Bart is slowly brainwashed to assassinate Krusty and take himself out in the process via a suicide vest.
9. “Moms I’d Like To Forget” and Lesbian Activity
“Moms I’d Like to Forget” is an episode from The Simpsons’ 22nd season so it deserves a decent amount of slack. Even still, some of the decisions in this episode are truly bizarre, and unsurprisingly, there are some red flag moments that have been edited out in subsequent broadcasts.
The middling episode sees Marge reconnecting with an old group of moms (“The Cool Moms”) that she used to be friends with. Marge’s investment in her new mom friends means that Bart is now spending more time with their children and having new friends forced upon him. This is something that eventually wears out its welcome for Bart.
None of the above material is a problem, but when Marge leaves her new friends at the end of the episode, these three women inexplicably begin to make out with each other. This scene has been removed from subsequent airings on FOX affiliates.
Also, Bart’s solution to dismantle “The Cool Moms” is with a huge fireworks explosion. Curiously, the scene involving Bart acquiring and trying to blow up fireworks is cut from UK broadcasts of the episode.
8. Offending the Russian Orthodox Church in “Looking For Mr. Goodbart”
Sometimes the reason for edits can be specific cultural triggers rather than it always being some graphic display of sex or violence. For example, “Looking for Mr Goodbart,” an episode that’s all about the recent Pokémon Go phenomenon, appears to be a totally innocent entry that’s not going to cause any problems.
However it’s a Simpsons episode that Russia has gone as far as saying could “compromise the network and cause controversy.”
The issue here is that “Looking for Mr. Goodbart” sees Homer’s obsession with Peekimon Get leading to him playing the ARG title while in church. This is something that the Russian TV station 2×2 took major exception with due to it possibly looking like an attack on the Russian Orthodox Church.
Such a response might seem a little drastic, but in 2016 a Russian vlogger was arrested for posting a video of himself playing Pokémon Go while in church, so there’s interesting precedent set here. No one gets a break, not even Homer Simpson.
7. “Wild Barts Can’t Be Broken” And The Washington Sniper
Other radical instances of censorship can just be the result of severely unfortunate timing. Something that normally wouldn’t seem wildly offensive can gain a whole new light when recent events put it in a different context.
“Wild Barts Can’t Be Broken” deals with Chief Wiggum enacting a curfew for Springfield’s children as a means of cutting down on all of the mischief. The episode has a lot of fun with the dichotomy between Springfield’s youth and adults, but unfortunately Moe Szyslak and Chief Wiggum’s big mouths ends up pushing things into touchy territory.
In this episode, Moe has the line, “that sniper at the all-star was a blessing in disguise,” and then not long later Wiggum says, “any child found outside after dark will be shot.” These twisted lines become deeply disturbing when considering the Washington sniper attacks in October of 2002.
The BBC 2 was originally set to air this episode in October of the same year, but they’d end up shelving the episode and postponing its premiere. When the episode eventually aired, these two sniper lines were removed (although they’ve since been re-instated), so why wasn’t that just originally done in the first place?
6. “Treehouse Of Horror XXVII” And Its Graphic Violence
The Simpsons’ annual Halloween instalments usually push the boundaries of what the show is allowed to get away with. By far the most brutal displays of violence in the show’s run have come from the fantastical “Treehouse of Horror” segments.
“Treehouse of Horror XXVII” feels like it’s going for broke in a lot of ways, possibly because it’s the series’ 600th episode, so why not go a little crazy?
The worst offender of the episode’s three segments is its “BFF R.I.P.” story, which sees Lisa’s imaginary friend enacting real justice on those that are around her. Many people are viciously killed here, with the following “MoeFinger” segment continuing to lean into violence whenever possible.
The big issue with “Treehouse of Horror XXVII” comes up in New Zealand, due to the series airing at 7pm over there. This earlier airtime means that the especially morbid nature of this Halloween episode was just too much for the network TVNZ, who pulled it from their schedule.
5. “Marge Gets A Job” And “On A Clear Day I Can’t See My Sister” Making Radiation Jokes
With Homer Simpson working in a nuclear power plant, it’s only natural that some subject matter that’s dealing with nuclear meltdowns and radiation sensitivity is eventually going to pose a problem.
