The earthquake in northern Japan has affected much more than just the people caught in the tremors, including international discussions on nuclear power, the position of the Earth itself, and now…the Simpsons? That’s right, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland have begun pulling episodes of the long running comedy series in light of the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima-Daiichi plant. They fear that the cartoon, which often deals with nuclear power issues especially in its early years after the Chernobyl incident, may be offensive to viewers worried about the current situation.
Honestly, I cannot say whether or not I agree with this. I’m having a simultaneous nerdrage AND nerdgasm.
On the ‘gasm hand, the censorship harks back to the cartoon featuring the Islamic prophet Muhammad years ago that caused international debate on cultural sensitivity. Clearly, based on the responses to the cartoon, which included riots and death threats to publications and websites that dared to show it, jokes can be offensive to groups separated by hundreds or thousands of miles due to internet and news outlets spreading information at the speed of Google.
Having recently seen a Japanese friend burst into tears at the mere mention of nuclear power, I have to agree that the frequent meltdowns in the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant could easily, but unintentionally, squirt lemon juice in the fresh wound. There has already been enough pain in the last few weeks; we do not need to add more to the pile.
But yet, on the other, more raging hand, should the world have to put aside everything that might offend someone? This isn’t the first time The Simpsons has gotten the boot after a national tragedy, with The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson leaving rotation after 9/11 due to the Twin Tower’s role in the episode. The episode merely features the now-destroyed landmarks and in no way makes light of the tragedy, so does that mean every episode that even features a cooling tower (read: all of them) should be censored to protect people’s feelings?
Comedy has proven itself as the ice breaker for even the most taboo topics, enabling serious discussion of race and gender after a few jabs at everyone levels the social playing field. Despite the cartoon’s failure to accurately represent the pros and cons of nuclear power, it still has served as a tool to start important conversations among people that otherwise wouldn’t give a damn. Pulling away from the discussion table now seems like one of the worst choices we can make.
So what do you gay geeks and lesbian nerds think? Nerdgasm for cultural sensitivity…or nerdrage for taking away a chance to talk out those sensitive issues? Talk about it (civilly) in the forums!