Banksy, the British street artist and political activist, made his mark on the opening credits for Sunday’s episode of The Simpsons. No stranger to controversy, Banksy is now getting big attention for his work on the show.
The normally-comical opening sequence was traded for a dark and depressing visual commentary on human rights and outsourcing. The credits started no different than any other Simpson’s intro, save for some “Banksy” graffiti written on a few billboards.
It wasn’t until the iconic “couch scene” — the point when the Simpsons clan meets on the couch — that comedy turned to commentary. The scene evolved from a peaceful living room to a dark sweatshop dungeon presumably located in a third world country.
In the sweatshop, workers toiled away at animation frames while a tyrannical boss looks on. A child dips the frames into an acid vat while rats gnaw on bones nearby. The scene then shifts to workers stuffing cats into a machine in order to make the stuffing for Bart dolls. A worker seals boxes with a decapitated dolphin head while another punches holes in The Simpsons DVDs with the horn of a weak unicorn.
Over the top? Sure. Depressing? Yes, because sweatshops are real (even if unicorns aren’t.)
The Simpsons and Fox: Evil?
Banky’s sweatshop scene is no doubt a cutting commentary on Fox’s outsourcing — much of the animation of The Simpsons is produced in South Korea, something the company has been criticized for in the past.
Banksy isn’t directly saying that 20th Century Fox and Simpsons creators are encouraging sub-human working conditions, but it’s an interesting thought.
“I have to say, it’s very fanciful, far-fetched. None of the things he depicts are true,” The Simpsons producer Al Jean told The New York Times. “The statement should be self-evident, but I will emphatically state it.”
What’s more interesting? That Fox let the opening sequence remain in the show for broadcast.
Fox had a change of heart Monday, probably after realizing exactly what Banksy was saying with his work. The company pulled all YouTube videos of the sequence, including the video with the New York Times article. Only a Hulu video still shows the controversial scene.
Who is Banksy?
No one really knows the true identity of Banksy, and that’s exactly how he wants it. He started with guerilla street art and moved on to larger — and more controversial — works as celebrities and other people took notice of his work.
His film, Exit Through the Gift Shop, caught the attention of Simpsons producers after debuting at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year.
Will his Simpson’s work open the door to more mainstream social work for Banksy? Time will tell.