Iran to Bart: “No! You eat OUR shorts!”

Iran to Bart: “No! You eat OUR shorts!”

Iran has recently decided to ban the sale of the Simpsons dolls but will continue to welcome Spiderman and other superheros because they “battle for the oppressed.” Is there something strange about Iran supporting characters that battle the oppressed, or is it just me?

Iran banned Barbie quite a while ago because of her “destructive cultural and social consequences.” Now Bart and the rest of his family are receiving the same fate.

I can’t seem to find their rationale explicitly stated, except to say that some episodes are banned (“even in Europe”!) and this is just an extension of that. I feel like it likely has more to do with Homer being a less than desirable role model, Lisa/Marge baring a lot of skin, sex being a relentless joke in the show and religion being constantly mocked.

Lisa and Marge’s wardrobe are similar to Barbie’s clothes and Barbie was banned because of her provocative nature and tight/sexy clothes.

I’m in the camp that banning most things is wrong. I don’t think that unruly freedom of speech is all that great  either (and I know this sets me apart from some people in the skeptics movement). Is it Iran’s sovereign right to stop the infiltration of Western ideas from penetrating the youth via toys? Or is this fundamentally a human rights issue? It seems a bit ridiculous to argue “ALL KIDS HAVE A RIGHT TO A BART SIMPSON TOY!” when some don’t even  have access to clean water – but is it actually ridiculous? If Bart and his family were spewing hate speech in their episodes than I would like have a problem with them in general but the most they are guilty of is… being American. I get that Iran isn’t super happy with America right now but even these small infringements on what toys Iranian children have access to is, in my opinion, fundamentally wrong.

However, is this simply my cultural opinion infringing on the culture of an unknown? I don’t think so. There are a lot of things that are culturally relative but there are other things that I think are universally harmful – and the censoring of the Simpsons is one of them. As ridiculous as it sounds, the more I think about it…the more I believe it to be true. The Simpsons demonstrate a culture through their show. A culture of liberal freedoms, children growing up while being a bit bad, empowerment of women, religious critiques and I’m sure most North American families can relate to at *least* one or more of the situations the Simpsons get into.

Iran’s current push to limit “Western intoxication” is essentially limiting the availability of knowledge and information to people in the country. It’s too bad – the Simpsons are rad.

Katie is a graduate student from Canada studying the environment and systems theory. She also loves dinosaurs and baking cupcakes. Follow her on twitter @katiekish

3 Comments

  1. You write, “Is it Iran’s sovereign right to stop the infiltration of Western ideas from penetrating the youth via toys?…If Bart and his family were spewing hate speech in their episodes than I would like have a problem with them in general but the most they are guilty of is being American.”

    While The Simpsons may represent some Left-to-Liberal ideologies, the show is a very, very far cry from chalenging heteronormativity, harmful gender roles, racism, able-ism or homophobia/transphobia. The show HAS INDEED been guilty of reproducing hate speech– the show routinely features gender-shaming, anti-gay, and Transphobic language. You admit that Iran welcomes Spiderman and other American heroes who “battle for the oppressed.” It seems clear that Iran has not issued a blanket ban on American merchandise or culture, but rather has rejected specific ideologies associated with Barbie and Bart Simpson. Yet, you accuse Iran of “stop[ping] the infiltration of Western ideas from penetrating the youth.” I’m wondering why you choose to use such loaded and militarized buzz words like “penetrating youth”, “infiltration”, and “intoxication” to describe what is a clearly characterized and finite ban on indevidual merch.

    You also wrote, “I feel like [the ban] likely has more to do with Homer being a less than desirable role model, Lisa/Marge baring a lot of skin, sex being a relentless joke in the show…I get that Iran isn’t super happy with America right now but even these small infringements on what toys Iranian children have access to is, in my opinion, fundamentally wrong…However, is this simply my cultural opinion infringing on the culture of an unknown? I don’t think so. There are a lot of things that are culturally relative but there are other things that I think are universally harmful – and the censoring of the Simpsons is one of them. As ridiculous as it sounds, the more I think about it…the more I believe it to be true.”

    In what ways can you *demonstrate* that the ban was due to Homer’s rolemodel-dom, Lisa/Marge’s skin-baring, and sexual dialogue (other than you just “feel” it to be true?)Can you support your claim with sound arguments about *why* it is “fundamentally wrong” and “universally harmful” for Iran to reject The Simpson’s merchandise (other than “the more [you] think about it, the more [you] believe it to be true”)? What are the “things” that are culturally relative? What are the “other things” that are harmful?

    You wrote, “Iran’s current push to limit “Western intoxication” is essentially limiting the availability of knowledge and information to people in the country. It’s too bad – the Simpsons are rad.”

    I’m wondering who you quoted when you used the phrase “Western Intoxication”. Arguments can be made that every country the world over “limits the availability of knowledge and information to people in [that] country.” In that vien, I’m wondering if you turn the same critical eye to, say, the legitimate news that American media witholds from the states (Literally a decade’s worth of TIME magazine’s cover stories, for example) http://www.businessinsider.com/these-time-magazine-covers-explain-why-americans-know-nothing-about-the-world-2011-11#while-the-rest-of-the-world-gets-a-thoughtful-piece-about-islam-the-us-gets–chores-1

    • To your first paragraph: interesting points to think about, thanks for the input since you obviously view this in a different way than I do.

      As for my word choices…I was simply mimicking the language found in other stories about it (ironically in an attempt to avoid this discussion over word choices that can easily be replaced by other words… because I find it pedantic and boring). If you google the story with the words “infiltration” and “intoxication” you’ll see it’s used repeatedly in these other articles. I guess I don’t see them as being highly militarized especially in pretty tame blog posts.

      To your second paragraph: I can’t really PROVE it – since they didn’t say why. That’s why I said “I feel like…” since it’s an opinion formed by the limited knowledge I have about Iran. I think some things in the world are culturally relative (like the way people treat their sick, perhaps) and I think some things are universally harmful (like not allowing freedom of information).

      To the Time example – it’s hard to really say what I think about it. The other issues weren’t banned from American, the magazine was being selective for their audience. And I have the American Time magazine that became popular during the revolutions and the story is still in there – it’s just not the cover picture. I’m sure it should be pretty simple to find out if this is the case for all of them (but a quick google search doesn’t provide an answer definitively. A lot of people say the content is the same – but some say that it’s not, so I’m not sure). Regardless all of their stories are readily available online. I think this is more a matter of what can be said about American readers that Time decides to use these other images. What does this say about Americans and American journalism? I’m not sure. And some of those covers put more hardhitting information on the American one (like “can you still move up in America” vs “the science of favouratism”). A lot of magazines use different images for different countries – but I think this is a far cry from banning the stories since the stories are still available. Also most weeks the covers are all identical. Its easy to find a small number of examples that support a claim.

      Oh and “western intoxication” is directly from the article I already linked to…..

  2. That’s a good point, about Time magazine’s content still being available online, and the overseas publications being available elsewhere…but I would argue that the content of The Simpsons, and the ability to buy the toys online, is also an option to the people of Iran. It doesn’t seem like Iran banned the import of such toys, only that they won’t be shelved comercially in chain stores.

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