Did the Simpsons Edit a Scene Out of Syndication Because it was Offensive to People with Tourette’s Syndrome?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.

TV URBAN LEGEND: The Simpsons edited a scene from re-airings of an episode because the original episode was offensive to those with Tourette’s Snydrome.

The Simpsons are notable in being fairly equal opportunity offenders. They mock all sorts of people, places and things, even themselves, the company that airs them (they make fun of FOX a LOT) and even the corporate sponsors of the show (they made fun of Butterfingers while they were in the midst of doing an ad campaign for Butterfingers!).

However, the Simpsons apparently felt they went over the line with an episode in their fourth season titled “Marge Gets a Job.”

In the episode, well, as it says, Marge gets a job at the Nuclear Power Plant. Mr. Burns then falls in love with her and tries to woo her away from Homer.


That was the MAIN plot. In the secondary plot, Bart is living through a literal re-telling of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” He is being harassed by a wolf, but because he has told his teachers so many ridiculous stories over the years to explain why he was late and/or cut class, his teacher Mrs. Krabappel will not believe his current story about being attacked by a wolf. He actually is “the boy who cried wolf.”

While Krabappel is going through the various problems Bart had manufactured over the years, she mentions that he faked having Tourette’s Syndrome.

Tourette’s Syndrome is a neuropsychiatric disorder that appears in the form of a variety of motor tics (like twitching) and often verbal tics (like shouting out nonsense words or profanity).

Well, when Krabappel mentions that Bart has faked Tourette’s in the past, Bart responds by saying that he still has it, as he begins to snarl and bark and shout “Shove it, witch!”

When the episode aired, it was deemed quite offensive by people who HAD Tourette’s, including a young teenager from Washington state named Joshua Smith, who threatened legal action if the Simpsons did not agree to never repeat the episode and give an on-air apology.

The Simpsons certainly were not going to agree to do THAT, but in a surprise move for a show that does not like to apologize at all, they DID say that yes, they probably went a bit too far with that joke.

So in future airings of the episode (even including the DVDs), that scene stays the same (Bart snarls, barks and says “Shove it, witch!”) but Krabappel’s dialogue changes from “Tourette’s syndrome” to “rabies,” as that is now what Bart has claimed to have come down with.

It’s not a terrible solution, really, but it’s still interesting to see the Simpsons back down from a fight – I guess when your “foe” is a 13-year-old with Tourette’s Syndrome, you don’t exactly feel like fighting.

The legend is…


Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future urban legends columns! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com

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4 Responses to “Did the Simpsons Edit a Scene Out of Syndication Because it was Offensive to People with Tourette’s Syndrome?”

  1. I have rabies and I am TOTALLY offended.

  2. Ha! Curses, foiled again!

  3. I remember the news stories about the threatened suit, but I never heard about the outcome. Thank you for clearing that up!

  4. I default to remembering the original airing and was surprised going through my DVD discs that this was changed. I sort of remember this in syndication where other aspects of the originals are changed.

    Original Seattle Time article from 1993; http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19930201&slug=1683046

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