May 20, 2022

Disney Censors ‘The Simpsons’ Episode From Hong Kong Site

Scene from “The Simpsons” episode “Goo Goo Gai Pan.” (Disney+)

If an episode of “South Park” that satirizes the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was conspicuously excluded from an American streamer’s Hong Kong site, Trey Parker and Matt Stone would skewer them for it. However, Disney+ did exactly that when it censored for its HK customers the episode of “The Simpsons” wherein Homer Simpson visits Beijing.

If you live in Hong Kong, you can’t watch “Goo Goo Gai Pan” (S16 E12), but the rest of us still can—for now. According to Google, there has been no response from Matt Groening yet.

Homer has an awkward relationship with his sister-in-law Selma Bouvier, but when she enters menopause, he agrees to pretend to be her husband, to facilitate her Chinese adoption. Naturally, their romantic chemistry is a bit dubious, attracting the suspicions of Madame Wu, the chief adoption bureaucrat (played by Lucy Liu).

This being “The Simpsons,” there are plenty of slams on America (mostly easy groaners). However, writer Dana Gould also aimed a number of clever barbs at the CCP. The one most likely to offend the CCP would be the briefly seen Tiananmen Square Monument reading: “On this site, in 1989, nothing happened.”

So, Disney+ is literally self-censoring a joke about the Communist Party censoring history. How sad is that? Especially since it shortly preceded the removal of Tiananmen Square memorials across Hong Kong, including the notorious dismantling of the Pillar of Shame statue at the University of Hong Kong.

There is more to annoy a state censor (and to make corporate toadies go squeamish). Homer actually refers to Mao as a mass murderer, in a very Homer kind of way. However, the real source of Disney’s anxiety might have been Madame Wu’s condescending line to Lisa: “Tibet was considered pretty independent. How did that work out?”

Gould wrote some funny China-specific jokes as well as a number highly “Simpsons”-esque gags, like a menopause PSA video hosted by Robert Wagner (providing his own voice). It has everything franchise fans enjoy and expect, but it also captures the utter arrogance of the CCP officials.

That is why it is such a shame Groening has yet to speak out on behalf of “Goo Goo Gai Pan” and to generally protest censorship in Hong Kong (especially gutless self-censorship). If you want to watch a “Simpsons” episode, watch this one while you can. It streams on American Disney+, at least for now.

‘The Simpsons” Episode: “Goo Goo Gai Pan’
Director: Lance Kramer
Starring:   Dan Castellaneta, Lucy Liu, Robert Wagner
MPAA Rated: PG
Running Time: 30 minutes
Release Date: Nov. 16, 2021
Rated: 3.5 stars out of 5

Joe Bendel writes about independent film and lives in New York. To read his most recent articles, visit JBSpins.blogspot.com

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