Halloween season is here again, and continuing a 30-year tradition, The Simpsons joined in on the festivities. Everyone's favorite animated sitcom is famous for its yearly Treehouse of Horror specials, anthology episodes that allow Homer, Marge, Lisa, Bart and Maggie to swap their comedic tone for a more terrifying atmosphere.
Unfortunately, the horror factor of these episodes has greatly diminished as the years have gone by. With that track record, fans weren't expecting much from this year's "Treehouse of Horror XXVIII." Surprisingly, the beloved dysfunctional family stepped things up by tackling a terrifying (and downright gruesome) topic: Cannibalism.
Setting up the eerie tone, the episode started out with a dire warning from Lisa, who told viewers that what they were about to watch would be so terrifying, that they'd be left wanting to watch Game of Thrones afterwards to calm themselves down.
That was a bold –– and admittedly exciting –– claim, and the show delivered.
Homer Simpson Actually Cannibalized Himself
The episode spoofed a variety of horror films with hilarious/horrific segments like "Tubular Bells" and "The Exor-Sis." None of them, however, compared to "Mmm... Homer." The title may sound innocent enough, but folks, trust me, the actual content of this chapter is anything but innocent.
Not being very proficient with a knife, #HomerSimpson accidentally cut off one of his fingers. Stricken with curiosity, he decided to put his missing limb in his mouth and eat it:
Homer found himself to be quite tasty (I can't believe I just typed that). The situation was disturbing enough, but in true Simpsons fashion, things only escalated from there. You see, Homer... how do I put this? He became so obsessed with his own taste, that he started cutting off parts of his own body to cook and eat them:
Fans Couldn't Believe What Had Happened
Admittedly, the scenes weren't super gory, but that wasn't enough to take away the episode's creepy factor. In fact, plenty of Simpsons fans took to social media to share their shock and disgust at the segment:
You're probably wondering how such an open depiction of cannibalism came together, aren't you? There's some interesting insight on the show's behind-the-scenes process for this particular #horror tale.
The Story Behind Homer's Cannibalistic Journey
Things got rolling when the minds behind The Simpsons realized they needed to get truly horrific for their Halloween specials, especially after constant fan disappointment. There was a lot of pressure to make something great, and thankfully for everyone involved, John Cohen stepped up and suggested the idea of Homer cannibalizing himself.
While the idea clicked with the producers, there was still worry among the crew about the story stirring controversy. To avoid that, there was a pivotal rule established from the get-go: no gore. As executive producer Al Jean told Entertainment Weekly:
"I've been worried at every stage that was it was going too far [...] My direction to [director] Tim Bailey [...] was to avoid actually showing anything gruesome. When things are severed, they're clean. There's a really funny scene [...] where he's taking parts out of his body and [cooking] them, but they look very colorful and not real [...] The funniest scene is when you see him in clothes with missing areas, but you don't actually see what's been cut off. It could have been much, much scarier. And in the end, he's back in heaven."
Continuing the creative team's good fortune, both Fox and #DanCastallaneta (Homer's longtime voice actor) were completely onboard with their plans. It's not often that networks allow such a controversial topic to be openly discussed on air, but Jean attributes #Fox's easygoing attitude to the increasingly mature content being explored in animation:
"If you looked at the first 'Treehouse' now, it's much less scary than at that time. We had a warning from Marge — both the first and second years — because we were so concerned about what people would think relative to television at that date. But if you think about the human centipede of 'South Park,' people have been exposed to a lot more in animation now than they were 28 years ago."
With that issue out of the way, they proceeded with the episode, and put together Homer's creepy self-cannibalizing story. That, folks, is how we ended up here.
This isn't the first time that The Simpsons has dealt with cannibalism (teachers eating students, anyone?), but the topic was still understandably a hard pill to swallow for many (including yours truly). I don't know about you, but I have a feeling this episode just gave the Simpsons their horror street cred back.
How did you feel about Homer's cannibalistic practices in The Simpsons' Treehouse of Horror special? Was the segment too gruesome, or was it well-handled? Let me know in the comments!
[Source: Entertainment Weekly]