China, or Disney, Did a Number on Homer

'Simpsons' is now streaming in Hong Kong, but one episode is missing
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 29, 2021 10:55 AM CST
Updated Dec 4, 2021 7:00 AM CST
China, or Disney, Did a Number on Homer
This undated publicity photo shows, from left, from left, Maggie, Marge, Lisa, Homer, and Bart from the "The Simpsons."   (AP Photo/Fox)

When Disney+ debuted in Hong Kong earlier this month, viewers were able to stream 32 seasons of the Simpsons. Or nearly all 32 seasons. As it turns out, one particular episode is missing, and it just happens to ridicule China. Coverage:

  • The show: The missing episode, which originally aired in 2005, is No. 12 from Season 16, reports the Hong Kong Free Press. Titled "Goo Goo Gai Pan," it features the Simpson clan traveling to Beijing.
  • The digs: One gag shows the family in Tiananmen Square, where a plaque reads, "On this site, in 1989, nothing happened." At another point, Homer refers to Mao Zedong as "a little angel that killed 50 million people."

  • What happened? It's not clear whether China ordered Disney to scrap the episode or whether Disney did so of its own accord. The answer is kind of irrelevant, says Steve Tsang of the SOAS China Institute in London. "Whether it's self-censorship or whether it's direct censorship, it is based on the calculation of how significant the China market is to Disney, or any other American company," he tells the Wall Street Journal.
  • Context: Censorship concerns have been on the rise in Hong Kong since China imposed a national security law in June after anti-government protests. Beijing also broadened its ability to block the distribution of films it deems objectionable, but the rule appears to apply only to films and not streaming services, notes the New York Times. To Grace Leung of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, that's a sign Disney acted on its own, even though the move won't go over well among many viewers in Hong Kong. "They are ready to sacrifice Hong Kong's market" in order to gain access to the much larger market of mainland China.
  • Irony alert: "It appears the episode has suffered precisely the kind of ... censorship it was written to ridicule," writes Patrick Brzeski of the The Hollywood Reporter.
(More The Simpsons stories.)

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