The Simpsons are under the scope of controversy yet again. This time, for an episode that makes light of the Tiananmen Square event that happened in 1989. The entire Simpsons series, all 32 seasons, were recently brought over to Hong Kong via streaming on Disney+. All 32 seasons, excluding this one episode. This episode in question is number 12 on season 16. It is titled, “Goo Goo Gai Pan.”
The episode sees The Simpsons traveling to Hong Kong to help a relative adopt a baby. There is a quick shot of a plaque that reads, “on this site, in 1989, nothing happened.” This is followed by the adoption agent, played by Luci Liu, appearing in a tank. This entire running joke is making reference to the pro-democracy event that happened in 1989, where a lone man stood his ground in front of a group of tanks that were headed to the event in Hong Kong that left hundreds of protesters dead.
Even though Hong Kong has mostly allowed films, published books, and vigils commemorating the victims of the pro-democracy demonstration, this episode of The Simpsons has been taken down. There have been no comments made by the Hong Kong Office of the Communications Authority in regard to taking out this episode. Disney+ is not allowed in mainland China, but that could be a reason for the crackdown on the episode in its causing controversy amongst higher-up government officials.
Hong Kong was once under British rule but gained its independence back in 1997, and due to that fact, there was mostly an open policy in regards to being able to discuss this pro-democracy rally that claimed the lives of many people. Open discussions about the event are not allowed on the mainland. This episode of The Simpsons could cause more issues with the government wanting to crack down further on Hong Kong.
The crackdown on Hong Kong is related to the massive protests for a democratic China that poured into the city in 2019. The massive candlelight vigils for the Tiananmen Square demonstration have also been canceled due to COVID-19 concerns from the government. The Simpsons never shy away from topical humor, but sometimes their jokes do not land in the same way they do in other countries, and this episode could spark even more outrage for the tension in Hong Kong.
The Simpsons and Fox likely took down the episode as to not cause any more drama for one of television’s longest-running shows. They recently came under fire for the racial implications that the character of Apu represented, and Hank Azaria announced that he would no longer be voicing the character as he is not of Indian descent. The Tiananmen Square episode is likely a battle that Fox nor the creators of The Simpsons even want to deal with.
Even though they are commentating on the censorship issues in China, and that issue is being proven by this episode disappearing, they have to realize there are just some battles they cannot win. It may be time to go back through the seasons and see if The Simpsons predicted this happening.