D'oh! 'Simpsons' Again Angers South Americans

A bit of dialogue between Homer Simpson's buddies Carl and Lenny deeply offended some Argentines.
A bit of dialogue between Homer Simpson's buddies Carl and Lenny deeply offended some Argentines. (Fox Broadcasting)
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By Monte Reel
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, April 17, 2008

BUENOS AIRES, April 16 -- If Homer Simpson and his family are planning any South American vacations in the near future, they might want to come up with a backup plan.

The television show "The Simpsons" is nothing short of a cultural phenomenon in many parts of the continent, but it also has become very good at exposing the region's rawest nerves, and then clawing them sore.

In the same week that Venezuela's government threatened to punish a television station for exposing children to the show, a snippet of dialogue from a recent installment is kicking up controversy in Argentina.

During the episode, Homer and his friends gathered at Moe's Tavern and grumbled about their choices of political candidates. The conversation seemed innocent enough, until Homer's buddy Carl Carlson opened his mouth.

"I'd really go for some kind of military dictator, like Juan Perón," Carl said, mentioning the general who was elected president by Argentines three times. "When he 'disappeared' you, you stayed disappeared."

Carl's friend Lenny then delivered a coup de grâce: "Plus, his wife was Madonna."

Most Argentines don't consider Perón a dictator, and they certainly don't blame him for the fact that up to 30,000 dissidents went missing during the country's "dirty war." Those disappearances are attributed to a military dictatorship that ruled from 1976 to 1983, after Perón's death.

"This type of program causes great harm, because the disappearances are still an open wound here," former congressman Lorenzo Pepe, who now heads the Juan Domingo Perón Institute, said of the episode. "This is highly offensive to Argentines."

The reference to Madonna also riled Peronistas. Perón's second wife, Eva, is so beloved here that her ardent backers launched protests after the pop star was cast to portray her in the 1996 movie "Evita."

"The part about Madonna -- that was too much," Pepe said.

The offenses might have gone unnoticed had it been any other program. The show, after all, hasn't even aired yet in Argentina. (It's popular on YouTube.) But in much of South America, "Los Simpson" are even more popular than they are in the United States. When "The Simpsons Movie" debuted last year, it broke box-office records for an opening weekend in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Colombia.

Despite the popularity, Venezuela's telecommunications commission threatened on Wednesday to punish a television station that aired "The Simpsons" during the daytime. The government agency declared earlier this year that the program was unsuitable for children. The television station replaced it with another program presumably considered more edifying to the development of the country's youth: "Baywatch Hawaii."

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