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Top 10 Simpsons Jokes That Would NEVER Work On TV Now

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Laura Keating
When you’re on the air as long as “The Simpsons,” not all the jokes stand the test of time. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Simpsons Jokes That Wouldn’t Work on TV Today. For this list, we’re looking at those jokes we may’ve laughed at back in the day, but that would be considered dated or insensitive today. We’re focusing on older episodes here, and we are including questionable running gags – even if we’ve become desensitized. Written by Laura Keating
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When you’re on the air as long as “The Simpsons,” not all the jokes stand the test of time. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Simpsons Jokes That Wouldn’t Work on TV Today.

For this list, we’re looking at those jokes we may’ve laughed at back in the day, but that would be considered dated or insensitive today. We’re focusing on older episodes here, and we are including questionable running gags – even if we’ve become desensitized.

#10: Cultural Appropriation

Various Episodes
It’s great when different cultures can understand each other and share ideas, but when elements of a distinct culture become either a cheap prop or are repurposed for someone else’s gain, well, that’s what we call “cultural appropriation.” When this happened on “The Simpsons,” it was – ironically – centered around the most socially conscious character of the bunch: Lisa. Take “Treehouse of Horror II,” for example: Lisa literally dresses up as a Totem Pole. She does say she’s doing it to celebrate the Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest, but a culture is not a costume and given what a hot-button topic this is now, this outfit would not fly these days.

#9: No Movie for Bart

“Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie”
As punishment, Bart is prohibited from seeing the “Itchy & Scratchy” movie. Like, ever. The movie plays in Springfield for nearly a year, and when it leaves theaters Bart just accepts that he’ll never see Itchy & Scratchy on the big screen. Flash-forward 40 years, and Bart is now a Supreme Court Justice who sees the movie is back in theaters, so he and Homer finally go. In this digital age, the idea that the only way to see a movie is in the theater just wouldn’t connect. But even in 1992, when this episode aired, there were VCRs and video rental stores, so this penalty didn’t make much sense even then.

#8: Homer the Suicide Bomber

“A Tale of Two Springfields”
When the town of Springfield splits into two area codes, dividing the rich from the… less rich, a town meeting is called to settle the dispute. In what is in NO way an overreaction, Homer straps some dynamite to his chest to protest this supposed classism – and even tries to blow everyone up. The episode originally aired in November 2000, but post-9/11 it’s unlikely something like this would get past the censors. Kinda like how the prevalence of gun violence and mass shootings would probably mean that Ned Flanders’ dreams of sniping would stay on the cutting room floor today…

#7: Mental Illness

“Stark Raving Dad”
After his shirt is dyed pink in the wash, Homer’s mental stability is questioned at work and he’s institutionalized. And that’s about as deep as it gets: the episode makes light of mental illness without ever exploring the problems and complications that go along with it. Mental illness is a full spectrum of conditions, each with their own symptoms and treatment methods; definitely not as simple as an “Insane” stamp on your hand. There’s still stigma surrounding mental illness, but strides have been made – and an episode like this airing today would be a step back. Also, why can’t men wear pink anyway?

#6: Homer’s Alcoholism

Various Episodes
The fact that Homer is a bit of an oaf is part of his charm. However, in the first eight seasons, the family wasn’t quite as cartoonish as they are now, with many of their storylines grounded in reality. Homer’s 6-pack a day was part of that reality, and it’s a sadder depiction of dependency than many comedy shows would be comfortable with these days. In fact, Homer’s alcoholic antics have not only been maintained; they’ve escalated. However, given the increasingly unrealistic nature of the narratives, this joke is grandfathered in so it’s easy for viewers to overlook.

#5: Homophobic & Transphobic Jokes

Various Episodes
The most cited example of homophobia on “The Simpsons” is the episode “Homer’s Phobia,” in which Homer is directly critical of gay and lesbian people. TBH, even with the lesson learned at the end, the whole thing’s pretty cringe-worthy. What’s more, jokes at the expense of the transgender community have been common – even in otherwise pro-LGBTQ episodes. Example: when Patty comes out as a lesbian, Marge has misgivings. Yes, she has a change of heart in the end, but she also reveals that Patty’s girlfriend has male anatomy. And rather than including the trans-community in the show’s universe, the character claims to have been only dressing as a woman to have an easier time in pro-golf.

#4: Portrayal of Brazil

“Blame It on Lisa”
When it comes to “The Simpsons”’ travel episodes, it is equal opportunity mockery. But, while good-natured ribbing is one thing, it is a very fine line to walk. Pot shots at Canada are par for the course, and they really toe the line with Japan and Australia, but with Brazil the line was crossed. Instead of pouncing on idiosyncrasies, the episode painted Brazil as a rat-infested crime-haven riddled with pick-pocketing children and kidnappers, while failing to highlight anything positive. Riotur, the board in charge of tourism in Rio de Janeiro, said the episode severely harmed their image and they planned to sue Fox.

#3: Cultural Stereotypes

Various Episodes
“The Simpsons” has a huge cast of characters to draw from and play off, but many would not fly were they designed today. Most conspicuous, of course, are the immigrant characters. Even if they were meant to lend diversity to the town and alleviate racism, they’ve only added to it as walking stereotypes. Apu has been the topic of much discussion, but similar arguments could be made about the Asian side characters, and Luigi Risotto the Italian Chef. Furthermore, as these characters are voiced by white actors doing impressions of cultural accents, there’s more than a little soft racism at work.

#2: Strangling Bart

Various Episodes
It’s one of the series’ longest running gags; they even mention it in the episode “Behind the Laughter.” But do you ever stop to think about how violent and awful it is when Homer strangles his son? Can you imagine watching “Bob’s Burgers” and seeing Bob choking out Gene in a moment of rage? This bit still happens on “The Simpsons” from time to time, and has become more or less episodic wallpaper. But parenting methods have changed since 1989, and while most parents have never or would never throttle their child, even spanking was much more acceptable in the ‘80s and ‘90s than it is now. Child abuse for laughs just doesn’t poll well.

#1: Rape Jokes

Various Episodes
Rape culture and sexual assault are now being openly discussed, as years of abuse in many industries has come to light, so there’s no way “The Simpsons” would get away with this type of joke unchecked these days. But back in the day, in the episode “Homer vs. Dignity,” the show made light of rape when Homer is forcibly molested by a panda. Later, in “Strong Arms of the Ma,” things get even more shocking when Marge rapes Homer. Uh, who in the writers’ room thought spousal rape was funny? Just because it’s a woman perpetuating the assault does not make it okay.

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