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'The Simpsons': The Most Controversial Episodes Of The Series

'The Simpsons': The Most Controversial Episodes Of The Series
March 8, 2020 - 22:18 / Lucas Anderson

The Simpsons is currently in its 30th season on Fox! With nearly 700 episodes, the popular series has on occasion caused controversy with plot twists, character deaths, and guest stars. Find out the most controversial episodes below!

The Simpsons has generated controversy with episodes that are disliked for on and off-screen reasons. It comes as little surprise that a few of these moments have cropped up as the show nears its 700th episode.

Here are the seven most controversial episodes of The Simpsons!

#7: "The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson" (season 9, 1997)

This season 9 episode wasn't so much controversial in itself when it aired in 1997. But, after the September 11, 2001, attacks, the episode was pulled from the air. It features the Simpson family in New York City, and several jokes directly involved the World Trade Center's Twin Towers.

The episode is otherwise held in high regard in the show's history, and it returned to the rotation of reruns after 2006.

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#6: "Bart vs. Australia" (season 6, 1995)

This season 6 episode takes the Simpson family to Australia. "Bart" is indicted for fraud after a long-distance phone call prank goes wrong, so the family travels to Australia to apologize.

The episode generated controversy, mostly in Australia, for its heavily stereotyped depictions of Australian life and culture. Some Australians do appreciate the episode, however - a 2015 petition proposed to change Australia's national currency to "dollarydoos," a reference to "Bart vs. Australia." 

#5: "Treehouse of Horror V" (season 6, 1994)

The Simpsons is well-known for its annual Halloween episode series called the "Treehouse of Horror." The fifth episode, in season 6, is often cited as the best of the Halloween specials.

But it was also controversial for its graphically violent content. The show's creators deliberately made it a bloody, yet fun episode in response to criticisms of subject matter in earlier Halloween episodes - which they felt were tame by comparison. "Treehouse of Horror V" contains parodies of The Shining and Soylent Green.

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#4: "When Flanders Failed" (season 3, 1991)

The Simpsons was just coming into its own as an acclaimed animated sitcom in its third season. But this episode sees "Homer" at his cruelest, as he wishes for "Ned Flanders" to fail when he opens a left-handed goods shop. "Homer" deliberately takes part in withholding business from "Ned" as his "Leftorium" fails.

The episode does have a happy ending, however, as "Homer" is scolded by "Lisa" about schadenfreude. He ends up rallying Springfielders to save "Ned's" store, in a reference to It's a Wonderful Life.

#3: "Lisa Goes Gaga" (season 23, 2012)

Lady Gaga comes to Springfield in "Lisa Goes Gaga," from 2012. Matt Groening expressed excitement at having the world's biggest pop culture icon on the show. And Lady Gaga's guest role as herself was praised.

But the episode's writing and themes were widely criticized. Many felt "Lisa's" interaction with Lady Gaga went against her character's established independence. Long-time fans of the show also single out the episode as a low point. 

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#2: "The Principal and the Pauper" (season 9, 1997)

The Simpsons got controversial once again in season 9. Fans felt especially betrayed by this episode, which reveals that "Principal Skinner" is an imposter. His real name is "Armin Tamzarian," and he assumed the identity of "Seymour Skinner" in a complicated missing person affair.

"Principal Skinner" from The Simpsons, voiced by Harry Shearer.

The episode was criticized by The Simpsons creator Matt Groening and "Principal Skinner" voice actor Harry Shearer. Some critics identify the episode as the beginning of the series' decline from its "golden age." This backstory for "Principal Skinner" is only referenced as a joke in later episodes.

#1: "Alone Again, Natura-Diddily" (season 11, 2000)

This widely disliked episode of The Simpsons has on and off-screen reasons for controversy. "Maude Flanders," the wife of "Ned," dies in the episode after being hit by a t-shirt cannon - "Homer" is implicated, as he had ducked out of the way of the flying shirt. "Ned's" grief is explored in the episode and in the seasons that followed.

'The Simpsons': The Most Controversial Episodes Of The Series

But the series had off-screen motivation to kill off "Maude." Her voice actor, Maggie Roswell, had left The Simpsons over a pay dispute. Roswell later returned to voice "Maude" in flashbacks and as a ghost. Fans and critics felt the episode was poorly executed and disliked the behind-the-scenes angle of the death.