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03rd Nov 2023

The Simpsons have retired Homer strangling Bart because ‘times have changed’

Steve Hopkins

‘Why you little…’

Life at 742 Evergreen Terrace has kept millions of people entertained since The Simpsons first aired in December 1989.

But while the antics of bad-boy Bart, socially-conscious Lisa, baby Maggie, Homer and Marge kept everyone in hysterics, family life was somewhat, if not always, dysfunctional. It’s what made it funny.

But like everything, humour often doesn’t age well.

Turns out Homer strangling 10-year-old son Bart, lifting him off the ground and squeezing his throat so tight his tongue pops out and his eyes bulge isn’t a timeless gag.

Apparently, the show creator, Matt Groening, wanted to demonstrate Homer’s rage, but lack of desire to spank his kids, so he chose strangling, which he thought was so unrealistic it would be funny.

And no one had a problem with it for a long time. People weren’t overly vocal about the obvious racial stereotypes associated with the character, Apu, until around 2017, well, not vocal enough for it to become the subject of media reports. A documentary was even made called, The Problem With Apu.

Earlier this week one X user expressed his surprise, that after 30-odd years The Simpsons had retired the strangling-gag. “Took them long enough,” he wrote.

Anyway, Homer has in fact stopped strangling Bart and the show has addressed the reasons why.

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In season 35, episode 3, titled ‘McMansion & Wife’, Evergreen Terrace welcomes a new family.

When Homer introduces himself to Thayer, the new character remarks how firm the king of sector 7g’s handshake is.

“See, Marge, strangling the boy paid off,” Homer says to his wife.

“Just kidding, I don’t do that anymore. Times have changed.”

The meta-joke worked two ways: It was funny and it also, in a meta-way, allowed the show to address the fact that it had taken so long to address the issue, Screenrant noted in October.

The Simpsons has aired over 750 episodes across 35 years.

However, this isn’t the first time Homer’s problematic parenting has been examined.

Homer penchant for strangulation was also addressed in season 22 in an episode called ‘Love Is a Many Strangled Thing’.

Therapist Dr Zander tries to get Homer to see the error of his ways when he strangles his child.

The episode plot states: “Dr Zander’s friend, the towering basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, teaches Homer what it feels like ‘to be young, small, and terrified’ by strangling him mercilessly all the time, even going as far as letting his friends strangle Homer as well.

“Unfortunately, the therapy works too well and Homer can no longer strangle Bart, even when the boy misbehaves, because he is traumatszed by the therapeutic session.”

Fans were pleased Homer has finally turned a corner with his parenting techniques.