‘Simpsons’ Producers Strangle the ‘Clickbait’ Narrative That Homer’s Done Throttling Bart
After the internet exploded over the supposed retiring of one of The Simpsons’ oldest running gags, producers of the perennial comedy series told all the headline chasers and clickbait crafters to hold their tongues – preferably in a spastically squiggling position while they wring our necks.
On October 22nd, Fox aired a fresh Simpsons episode, “McMansion & Wife,” which featured an unusually meta joke from Homer after his new neighbor complimented his grip strength. “See, Marge? Strangling the boy has paid off!” Homer said to his wife, quickly adding, “Just kidding, I don’t do that anymore. Times have changed.” At the time, the joke made little more than a ripple – after all, it had been over three seasons since Homer last exercised his throat-throttlers on his son. However, when mainstream news outlets picked up on the seemingly impactful punchline from Twitter threads debating the declarative qualities of the quip, front page headlines proclaiming that Homer has forever retired his antiquated disciplinary technique quickly spread across the internet.
Then, in an exclusive statement sent to Variety this morning, executive producers from The Simpsons poked fun at the “clickbaiting” writers of CNN, Complex and Cracked.com who sensationalized the strangulation cessation.
The announcement that the strangulation in the Simpsons house will, in fact, continue comes at a weird moment in the non-story’s news cycle. Dr. Melissa Merrick, the CEO and President of Prevent Child Abuse America, just released a statement praising The Simpsons for ostensibly taking a stance against harming children -- Merrick believes that it’s important for the long-running series to demonstrate appropriate and responsible depictions of non-physical family dynamics, telling TMZ of the show’s apparent decision to curtail comedic child abuse, "It makes me like The Simpsons even more."
It's also worth noting that, while the official stance from the showrunners is that strangulation is still on the table, The Simpsons hasn’t shown Homer choking Bart since the Season 31 episode “The Winter of Our Monetized Content.” The throttling gag hasn’t been completely absent in the seasons since – the most recent episode, “Treehouse of Horror XXXIV,” featured a Homerified Kirk Van Houten strangle his son, MillHomer – but, in the central Simpsons household, Homer’s been taking a hands-off approach to his son’s windpipe for quite a while now.
Of course, the response by the Simpsons producers to the non-controversy begs questions over why The Simpsons included the inciting line in the first place if they didn’t plan on phasing out asphyxiation. Perhaps it was a simple throwaway joke that didn’t offend the showrunners’ dismissive approach to the Simpsons canon. Maybe it was another attempt to appeal to modern liberal sensibilities by showing that The Simpsons is now sensitive to social issues. Or, possibly, Homer’s comment was carefully laid bait designed to send hack internet writers into hysterics, just to dunk on us weeks later. Whatever the intention, the non-story got everyone talking about new Simpsons episodes – too bad it’s been the only part of Season 35 worth discussing.