Nominally a family show, The Simpsons has, historically, been rated TV-PG, indicating caretakers should exercise their discretion in showing the program to younger children. While there have also been a number of TV-14 episodes -- particularly in more recent seasons of the show -- there's only one episode of The Simpsons that's rated TV-MA: Season 26's "The Wreck of the Relationship." However, don't expect to see the TV-MA version of "The Wreck of the Relationship" on Disney+, as the streaming service airs the censored version of the episode.
At the start of "The Wreck of the Relationship," Bart Simpson and Milhouse Van Houten finish watching "every 'testicle fail' video on the Internet." Soon, they see an ad for an R-rated movie called "Project: After Party" that leads them to the film's red-band trailer. After Milhouse remarks they're not old enough to watch the trailer, Bart enters his birthdate into the age gate as Jan. 1, 1900, thus giving the boys access to the trailer.
What ensues teases various movie hijinks, such as lowering a giant bong into a pool by helicopter, a drunk chimpanzee shooting an assault rifle and an aptly named product called "bikini acid" melting through the swimwear of some women. Right as the lattermost of those things happens, Homer comes in and stops the boys, throwing Bart's laptop out of the window and lamenting the failure of parental control software.
The censored moment in question occurs towards the start of the trailer when an elderly dominatrix gives a middle finger to the camera. In the Disney+ version of "The Wreck of the Relationship," the middle finger is blurred out, as it has been when aired on network television. However, some places -- like the now-defunct Simpsons World -- have aired an uncensored version of the scene that shows an unblurred middle finger. Those airings have rated "The Wreck of the Relationship" as TV-MA, thus making it The Simpsons' only episode with such a mature rating.
While the censored scene isn't particularly awful, guidelines surrounding TV ratings can be draconian and complex. The Simpsons has primarily aired on network TV as opposed to cable, meaning there's a lot less it can get away with before receiving a higher rating. 2007's The Simpsons Movie, for example, featured a scene of Homer giving the middle finger, but that film is only rated PG-13, as the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is generally more lenient.
Overall, this isn't a particularly egregious example of censorship. In streaming the censored version of "The Wreck of the Relationship," Disney+ is really just hosting the version that's most often been aired, which has the added benefit of keeping a middle finger from coming up unexpectedly when watching The Simpsons. Still, the uncensored version of "The Wreck of the Relationship" is genuinely hard to find, and so most are unlikely to ever experience The Simpsons' only TV-MA episode -- even if it's really not that special.
Created by Matt Groening, The Simpsons stars Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria and Harry Shearer. New episodes air Sundays.
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