'Simpsons' Censored Over Episode Predicting...Censorship

Damian Dovarganes

Quick, read this article before it gets taken down!

Over the years, the long-running animated show “The Simpsons” has delivered a seemingly impressive number of predictions that have come true. In truth, it is a bit less than impressive when you consider that with three decades of programming and each episode packed with both heavy dialogue and numerous comedic background flourishes, they are bound to hit on the occasional instance. The percentage of accuracy is actually quite small, is all I’m indicating.

One writer even said as much, declaring that many of the predictions were them looking back and seeing history repeating itself. Still, there have been the occasional instances that were impressive. Things, as varied as face-time technology, the USA winning a curling gold medal, as well as the Sigfried and Roy lion attack, look amusingly prescient. The show making a passing reference to President Trump in a future dream sequence is also notable.

Another piece from “The Simpsons” archives has not exactly come true, but the predictive nature still holds. Call it close-but-accurate. The sequence in question comes from a 2005 episode when the titular family was visiting China. They are in Tiananmen Square and they come across a sign, one that reads “On this site, in 1989, nothing happened.”

Ron Heflin

It is both a reference to the famed uprising that took place on the location and a wry reference to the censorship tendencies of the Chi-Com regime. It is not something that can be considered an exaggeration, given both the obsessive way the Chinese government clamps down on its internal media and controls the culture within their borders, as well as western entertainment companies showing a willingness to self-censor in order to appease the communist rulers.

Now, one or the other seems to be taking place, and it involves that very episode of “The Simpsons.” It has been discovered that the episode mentioned has been scrubbed from streaming in Hong Kong, the territory under Chinese control — and curiously, this also involves another prediction in the show. 

Years back, Disney acquired 20th Century Fox, something the show alluded to in a brief sight gag, nearly 10 years before the buyout took place.

“The Simpsons” has been a Fox Network property, and when Disney bought out the studio it had been with the idea of bolstering an entertainment catalog large enough so the company could launch a new streaming service, Disney+. All of the seasons of the show now appear on the streaming platform, and Disney+ has now reached international territories, but not all episodes appear to be available in all markets. It has been discovered that episode-12, from season #16 — when the family visits China — is not available to Hong Kong customers.

There is a question as to whether this is a true dose of governmental control. The Hong Kong Bureau of Commerce and Economic Development released a statement declaring that while they do have a censorship order in place that is a ruling that only applies to motion pictures, and the ordinance does not apply to streaming services. This only raises more questions.

China does have severe limitations on any of the Tiananmen Square content possible to be shared, but Hong Kong does not operate under the same strict guidelines as the mainland authorities. Then again, this is still an area under Chi-Com rule, so the clampdown on entertainment may be in effect but not given as much vocal support.

The other possibility is that Disney took down the episode on its own. This could be under Chinese coercion, or just as likely it was done to stave off any potential conflict with the ruling party. Disney has, as we recently seen, shown a willingness to pay deference to the human rights-abusing Chi-Coms. In the live-action adaptation of “Mulan,” the company actually paid a dose of gratitude to the police state division of the Chinese rulers.

Whichever the case, it serves up as another item to list under the growing collection of items “The Simpsons” is said to have foreseen in sagelike fashion. Making it all the funnier is that the Chinese show they have an unwillingness to laugh at themselves. Sadder is another example of an American corporation bowing to the communist dictators in the name of gathering more dollars. Or, Yuan, as it were.