The Simpsons and Russia: A tale of love and hate

RBTH covers some of the most memorable episodes in the history of The Simpsons relationship with Russia.

RBTH covers some of the most memorable episodes in the history of The Simpsons relationship with Russia.

Source: CRIS X/YouTube
RBTH explores how this popular animated series depicts Russian people, places and phenomena

The Russian TV channel 2x2 has decided not to air a new episode of The Simpsons, which depicts Homer playing Pokemon Go in a church. This is exactly what Russian a video blogger named Ruslan Sokolovsky did, and he is now facing three and a half years in prison for offending believers.

This is not the first time that the show The Simpsons has parodied Russian reality. Here, we cover some of the most memorable episodes in the history of The Simpsons relationship with Russia.

Capitalist nightmare

Homer Simpson joins the Navy and inadvertently becomes the captain of a submarine and then accidentally enters Russian territorial waters. A Russian representative of the UN announces: "The Soviet Union will release your vessel." The U.S. envoy replies: "I thought you guys broke up!" "Ha, that's what we wanted you to think!" the Russian diplomat replies with a sinister laugh. He then flips the sign that reads RUSSIA on his desk to reveal SOVIET UNION instead. A red flag flutters in Red Square, tanks ride out with festival floats, and the Berlin Wall is rebuilt. Finally, Lenin rises from his coffin crying: "Must crush capitalism!"

Source: CRIS X/YouTube

A bear selling candy

Lisa Simpson gets lost and wanders into a Russian district of town. She becomes very frightened because she is surrounded by unfamiliar shop signs in Russian and people dressed like early 20th century peasants, who are playing chess in the street. Everybody is speaking very empathically while throwing their arms in the air. How was she supposed to know that they were actually trying to help her? The last straw for her is when she encounters a bear selling candy in the street. At the sight of this, Lisa runs in the opposite direction until she finally reaches a telephone booth, which has the Russian twist of being topped with an onion dome.

Source: Слай Корп/YouTube

Gorbachev with herpes, and Yeltsin with an alcohol problem

The first and only president of the USSR, Mikhail Gorbachev, appears in the episode of The Simpsons called Two Bad Neighbors. President George H. W. Bush. moves into a house next to the Simpson family. He and Homer get off on the wrong foot and promptly end up fighting each other. In the midst of the brawl, Gorbachev drops by to visit the Bush family in their new home. "Brought some of your Commie friends to help you fight dirty, erh?" an indignant Homer asks President Bush.

Bush’s wife, Barbara, appears and demands that her husband apologize to his neighbor. "Barbara, we can't show any weakness in front of the Russians," he protests, but in the end, resigned, he says he is sorry.

Source: The Simpsons/YouTube

The depiction of Gorbachev on The Simpsons was fairly neutral, despite the fact that Krusty the Clown claims that Gorbachev has herpes on his head. However, the first Russian president, Boris Yeltsin, is presented in one episode as the world's biggest drunk. When Homer gets drunk in a bar, he takes a breathalyzer test, which indicates that he has reached the highest degree of intoxication possible - labeled "Boris Yeltsin."

Source: carlforsyth2011/YouTube

Treacherous Putin 

The Simpsons creators have twice made a reference to Vladimir Putin's famous shirtless photo on horseback. In one of these instances, Maggie has developed magical powers. Putin appears briefly and she uses these powers to give the Russian president a shirt before moving on to perform other miracles.

Source: Coffee Pjesht/YouTube

In an episode from in October 2016, Homer goes to the polling station to vote in the U.S. presidential election. A bearded man in the line urges him to vote for Trump because he claims that he will "make Russia great again." This slip of the tongue makes Homer suspicious and leads to a short scuffle. Homer proceeds to tear the beard off of the other man, who turns out to be none other than Putin. The Russian president then calmly proceeds to cast his vote, before riding away on horseback with the promise that Trump will get 102 percent of the vote.

Source: Animation on FOX/YouTube

Girls and cars

Bart Simpson falls in love with a beautiful Russian girl named Zhenya and begins taking piano lessons from her, despite the fact that he hates the piano. In his dreams, they travel to Russia together and go to look at Lenin in the mausoleum. However, in the end, it turns out that Zhenya only agreed to give paino lessons to Bart so that Bart's mother, Marge, would agree to teach Zhenya's father, Slava, to drive.

Source: Scato Scampi/YouTube

Incidentally, based on a live-action trailer for Season 17, it seems that the car Homer Simpson drives is a Russian Lada Riva. 

Source: artFido/YouTube

Russian response

In Russia, The Simpsons has been criticized repeatedly for violence, "propaganda of anti-social behavior" and its portrayal of dysfunctional family relationships. To be fair, this show has been the subject of equally severe criticism in the United States for these same reasons.

So far, all attempts to ban this cult series in Russia have failed. In 2008, a court briefly demanded that Channel 2x2 stop airing a number of animated series, which included The Simpsons. However, after rallies of protest in Moscow and St. Petersburg, the court ruling was dismissed. It would appear that on this most recent occasion, the channel has decided to play it safe, by not showing the episode where Homer plays Pokemon Go in a church, with the interest of avoiding even the most temporary of sanctions.

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