"Simpsons" Fans Outraged Over "Woke" Decision to End Decades-Old Running Joke

The animated institution has been on the air for 34 years.

After 34 years on the air, The Simpsons has retired one of its most famous long-running jokes. On the Oct. 22 episode of the animated sitcom, titled "McMansion & Wife," Homer Simpson points out that he no longer strangles his son, Bart. X (formerly Twitter) user @BabyLamb5 posted a clip of the scene that went viral, prompting viewers to weigh in with either their approval (agreeing with Homer that "times have changed" since the choking gag was introduced) or their disapproval (accusing the animated series of being too "woke").

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Since its premiere in 1989, audiences have watched Homer grab his son by the throat and say, "Why you little!" as Bart gags and his eyes bulge comically out of his head. But it seems that the joke is officially a thing of the past—and the show included a meta reference to why. In the Oct. 22 episode, Homer shakes the hand of his new neighbor, who says, "Whoa! That's quite a grip." Homer turns to Marge and says, "See, Marge? Strangling the boy has paid off." Turning back to the neighbor, he adds, "Just kidding, I don't do that anymore. Times have changed."

As noted on the Simpsons Fandom site, the strangling joke was also referenced in the Nov. 5 Halloween episode "Treehouse of Horror XXXIV," but it was not Homer strangling Bart. Instead, in a segment about all of the residents of Springfield becoming Homer clones, the Kirk Van Houton version of Homer strangles the Milhouse version.

Some Simpsons fans are complaining that the choice to stop using this running joke proves that the show is now too "woke," which they consider to be negative. One X (formerly Twitter) user wrote, "What is the world coming to, in 100 years you'll get shunned by society for walking incorrectly." Another posted, "No more #HomerSimpson strangling Bart anymore!? Wow those new woke liberals are some sorry sacks. The writers and producers of the #Simpsons should be ashamed! Bowing down, losers." Someone else said, "Looks like the Simpsons are going woke. I wonder whose feelings they hurt." Another X user shared, "I would say this woke [expletive] has finally infected the Simpsons but to be fair, the Simpsons golden age was years ago People are so soft these days lmao."

Other fans joked about the cartoonish nature of the violence, pointing out that it should have been obvious to anyone watching at any time that Homer strangling his son was wrong. "Finally, we're past the time where viciously choking your child until the child's eyeballs bulged was deemed socially acceptable by everybody," wrote an X user.

The viral post also drew replies from people who support the change—or at least think that anyone getting offended by the joke's retirement is out of line.

"It makes sense that they would change it and I appreciate that they did. There are just some jokes that started out funny but needed to stop," one person shared online. Someone who posted a clip from the new episode that went viral wrote, "Me watching cynical neckbeards in the comments getting butthurt that their precious cartoon child abuse gag isn't continuing anymore and The Simpsons should end. Y'all call it 'woke', I call it good character development for Homer." Another X user posted, "There's people actually mad Homer Simpson won't be choking Bart anymore when he hasn't in years (if you actually watched). People just read headlines and get mad at things nowadays."

As that fan noted, it's been a while since The Simpsons used this gag, even though so many people only seem to be realizing it now. The last time Homer strangled Bart was in the season 31 episode "The Winter of Our Monetized Content, which aired in September 2019.

As for the producers of the show, as reported by Variety, they responded to the controversy with a drawing of Homer strangling Bart and saying, "Why you little clickbaiting–!!" The statement accompanying the drawing simply reads, "Homer Simpson was unavailable for comment as he was busy strangling Bart." So perhaps the joke hasn't been retired after all—time will tell.

Best Life has reached out to Fox for additional comment.

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Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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