Censorship is a slippery slope many corporations and companies can get stuck in. From the purpose of protecting younger viewers to withholding information for an agenda, the significance and definition varies. Now the question is where Disney falls on this spectrum after pulling an episode of “The Simpsons” off of their streaming services in Hong Kong.
The episode, “One Angry Lisa,” was originally aired on Oct. 2, 2022. The episode is being banned for a scene where Marge Simpson, mother of the Simpson family, is on an indoor spin bike where her instructor appears on a screen using the Great Wall of China as a background. Specifically, the instructor says, “Behold the wonders of China. Bitcoin mines, forced labor camps where children make smartphones and romance.”
The decision to remove the episode is controversial for one primary reason. Hong Kong has long experienced issues with mainland China and is considered a special administrative region (SAR) of China and is supposed to have nearly full autonomy. This means China should not be interfering with the judicial process of Hong Kong. According to the Human Rights Watch, China has previously removed legislators who support the complete independence of Hong Kong. Such drastic measures lead to protests on the streets and remaining pro-democracy legislators threatening their resignation.
Opposition in Hong Kong is viewed as a threat by China and is immediately silenced with an iron fist. So it’s no surprise that an episode of “The Simpsons” commenting on an ongoing issue in China was removed from Hong Kong because it is a place already experiencing opposition. However, the episode is not the first pulled from Hong Kong viewership. Episode 12 of season 16, “Goo Goo Gai Pan,” briefly recognizes the tragedy of Tiananmen Square and was also removed from Disney.
Censorship in Hong Kong’s case is unfair to the population. Hiding any unagreeable information and history about a country from its people is manipulative and coercive. The people of Hong Kong deserve to know about the past and current faults of the country trying to hold control over it. Hiding the truth merely proves how deceitful the government can truly be.
The experiences with censorship are far more different than that of the United States. Hong Kong censorship bars the teaching of historical and current events. All information people rightfully deserve to know about, even if it may influence their decision on their pro-independence stance. The United States focuses mainly on filtering profanity, nudity and potentially harmful content to children.
Opposition in Hong Kong is viewed as a threat by China and is immediately silenced with an iron fist.
The United States faces issues with too much being openly expressed on media platforms that is missed by content moderators. Examples being websites like 4chan, which freely allow hate culture to thrive, and Twitch, which allowed the Buffalo supermarket shooter in 2022 to livestream his attack. The two are polar opposites in their issues with media censorship. However, both pose negatives. Extremes from either direction can be harmful to communities.
Hong Kong’s internal struggle with China has long existed, and Disney’s removal of “The Simpsons” episode poses another example of the ongoing struggle. The episode should not have been removed for the sake of hiding current events in China. Viewers worldwide should have the ability to retain the content themselves and form an opinion on their own.
Featured image courtesy of @TheSimpsons, Twitter