It is and isn’t hard to believe the first episode of The Simpsons aired on December 17, 1989. While it’s flabbergasting to think the show has been on the air for more than a quarter of a century, The Simpsons is such an American institution it feels timeless. In returning to old episodes, you might find some jokes that make you grimace – there are plenty of offensive jokes on the Simpsons the show couldn’t get away with now.
So what’s this all about? Are there racist jokes on The Simpsons? That’s probably in the eye of the beholder – where do you draw the line between racist jokes and jokes about race? There are certainly jokes you couldn’t get away with today, and what many would consider outdated Simpsons jokes. There are also blatant sexual references, political jabs, and a blurring of the lines between adult and children’s content that wouldn’t fly in an increasingly divided programming system. Read on to see the Simpsons jokes that wouldn’t work today.
Homer Gets Raped By a Panda
Episode:”Homer vs Dignity” (Season 12, Episode 5, November 26, 2000)
The Joke: Homer dresses up as a panda at the Springfield Zoo and a real panda rapes him.
Why It Wouldn’t Fly: The episode makes light of rape and bestiality.
Stewie Tells Moe His Sister’s Getting Raped
Episode: “The Simpsons Guy” (Season 13, Episode 1 of Family Guy, September 28, 2014)
The Joke: “The Simpsons Guy” is a Family Guy/The Simpsons cross over that aired as a Family Guy season premier. During the episode, Bart shows Stewie the prank phone call routine he does with Moe’s Tavern. Stewie tries it himself and says to Moe, “Your sister is being raped.”
Why It Wouldn’t Fly: The joke caused quite a furor when the episode debuted in 2014, coming as it did on the heels of the Steubenville High School rape case and tremendous national dialogue about rape and rape culture. Years later, after the Brock Turner rape controversy and other high profile cases, it’s hard to imagine the network even trying to get away with this joke.
The Show Makes a Crude Joke about Brazil
Episode: “Blame It on Lisa” (Season 13, Episode 15, March 31, 2002)
The Joke: The Simpson family goes to Brazil to search for soccer legend Ronaldo. The show portrays Brazil as a crime-ridden hell hole, rife with kidnappings, mugging, fiendish bisexual predators, rampaging monkeys, rat infestations, and grotesque slums.
In response the the episode, the Rio de Janeiro tourism board nearly sued Fox for damaging the city’s image.
Why It Wouldn’t Fly: It is hard to believe that these kinds of jokes, which rely heavily upon negative racial and cultural stereotypes, would be acceptable in 2020.
The Catholic Church Gets a Sexy Makeover
Episode: “Sunday, Cruddy Sunday” (Season 10, Episode 12. January 31, 1999)
The Joke: A fake Super Bowl ad for the Catholic Church, featuring scantily clad women at a gas station cleaning a man’s car and seductively penetrating the gas tank with the pump handle, while crucifix pendants dangle between their breasts. The voice over says, “The Catholic Church: we’ve made a few changes.”
Why It Wouldn’t Fly: You could say it’s due to an increasing sensitivity toward religion or a feeling that the joke is misogynistic. Some commentators might also argue that it’s actually because audiences and networks no longer understand, and therefore don’t permit, intelligent satire. Following critics like Ted Gioia from the Daily Beast, this fake commercial could be interpreted as an incisive parody of advertising.
Rabbits Fake Orgasms Too, Kids
Episode: “Bart’s Friend Falls in Love” (Season 3, Episode 23, May 7, 1992)
The Joke: Ms. Krabappel shows Bart’s class a sex education video entitled Fuzzy Bunny’s Guide to You Know What, which tells the story of a pair of rabbits who comes of age, fall in love, get married, have sex, and pump out a ton of kids. During the video’s sex scene, Ms. Krabappel, completely blasé and smoking a cigarette, intones, “She’s faking it.”
Why It Wouldn’t Fly: Because, according to sociologist Dr. Casey Ryan Kelly, television valorizes depictions of abstinence and sexual innocence, particularly among adolescents and young adults.
Bart Wants to Eat Out
Episode: “Love Is a Many Splintered Thing” (Season 24, Episode 12, February 10, 2013)
The Joke: Bart pleads his romantic interest Mary Spuckler (voiced by Zooey Deschanel) to be with him, saying “I’ll be more attentive to your needs on the seesaw. I’ll stay down there as long as you want.”
Why It Wouldn’t Fly: Because the jokes imply sexual activity between children.
Trashing New Orleans
Episode: “A Streetcar Named Marge” (Season 4, Episode 2, October 1, 1992)
The Joke: In “A Streetcar Named Marge,” there’s a musical number with some brutal lyrics about New Orleans. Here they are, in all their savageness –
Long before the Superdome
Where the Saints of football play…
Lived a city that the damned call home
Hear their hellish rondelet…
Home of pirates, drunks and whores
Tacky overpriced souvenir stores
If you want to go to hell, you should take a trip
To the Sodom and Gomorrah of the Mississip’
Stinking, Rotten, vomiting, vile
Putrid, brackish, maggotty, foul
Crummy, lousy, rancid, and rank
Why It Wouldn’t Fly: This joke would likely be considered offensive in the wake of the destruction of Hurricane Katrina.
