February 20, 2005

Warning: This Post Advocates Tolerance

A bizarre parental-discretion warning precedes an episode of 'The Simpsons.'

Carl Bialik

Spotted before tonight's much-anticipated "Simpsons" episode, in which Springfield legalizes gay marriage to reap tourist dollars: "This episode contains discussions of same-sex marriage. Parental discretion is advised."

I was hoping "Simpsons" producers were poking some gentle fun at the general notion of "parental discretions," but alas, this one was for real. As Steve Kobal noted on, the warning also appeared on Fox's website's official episode synopsis.

Kobal points out the obvious hypocrisy here, though his example is poorly chosen: The episode he cites as more-deserving of a parental-discretion warning doesn't involve porno landing in the hands of kids, since the copies of Playdude that land in Bart's hands have had the nude pictorials cut out. In any case, "porno in the hands of a kid" (Kobal's words) is a lot better than violence, Itchy & Scratchy's entertaining antics notwithstanding. I'm not convinced any of these examples call for parental-disrection warnings; certainly none are as harmful to children as the gay-marriage warning itself, which should have come with its own meta-parental-discretion notice.

Meanwhile, I doubt gay-rights advocates will rally around tonight's episode, which, in typical "Simpsons" fashion, refuses to be tied too closely to any single philosophy. Images of a greedy Homer moving from performing only gay marriages to marrying siblings to each other, and then pairing off humans with animals, will surely be interpreted by someone as offensive. And so our nation's sophisticated, rational debate about gay marriage goes on.

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Article by Carl Bialik

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