Titled “One Angry Lisa,” the Season 34 episode originally aired in the US this past October. It features a scene with Marge Simpson in which she takes a virtual tour of China during a Peloton-inspired exercise class as the instructor says, “Behold the wonders of China. Bitcoin mines, forced labor camps where children make smartphones.”
See a screenshot from the episode below.
China has been criticized by the US and other countries for committing genocide against Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities at forced labor camps in the western region of Xinjiang. Last year, a UN report detailed “serious human rights violations” there.
According to Financial Times, Disney declined to comment about whether it was forced to remove the episode. Kenny Ng, an associate professor specializing in film censorship at Hong Kong Baptist University, speculated it might be a preemptive move aimed to protect “the company’s ties, current and future, in mainland China.” Ng added, “It could be strategic to eliminate any China-offending episodes.”
It’s likely no coincidence that two Marvel films will hit theaters in China later this month, the first to receive approval in the mainland since 2019.
In a statement to Financial Times, the Hong Kong government said its policy of censoring films deemed as national security threats “does not apply to streaming services.” A spokesperson didn’t comment on whether the government pressured Disney to remove the episode.
This isn’t the first time an episode of The Simpsons has been removed from Disney+ in Hong Kong for criticizing China. In November 2021, the streaming platform launched in Hong Kong without an episode referencing the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. At the time, Ng said it was “the first notable time an American streaming giant has censored content in Hong Kong.”