‘Simpsons’ Memes Are at the Forefront of an Australian Political Dispute

Blinky the fish has become a powerful symbol
‘Simpsons’ Memes Are at the Forefront of an Australian Political Dispute

The Simpsons has an odd relationship with Australia. The Season Six episode “Bart vs. Australia” didn’t exactly portray the country in the most flattering light — from the games of “Knifey Spoony” to the depiction of their prime minister as a nude, Foster’s-swilling layabout named Andy.

Longtime Simpsons writer Mike Reiss even claimed that the show was “condemned in the Australian Parliament after the episode.” No word on whether or not the government ever tried to extradite Matt Groening for a public booting.

Now The Simpsons are once again at the forefront of an Australian political controversy — not because of a controversial episode, but because Simpsons memes have been “weaponized” to push back against a controversial plan to build more nuclear power plants. 

Australia’s opposition leader Peter Dutton recently announced that the Coalition Party, if elected, would construct seven new nuclear power plants on specific sites throughout the country. The logistics of this plan have been questioned, as has its legality. Reportedly the Coalition “has not consulted the communities or the site owners about their proposal,” which seems like something you might do before publicly announcing a plan to build seven nuclear reactors?

In response to this announcement, the Labor Party and union organizations are fighting back using Simpsons memes. The Australian Council of Trade Unions has been handing out stickers featuring Blinky, the three-eyed fish who was mutated due to his proximity to the Springfield nuclear plant. 

The Australian Council of Trade Unions

Labor assistant minister Andrew Leigh shared a modified image of Blinky’s Aussie namesake, the koala character Blinky Bill, with three eyes, posing in front of Homer Simpson’s workplace. 

Defenders of the nuclear plan are blasting this “scare campaign,” claiming that critics are “relying on The Simpsons to win their case.”

Weirdly, this isn’t the first time that The Simpsons has been dragged into this kind of debate. Just two years ago, the leader of the National Party of Australia claimed in an interview that the country was reluctant to accept nuclear power specifically because people’s fears have been informed by The Simpsons.

And even before that, way back when the show first debuted, advocates for nuclear power were pretty pissed. Reportedly the nuclear power industry had a “meltdown” over The Simpsons, and some groups penned angry letters bemoaning how the show featured “bungling idiots” working at the nuclear plant. This actually led to Simpsons writers and producers going on a tour of a real-life nuclear plant in California, which inspired them to “tone down” the jokes about nuclear power. “We really backed off that as a source of comedy,” producer Sam Simon explained. “No more three-eyed fish.”

Incidentally, some of the shows that did poke fun at nuclear energy were temporarily banned in 2011 following the Fukushima disaster, which, if TV has taught us anything, could have been averted by simply pushing a random button. 

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