The Simpsons make significant switch to long-running gag: 'Times have changed'

The Simpsons make significant switch to long-running gag: 'Times have changed'
The Simpsons: Homer reveals reason he will no longer strangle Bart
The Simpsons, Fox

Long-running animated series The Simpsons has made another significant change to the programme, with Homer no longer strangling his troublesome son Bart whenever he’s done something particularly naughty and adding the words, “why you little…”

Dating back to the very first season of the show, the gag sees Homer (voiced by Dan Castellaneta) wrap his hands around Bart’s (played by Nancy Cartwright) neck, his eyes bulging out of their sockets and his tongue waggling as he chokes.

Yet in episode three of the latest season (season 35), titled “McMansion & Wife” and broadcast in late October, Homer introduces himself to new neighbour Thayer Blackburn, who remarks that the father has “quite a grip” when shaking hands.

Homer replies: “See, Marge? Strangling the boy has paid off.

“Just kidding, I don’t do that anymore – times have changed.”

And this change has sparked debate among Twitter/X users:

It’s not the first time the show has revisited the gag with a fresh perspective, as the 22nd season back in March 2011 included an episode titled “Love Is A Many Strangled Thing”, in which therapist Dr Zander teaches Homer “what it feels like to be young, small and terrified” by having basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar strangle him repeatedly.

The dysfunctional father later tells Dr Zander: “You made me see my life through Bart’s neck, and I swear, I will never, ever strangle my boy again.”

He also later explains to Bart that he is “cured” of “the blind rage that has soured our otherwise storybook relationship”, and after encouraging the troublemaker to provoke him, Homer finds that whenever he tries to lay his hands on Bart, he hallucinates an image of Abdul-Jabbar strangling him.

Homer would later go on to strangle Bart again in the opening episode of season 31, “The Winter of Our Monetized Content” when the pair fighting goes viral online.

Alongside the issue of strangulation, the show has recently addressed the issue of white voice actors playing non-white roles, too – with Hank Azaria stepping back from voicing Kwik-E-Mart owner Apu Nahasapeemapetilon in 2018 and Harry Shearer handing over the role of Dr Hibbert to Kevin Michael Richardson in 2021.

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