Long-running FOX animation show The Simpsons has a great history of satirizing pop culture. In fact, you could argue that is the entire point of the show, which has been making fun of celebrities, American life, and even itself since 1989. It cannot be denied that the show has been losing its touch in recent years, although the cliche of “The Simpsons hasn’t been good since season (whichever was the last one you personally liked)” has been around longer than the golden years of the series itself. In keeping with, a recent episode of the show’s current ongoing 33rd season seemingly decided to take on the ever-controversial podcaster/ UFC color commentator/ Fear Factor Host Joe Rogan. By all accounts, it did not go very well.
The episode of The Simpsons in question, titled, “You Won’t Believe What This Episode is About – Act Three Will Shock You!” involved American lunkhead/bizarre everyman Homer Simpson being publicly shamed (or “canceled” in the parlance of our time) after accidentally locking the family dog Santa’s Little Helper in a hot car. Despite protestations that this potentially fatal incident for the dog was not intentional, Homer finds himself the butt of shunning and anger from the other residents of Springfield. After losing his job and even falling out with his family, Homer is reduced to the fringes of society. In desperation, he ends up encountering an unnamed podcast host and got to a building called “Right-Wing Podcast House.” The podcaster is a clear parody of Joe Rogan, even though it is never directly stated.
Basically, The Simpsons had no clear point they wanted to make about the debated phenomenon we call “cancel culture” (or, you know, people facing consequences for their actions). It seems like the producers of the show are aware of the concept of people being publicly shamed, and felt they needed to weigh in, but ultimately they did not really have anything to say. While it can be argued that the majority of people who are so-called “canceled” have been deemed such because they did or said something disapproved by some facet of society, the show is clear that Homer did not actually do anything wrong. So was their statement that anyone who is judged by society is innocent? Or sometimes? Or just if they are the protagonist of a long-running animated show created by Matt Groening? It is very unclear.
And honestly, The Simpsons bringing in a simulacrum of Joe Rogan is a bizarre choice. For one thing, despite his active promotion of quack medicine and fascist-adjacent demagogues on his massively popular podcast, Rogan is in no way canceled. In fact, his employers/distributer, the streaming platform Spotify, has steadfastly supported him even in the wake of his years of using hateful racial slurs, the fact that his fans are documented to be less likely to be vaccinated for Covid-19 during a global pandemic after his ceaseless efforts to undermine science by “just asking questions,” and their own loss of many subscribers in recent months. Spotify insists that is not actually due to Rogan, but we will just have to take their word that they would rather blame a violent global conflict than a former seventh lead of NewsRadio.