This Sunday, an episode of The Simpsons featured a title sequence storyboarded by Banksy, the graffiti artist and provocateur. Banksy's opening included a minute-long interlude apparently set in a Korean animation sweatshop, with Asian artists laboring at drafting tables, human bones on the floor, Bart Simpson dolls stuffed with kitten fur, and a worker using the horn of a chained unicorn to punch spindle holes in Simpsons DVDs. It all ended with a shot of the 20th Century Fox logo styled as a massive prison complex, complete with barbed wire. Critics were impressed with Banksy's pointed critique of the show, which is mainly animated in South Korea, and of its parent network.
Wow, says Colby Hall at Mediaite, calling the opener "a jaw-dropping critique of global corporate licensing, worker exploitation and over-the-top dreariness of how western media companies (in this case, 20th Century Fox) takes advantage of outsourced labor in developing countries." Hall adds that it was "a pretty searing indictment of Fox Broadcasting (except of course, it was broadcast on Fox)."
Gives the Show Its Teeth Back MTV's Marlow Riley praises the "ballsy critique of outsourcing, 'The Simpsons,' and the standards and human rights conditions that people in first world nations accept." Riley calls Banksy's contribution "uncomfortable and dark, and not what's expected from the modern 'Simpsons,' which mainly consists of 'Homer hurts himself' jokes ... It might even be possible that 'The Simpsons' has caught a second wind by finding its dark side."
Fox Didn't Tweak it Too Much, says Al Jean, an executive producer on The Simpsons. Jean tells The New York Times that the producers submitted Banksy's script to the network's standards and practices department, and what came back was "95 percent... just the way he wanted." Jean describes the cut material as "even a little sadder" than what aired, and he's quick to add that Banksy's version of the show's overseas facilities is "very fanciful, far-fetched. None of the things he depicts are true. That statement should be self-evident, but I will emphatically state it."
The Internet's the Real Story Here, says Alexia Tsotsis at TechCrunch. Tsotsis notes that the title sequence became a viral sensation on YouTube and Twitter, but "it'd be safe to say that almost none of us actually watched it on TV," and that "without the Internet and Youtube, many people would not be aware Banksy did the Simpsons intro ... In fact, Banksy himself wouldn't have gained notoriety without the Internet and cyberculture." The takeaway? "In today's pop culture there's always a constantly evolving tech angle."
Is It Really That Daring? wonders Alison Fairbrother at Politics Daily. "It is Fox that has the last laugh," she writes. "The network doesn't need to censor content like Banksy's couch gag because Fox is 'the man.' Fox is the place viewers go to get a dose of the show's subversive humor, and where other viewers go to get Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly and pundits that reinforce the very institutions and systems that bring us the vast inequities that 'The Simpsons' reviles."
"Asia Can't See It," notes Ernie Smith at ShortFormBlog. Fox has taken down the clip on YouTube, citing copyright violation, but it can still be seen at Hulu--a move that "feels akin to censorship," says Smith, "considering the very viral subject matter can no longer be viewed in Asia."