Manufactured Outrage or Not, 'The Simpsons' Strangling Controversy Is Offensive to Its Fans

If a main character's words hold no weight, what do the show's writers think of their own fans?

BY Sydney BrasilPublished Nov 13, 2023

In what seems to be the most blatant, yawn-worthy publicity stunt The Simpsons has pulled off in recent years, strangle-gate continues to rage on despite literally nobody asking for it. That said, it's only being egged on by two sets of people: those who are lying to themselves and think the show still puts out quality programming, and the team behind The Simpsons themselves.

Following last week's claims that any publication reporting on Homer saying he doesn't strangle Bart on-air is just writing clickbait, Simpsons co-creator James L. Brooks has insisted that the choking will continue.

"Don't think for a second we're changing anything," he told People yesterday. "Nothing's getting tamed. Nothing, nothing, nothing. He'll continue to be strangled — [if] you want to use that awful term for it. He'll continue to be loved by his father in a specific way."

At this point, the choking gag itself is so beyond the crux of this. No "cancel culture" demanded the strangling stop, so the show's writers must be creating this discourse. As such, The Simpsons is relying on us to believe its audience lacks media literacy skills. If a character says a gag doesn't happen anymore — after it quietly hadn't made an appearance in four seasons to boot — shouldn't we rightly assume there is weight to those words?

It's even more ironic that there has been far more scrutiny from the show's low-brow fans, who can't fully grasp satire, than from any anti-child abuse activists. The Simpsons have never been a model family, and their dysfunction has always been a driving point of the show. There's never been a large-scale conversation about Homer choking Bart until this point — proving this has all been some offensive bait-and-switch where the show insults its own viewers.

The Simpsons did not conquer cancel culture by manufacturing its own outrage. Instead, it has patted the back of its echo chamber of fans who still tune in every week — which has always been its goal in recent years anyway. They haven't had to bank on selling the show for over 20 years, so its best bet is to placate and entertain its remaining fans in any way possible — unless it involves making good TV.

If anything, strangle-gate has solidified that The Simpsons' continuance is detrimental to its own legacy; not only because of its dilapidated quality, but also because its creators think so poorly of its viewers. If they don't respect their audience, why do they deserve accolades in return?

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