Individual Entry


Comedy hanging in Simpsons movie

The Simpsons Movie

The first full (i.e. non-teaser) trailer for the upcoming The Simpsons Movie has arrived online. It does indeed look truly awful - just as bad, if not worse than, the most recent seasons of the TV show - but what really caught my attention is the fact that the film seems to have a comedy strangulation scene in it. What’s wrong with a hilarious hanging, you might ask? Well, I would have thought nothing, but apparently the British Board of Film Censors have other ideas. Back in March, I reported that they had vandalised Out West, an episode of The Ren & Stimpy Show, removing the closing “Hanging Song” and the entire narrative justification for the episode. A little later, they practiced similar butchery on an episode of Satoshi Kon’s anime series Paranoia Agent, presenting the Video Recordings Act 1984 as flimsy justification for their mangling (despite plenty of hanging scenes, both hilarious and otherwise, being allowed in films in the past).

Now, both Ren & Stimpy and Paranoia Agent are obscure enough, at least in the UK, for any backlash against their destruction to be muted at best… but I wonder if the BBFC will be so cavalier with something as well-known and popular as The Simpsons? We will be watching them closely, and we will be checking to see whether or not they take the scissors to this beloved franchise and risk incurring the wrath of thousands of spotty-faced fanatics. Now we’ll see whether the BBFC are completely unbiased and only censor when they absolutely have to.

If you want to discuss this matter with the BBFC, who deface art for a living, I suggest you send them an email.

Posted: Monday, February 19, 2007 at 12:14 PM | Comments: 7
Categories: Animation | Cinema | TV



Hmm, I wouldn't describe the Simpsons - at least, not their current state - as 'art'. The word's got so many connotations to it, I try to avoid it altogether when judging the quality of something.

Not that this lets the BBFC off the hook in any way, of course.

Posted by: Baron Scarpia, February 19, 2007 10:01 PM


There’s good art and bad art, as far as I’m concerned. I’m using “art” as a general catch-all without any connotations of quality - but yes, I take your point.

Posted by: Whiggles, February 19, 2007 10:10 PM


The BBFC did an interesting film with Stephen Sommer's The Mummy, in the early days of DVD. The cut out an attempted hanging sequence from the video version, to give it a 12 certificate, but passed the DVD as a 'full, uncut version' with the hanging scene with a 15.

This was quite a big move for them at the time (2000, I think), becuase this was the first time they allowed different versions of the same film to be given different certificates. They had previously refused to do this because there was the suggestion that kids (or parents) could get 'confused' and buy the unedited version! So they previously only offered two choices - edit the scene or have a higher rating (e.g. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom lost some of its gorier sequences because the BBFC wouldn't allow a 'collectors' edition at a higher rating to be made available, and Paramount wouldn't want to have a 12 or 15 rated Indiana Jones film)

I'd be interested to see whether they just edit the scene out for the DVD, or go for the higher rating anyway. After all the Simpsons DVD boxsets are getting consistent 12 ratings, so a jump to a 15 might not be so extreme, especially considering the audience is probably young adult fans of the show as well as kids.

The 12 rating for the DVDs is interesting though - considering the episodes have been on constant rotation for the last 11 years at 6pm on major television channels, their BBFC rating is rather a moot point! Surely the kids could just say to their parents "but it is the same thing we normally watch, just on DVD!"

Perhaps the bigger question though is how shocking an 'attempted' hanging in a cartoon is now, considering almost everyone saw the real hanging of Saddam Hussein over Christmas (even if it cut away from the actual event, it was still real, and therefore incredibly disturbing to any child who watched the television and saw the reports during Boxing Day! I wonder how many parents had difficult conversations about 'what hanging was' that day!)

Posted by: colinr0380, February 20, 2007 3:00 PM


Sorry about the crappy spelling in the above post! I didn't proofread before I posted.

Posted by: colinr0380, February 20, 2007 3:01 PM


EDIT: And it wasn't Boxing Day, but 30th December that Saddam died! Sorry about that!

Posted by: colin0380, February 20, 2007 3:04 PM


I’d be interested to see whether they just edit the scene out for the DVD, or go for the higher rating anyway.

Very interesting post, Colin. However, the option of allowing the hanging scene at a higher rating may not be open to them. The cut episode of Paranoia Agent is rated 18, and my brother asked the BBFC directly about the Ren & Stimpy episode, at which point they stated that (a) it would have been cut even with an 18 certificate, and (b) that, because Ren & Stimpy “appeals to children” (as I would imagine The Simpsons does too), a higher rating would not have been allowed anyway (seriously!).

Posted by: Whiggles, February 20, 2007 3:54 PM


Another thing the BBFC could do is catch Matt out early enough before the films release and say "Oh, that hanging scene might affect the certificate, because of VRA 1984, we ask that you should change the scene or risk a bumped up certificate."

Whiggles already pointed this out with Lilo & Stitch, in which the BBFC saw a scene with Lilo crawling out of a washing machine and made Disney turn it into a pizza box for UK release, threatening a 12 if they didn't. It's laughable at best; you can still hear the opening of the washing machine in the soundtrack, not to mention it raises the question of how a 5-year old could hide in a pizza box.

Then there's Casino Royale, where they tried to make that torture sequence look less brutal. And let's not forget, Shrek 2, where they turned a headbutt into a crappy slap for one shot.

Not to mention, the VRA was probably just an excuse so that dumbass activists like Mary Whitehouse would stop bothering Parliament about how films like "Evil Dead" affected children, even though they were made specifically for adults.

Posted by: TheLH, February 20, 2007 7:22 PM

Comments on this entry and all entries up to and including June 30th 2009 have been closed. The discussion continues on the new Land of Whimsy blog:


Back to...