After 35 seasons, “The Simpsons” appears to have released its iron grip on one of the beloved animated series’ longest-running gags.
“Times have changed,” Homer Simpson announces to wife Marge in Episode 3 of the current batch, referencing the portly patriarch’s penchant for strangling son Bart.
Making its debut on Fox in late 1989, cartoonist Matt Groening’s groundbreaking show was controversial from the start — partly for the reoccuring scenes where a rage-filled Homer works out his frustration over Bart’s behavior by squeezing him tightly around the neck, causing the boy’s eyes to bulge out.
Finally, in the recent episode, titled “McMansion & Wife,” the rotund — and apparently, reformed — lead character announces he’s moved on from the torturous tactic during a tête-à-tête with a new neighbor named Thayer, The Independent reported.
When Homer goes to shake hands with Thayer, the man comments on his firm grip.
“See, Marge, strangling the boy paid off,” Homer jokes, before quickly clarifying that he no longer does that.
Fans were quick to notice the previously unannounced pivot away from the dated disciplinary measure, with more than a few posting their surprise to social media site X.
“I just found out that, after over 30 years, The Simpsons has finally retired their long-running gag of Homer strangling Bart,” user @BabyLamb5 said. ““Took them long enough lmao.”
“I knew my man Homer was gonna learn,” replied @SebastianGOR3.
The series has made references to the controversial interaction over the years, but still showed Homer strangling Bart up until Season 31, which aired between 2019-2020.
Back during Season 22, an entire episode, “Love is a Many Strangled Thing,” addressed the issue of parent-on-child violence, where Homer attends a “fathering enrichment class” and is traumatized after a much larger man — played by Kareem Abdul Jabbar — makes him feel “young, small and terrified” after strangling him.
Later in the episode, Homer finds it impossible to carry out the classic punishment on his son.
Two seasons later, however, the matriarch of the Simpson family was back to his old ways, frightening Bart’s best friend Milhouse by using the chokehold in Season 24’s “Love is a Many-Splintered Thing.”
This isn’t the first time the historically long-running show has bowed to the changing times — ‘Simpsons’ producers notably came under fire for Hank Azaria’s portrayal of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, an Indian immigrant convenience store owner with a thick accent. After the release of a 2017 documentary entitled “The Problem With Apu,” the widely-beloved character, perceived by some as an embarrassing cliche, was phased out.
“Through my role in Apu and what I created in Hollywood messaging – which is a big deal in this country and around the world – I helped to create a pretty marginalising, dehumanising stereotype,” Azaria said to filmmaker Hari Kondabolu in 2023.
This story originally appeared on NY Post