Homer Asks Marge How He Should Whack It
Episode: “Whacking Day” (Season 4, Episode 20, April 29, 1993)
The Joke: Homer, stroking a baseball bat, asks Marge, “Should I whack it slow or fast?” Marge replies, “Slow, then fast!”
Why It Wouldn’t Fly: For one, it’s too obvious in a time of such hyper-sexualization, and yet, weirdly, also too adult for overly sanitized children’s programming.
Smithers Wants the Seamen to Himself
Episode: “Treehouse of Horror III” (Season 4, Episode 5, October 29, 1992)
The Joke: Mr. Burns asks Smithers his opinion is on hiring Marge, to which Smithers responds, “I think women and seamen don’t mix.”
Why It Wouldn’t Fly: The episode aired in 1992, well before children could turn to social media to figure out inappropriate double entendres in a few minutes. You could get away with stuff like this in the early ’90s, but now it’s too risqué.
Ned Begs to Be Fisted
Episode: “Black-Eyed, Please” (Season 24, Episode 15, March 10, 2013)
The Joke: Ned punches Homer in the hopes Homer will return the favor. Ned says, “I’m insisting on a fisting.” Smithers appears from nowhere and asks, “What’s this about a fisting?”
Why It Wouldn’t Fly: In all likelihood, it probably would fly, since the episode aired in 2013.
Marge and Homer Bang So Hard It Petrifies the Kids
Episode: “Treehouse of Horror XII” (Season 13, Episode 1. November 6, 2001)
The Joke: Homer carries Marge up the stairs, obviously aroused. Cut to post-sex. Marge says “Oh, Homie, that was amazing. I hope the kids didn’t hear us!” Cut to Bart and Lisa, wide eyed in bed, stupefied. Cut to Flanders, in bed, a shocked looks on his face as he says, “Wow.”
Why It Wouldn’t Fly: Because kids and sex.
Fox News Gets Taken to Task for Pandering to Ignoramuses
Episode: “The Fool Monty” (Season 22, Episode 6, November 21, 2010)
The Joke: A Fox News helicopter emblazoned with the slogan “Not Racist, But #1 with Racists.”
After the episode aired, Fox anchor Bill O’Reilly had a conniption, saying, “Continuing to bite the hand that feeds part of it, Fox broadcasting once again allows its cartoon characters to run wild.”
Why It Wouldn’t Fly: Because, if recent trends tell us anything, making money is more important than making quality, and one arm of a network slapping the other just wouldn’t fly anymore.
Put Your Sperm In Your Hands
Episode: “Selma’s Choice” (Season 4, Episode 13, January 21, 1993)
The Joke: A silly visual joke – a sperm bank with a sign reading “Put your sperm in your hands.”
Why It Wouldn’t Fly: It comes down to marketing. Who is The Simpsons really for? You could get away with this in a show obviously geared toward teenagers and adults, like South Park, but The Simpsons has equal appeal for younger kids. If the marketing team doesn’t know who to sell something to, the network probably won’t try sell it at all.
Homer Becomes Mr. Plow, Sex Machine
Episode: “Mr. Plow” (Season 4, Episode 9, November 19, 1992)
The Joke: Homer buys a snowplow and gets a jacket with “Mr. Plow” inscribed on the back. Marge takes a shine to Homer’s new persona and asks him to wear his new jacket to bed.
Why It Wouldn’t Fly: There’s a lot to unpack here. First, Marge’s obvious fetish for a man in uniform. Secondly, adult couples in family shows in 2020 are rarely shown to have any serious sexual urges, especially sitcoms, like Modern Family or Blackish. And then there’s the double meaning of plow – Homer’s new nickname basically makes him a sexual annihilator.
Marge Goes for a 10 Minute Ride
Episode: “Life on the Fast Lane” (Season 1, Episode 9, March 18, 1990)
The Joke: Homer carries Marge to the backseat of his car, declaring “I won’t be back for ten minutes!” So now we know how long Homer can go for.
Why It Wouldn’t Fly: Not because it’s too risqué, but because the increasingly adult nature of many shows in the so-called Golden Age of Television has led to a bifurcation by which family shows are sexually bereft and adult shows are so overloaded with sex, sometimes there’s nothing else happening. Shows like The Simpsons, which appeal to kids and adults, and don’t stereotype or condescend to either group, don’t exist anymore.
Springfield Heights Institute Of Technology
Episode: “Much Apu About Nothing” (Season 7, Episode 23, May 5, 1996)
The Joke: A classic, simple sight gag – the sign for Springfield Heights Institute Of Technology, or SHIT.
Why It Wouldn’t Fly Today: Among other reasons, because cartoons in the 90s all had something warped, dark, or profane about them, while children’s programming in 2020 is driven by the overly-sanitized dictates of the Pixarification of culture.