“Times have changed.” And so has Homer Simpson. The father of television's most famous cartoon family has evolved into a caring, sharing renaissance man and will no longer strangle his son, Bart. Euronews Culture gets to grips with the story.
After 34 years and, as of writing, 755 episodes produced, The Simpsons is changing its ways.
More accurately, patriarch Homer Simpson has acknowledged he’s changed his ways. He has revealed he no longer strangles his son, Bart.
In the third episode of season 35, titled “McMansion & Wife”, Homer declares that he’s changed his ways when he and his wife Marge pay a visit to their new neighbour, Thayer.
When Homer shakes the new character’s hand, Thayer remarks that he has a firm grip.
“See, Marge, strangling the boy paid off,” Homer remarks, before adding: “Just kidding, I don’t do that anymore. Times have changed.”
The episode first aired on 22 October, but the throwaway remark has generated much online conversation when the scene was posted by a viewer on X, earlier this month.
“Took them long enough lmao,” the user, @BabyLamb5, commented on the recurring gag in the beloved animated series.
Indeed, a cornerstone of the father-son dynamic between Homer and Bart is the latter reprimanding his eldest child by squeezing his neck and nearly throttling him to death.
The Simpsons series, created by Matt Groening, has been praised for acknowledging the end of this running joke, especially by those who saw the frequently criticised action as the brutality of another era.
However, a notable (and predictable) critic has been GB News – the British free-to-air opinion-orientated news television channel which has become a port of call for Brexit-loving conservatives, and more right-leaning than someone with their right leg blown off. They’ve gotten into hot water recently for outspoken misogyny and have also hired former PM Boris Johnson to become what they have described as a “battering ram” to take on Fox News in the US.
That should tell you plenty.
The news organisation has led the backlash by saying that The Simpsons had gone woke by not showing a grown man attempting to administer corporal punishment through neck tightening.
Whatever side you take, there’s one major fault here when it comes to GB News' not at all unreasonable and completely hinged reaction: they clearly haven’t watched the show and will jump on any bandwagon to cry foul.
You see, Homer hasn’t strangled Bart since Season 31 (2019-2020). That’s a full pandemic and three prime ministers ago, GB News.
Moreover, the topic of child violence had been covered before on The Simpsons, with Homer even attending a “fathering enrichment class” in the Season 22 episode "Love is a Many Strangled Thing". That one aired in 2011.
During the episode, a basketball player played by former NBA star Kareem Abdul Jabbar strangles Homer to show him exactly what it feels like, before inviting others to join in. As a result, Homer can’t bring himself to strangle Bart anymore.
It’s far from the first time the sitcom has acknowledged that times have changed.
Most notably, The Simpsons updated its humour to fit with evolving standards in 2020, when Hank Azaria said he would no longer voice the character of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, an Indian convenience store owner who became known for his catchphrase, “Thank you! Come again.”
The character of Apu was criticised by viewers of Indian descent, many of whom viewed the character as a racist caricature. The character was eventually phased out, especially after the discussion went global following the release of the 2017 documentary The Problem With Apu. The doc saw comedian Hari Kondabolu speak to other Indian American performers, who said the character had come to represent marginalization within the entertainment industry.
So, before anyone uses cringe-worthy terms like “woke brigade”, “PC gone mad” or “snowflakes” in reference to Homer’s retired choking proclivities, you’d do well to appreciate The Simpson's desire to adapt to the times. Oh, and actually watch the show.
Which is getting good again. Now, THAT’S progress.