Strangely enough, though, it’s some of the series’ more cavalier, broader jokes about radiation that would end up causing uproars in some markets.
“Marge Gets a Job” makes a rather ridiculous joke about radiation turning the Curries into Godzilla-like monsters, while “On a Clear Day I Can’t See My Sister” makes some glib jabs about nuclear meltdowns in the context of global warming.
Following the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, plus the resulting nuclear emergency that would follow, Austria’s ORF Network, Canada’s OMNI channel, as well as other stations stopped airing both of these episodes altogether.
4. Seizure scene in “Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo”
This one shouldn’t come as a big surprise to those that have seen the episode. “Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo” takes the Simpson family to Japan and the instalment basically plays into every Japanese stereotype that comes to mind.
The biggest offender is the episode’s “seizure scene” which sees Homer and company willfully inducing seizures via anime as a means of relaxing. There’s clearly a lot of love in the episode, but it’s still easy to see why the broad endeavor might rub people the wrong way, especially those that are actually from Japan.
Japan’s decision to not air this episode on their stations wouldn’t be that surprising, but the country actually goes one step further to show just how much they disapprove of this episode.
3. “The Cartridge Family” And Its Depiction Of Gun Use
“The Cartridge Family” is an understandable episode of controversy for The Simpsons. It’s an episode that’s arguably exceedingly funny, but it also sees Homer Simpson coming into possession of a gun and completely abusing the weapon.
There are few things more terrifying than that idea. “The Cartridge Family” very intentionally tries to not present a pro- or anti-gun slant in its story, but it’s still full of very shocking images.
For instance, one scene sees Homer straight up pointing a gun at Marge’s face while another shows Bart doing the same thing with Milhouse, while the two “play.”
Sky One went as far as banning this episode entirely and saving it for a “Too Hot For TV” VHS compilation title that was made up of other unaired episodes. As of 2005, Sky One has started airing the episode again, but US rebroadcasts frequently censor out the two aforementioned gunplay scenes.
With how much more sensitive society has gotten to gun use lately, it’s hard to imagine this episode being attempted at all in today’s climate. It’s certainly an ambitious direction for the series to go and it’s why such controversy still surrounds the instalment.
2. “The City of New York Vs. Homer Simpson”
This is certainly one of the most notorious episodes of The Simpsons and it still might be the episode that ends up airing the most infrequently.
Basically, Barney takes a drunken joyride with Homer’s car and ends up abandoning it at the World Trade Center. This results in Homer and his family going to NYC to recover his car, with a number of misunderstandings going on in between.
If it’s not already clear, the reason that this episode would later be removed completely from 2001 to 2006 is how prominently the World Trade Center is a part of the story. After the devastating attacks of September 11th, the episode was understandably pulled from markets.
After years had passed, the episode slowly started returning in some syndication package, albeit still with edits. The biggest one being when an argument between two people in Tower One and Tower Two results in the Tower Two person yelling, “They stick all the jerks in Tower One!”
1. “A Streetcar Named Marge” And Its Slandering Of New Orleans
“A Streetcar Named Marge” is a really beautiful episode of The Simpsons that deals with Marge’s unfulfilling role in life and Homer trying to understand her better. The entry finds some really endearing common ground between Homer and Marge by the time it’s over.
It’s just unfortunate that it also has to feature a musical number that’s entirely devoted to bashing New Orleans. The number from out of the musical adaptation of A Streetcar Named Desire that Marge is starring in sarcastically sings about how New Orleans is full of drunks, whores, and that it’s not much of a step up from Hell itself.
Unsurprisingly, New Orleans took a good deal of offense to the peppy musical number, resulting in The Simpsons officially issuing an apology via Bart’s chalkboard gag in the following episode: “I Will Not Defame New Orleans.”
The episode would go under fire a second time when in 2005 the episode was aired by Channel 4 shortly after the events of Hurricane Katrina. The unfortunate timing led to Channel 4 issuing an apology two days later, with the New Orleans-centric song being removed entirely from future broadcasts.
Here are some of the biggest cases of censorship throughout The Simpsons, but are there even more out there? Let us know in the comment section!
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