German TV editing “The Simpsons” for nuclear references

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In the wake of Clint Eastwood's Hereafter being pulled from Japanese theaters following the Fukushima earthquake and tsunami, life is once again impinging upon art. Pro7, the channel that broadcasts The Simpsons in Germany, has announced they will be reviewing current and future episodes and removing or replacing any shows which feature nuclear-related accidents at Mr. Burns' nuclear power plant, out of sensitivity to the real-life Japanese nuclear disaster. Swiss and Austrian networks have reportedly followed suit.

Neither Pro7 nor Swiss network SF have yet to remove any episodes, but say they are actively screening shows for possibly inappropriate references. While the measures taken due to heightened sensitivity are understandable, one has to wonder at the retroactive censorship of cultural products. The casual racism of early Disney films was one thing, but now a nuclear meltdown ridiculously caused by a cartoon's bumbling protagonist is off-limits? Does this mean countries who don't edit The Simpsons look more callous by comparison? How many buildings have to burn down before The Towering Inferno is banned? The first Simpsons shorts aired in 1987, only a year after the Chernobyl meltdown. Will Pro7 excise the scene in the intro showing Homer throwing a radioactive fuel rod out of his car? Will they remove any Rainier Wolfcastle appearances because Arnold Schwarzenegger's father, Gustav, was a Nazi? Just some food for thought.