It was reasonable for fans to assume that The Simpsons would stick with what's working after 34 years of broadcasting and more than 750 episodes. However, season 35 of the beloved animation has demonstrated its ability to adapt to the culture in which it exists. Homer Simpson, the titular character himself, has now said that he will no longer strangle his son Bart.
Since the show's debut, viewers of the venerable series have witnessed some troubling themes and concepts in episodes; some notions have not aged as elegantly or quietly as others. One aspect of the franchise that has persisted into the present day since the start of the series is Homer's tendency to choke his son.
When The Simpsons first started as a collection of animated shorts on the Tracey Ullman Show, the choking was introduced and included as a recurrent gag. Usually, the joke would go like this: Homer would become angry with Bart because of a particular jest or slander, and he would then say his iconic line "Why you little-" before snatching Bart by the neck and strangling him.
The Simpsons acknowledges that times are changing and gets rid of the choking gag
Even though the choking gag has been repeated throughout the years in many forms (such as Bart attacking his father back), it remains a startling bit of humor. This is the kind of comedy that did not age properly as it could be interpreted as Homer physically abusing his helpless son.
However, Homer claims to have changed his conduct in The Simpsons season 35 episode 3, "McMansion & Wife," when he and his wife, Marge, visit Thayer, their new neighbor. The new character comments on how tightly Homer holds on as he shakes hands to introduce himself. To which Homer exclaims,
“See, Marge, strangling the boy paid off...Just kidding, I don’t do that anymore. Times have changed.”
Therefore, even though viewers may have noted that one of the show's oldest jokes was absent from the most recent episodes, the show has now thoroughly addressed the matter. Serious or not.
It's a startlng scene, even if The Simpsons takes place in a cartoonish world, and attacks are typically staged for comedic effect. It has often been mentioned that this is the continuation of the physical abuse that Homer's father inflicted upon him; in fact, Abe continues to strangle Homer and even Bart on occasion.
Considering how accepted parenting practices have evolved, particularly regarding views toward beatings, it seems reasonable for the program to drop the running joke and substitute it.
The show has acknowledged the joke's problematic elements multiple times throughout the years, like in The Simpsons episode "Behind the Laughter" from season 11. The episode described Homer's choking Bart in front of a film crew as child abuse, although it was really a source of hilarity that led to a spike in sales.
Following Marge's urging, Homer enrolls in a "fathering enrichment class" in the 22nd season episode "Love is a Many Strangled Thing." Homer learns what it's like to be young, small, and terrified.
He realizes this as he faces a tall basketball player portrayed by real-life retired NBA great Kareem Abdul Jabbar. The player strangles Homer and invites others to follow suit. After being traumatized by the incident, Homer discovers he can't choke Bart.
But in "Love is a Many-Splintered Thing," from The Simpsons season 24, Homer picks up his punishment technique again and strangles Bart in front of his pal Milhouse, who finds the whole thing terrifying. It's undoubtedly one of the worst things about Homer as a person, and it may be difficult to support the character at times because of how frequently he harms his kids.
Fans seem to agree on social media that the joke needed to end. There are many different types of bizarre humor the show can employ that wouldn't directly result in Bart being abused. Despite this, The Simpsons has received recognition for admitting that this running joke is over.
The other seasons of the beloved cartoon sitcom are currently available to stream on Disney+ if fans would like to go back and revisit the show's several seasons to see how it's evolved over time.