“Nothing’s getting tamed. Nothing, nothing, nothing,” James L. Brooks tells PEOPLE
Homer Simpson, who has often strangled son Bart for laughs on Fox’s long-running animated series, seemed to suggest he would change his ways on the episode “McMansion & Wife,” which aired on Oct. 22.
Homer (Dan Castellaneta) met his new neighbor Thayer (Hank Azaria), who noted Homer had “quite a grip” when they shook hands.
“See, Marge, strangling the boy has paid off," Homer quipped to his wife Marge (Julie Kavner). "Just kidding. I don't do that anymore.” Smiling, he added, “Times have changed.”
Perhaps not. Asked about that episode, Brooks tells PEOPLE, “Don’t think for a second we’re changing anything.”
Brooks then showed an illustration of Homer strangling Bart, who was holding a smartphone with a headline that read, “Simpsons: No more strangling.” Text in a word bubble showed Homer yelling at his son, “Why you little clickbaiting-!!”
“Nothing's getting tamed. Nothing, nothing, nothing,” Brooks continues. “He'll continue to be strangled—[if] you want to use that awful term for it. He'll continue to be loved by his father in a specific way.”
Despite Brooks’ declaration, Homer hasn’t actually strangled Bart (Nancy Cartwright) on air in some time. According to IGN, Homer last strangled Bart on screen during the show's 31st season, which aired from 2019 to 2020.
The Simpsons has aired on Fox since 1989.
In recent years, The Simpsons has confronted some of its problematic characterizations, most notably when the Indian-American character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon (formerly voiced by Azaria) drew backlash for its portrayal of negative stereotypes. The controversy sparked the 2017 documentary The Problem with Apu.
Azaria stepped down from voicing the role in 2020, and Apu has made background appearances since.
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“I really didn’t know any better,” Azaria said on the Armchair Expert podcast in 2021, according to The Guardian. "I didn’t think about it. I was unaware how much relative advantage I had received in this country as a white kid from Queens. Just because there were good intentions it doesn't mean there weren’t real negative consequences to the thing that I am accountable for.”
And for years, Harry Shearer, who is White, voiced the character Dr. Hibbert, who is Black. In 2021, Shearer was recast with Kevin Michael Richardson.
The Simpsons airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on Fox.
If you suspect child abuse, call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child or 1-800-422-4453, or go to www.childhelp.org. All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.
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