The Simpsons taking fire over seal-clubbing, ‘stupid Newfie’ scene

by - 3 min read

The Simpsons taking fire over seal-clubbing, ‘stupid Newfie’ scene

by - 3 min read

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It has been five years since The Simpsons co-creator Sam Simon came to Newfoundland and Labrador and offered sealers a collective $1 million to give up their livelihoods and renounce the hunt.

Simon died in 2015, but reaction to the latest episode shows feelings of ill will still linger towards the cartoon in Canada’s most easterly province.

On Sunday, The Simpsons aired an episode set in Canada that featured digs at people, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

But it’s a scene about Newfoundland and Labrador that has some people saying the show went offside.

“I’m sure you treat all peoples equally,” says Lisa Simpson near a group of Canadians holding curling brooms.

“Except the Québécois,” one replied. “And the Newfies. Stupid Newfies.”

That led to Ralph Wiggum exclaiming, “I’m a Newfie!” and clubbing the head off a stuffed, baby seal.

Easy shot, says local newspaper editor

“It’s the lowest possible hanging fruit,” said Drew Brown, editor of online provincial news outlet The Independent. 

“They probably went and Googled, ‘Newfoundland joke,’ right? Seal hunt is probably — it’s probably the only thing people familiar with the island from international media would know.”

Brown said he considers the joke fine, though he hasn’t watched The Simpsons in about 15 years.

“They had to make a tradeoff probably, between a joke that actually said something intelligent and cutting, and a joke that people would recognize as a joke, so I guess that’s probably what they went with,” he said. 

The episode was written by Tim Long, a staff writer with The Simpsons who grew up in Ontario.

‘Newfie’ a no-no for many Newfoundlanders

While some people took outright offence to the joke, others, like Brown, passed it off as a trite jab.

“Newfie” is considered by many to be a derogatory label in Newfoundland and Labrador, and the seal hunt has long been staunchly defended in the province against outsiders who oppose the practice.

The protests often take aim at the killing of baby seals, even though it has been illegal in Newfoundland and Labrador for decades.

Simon’s visit in 2013 drew ire. He appeared alongside actor Canadian entertainer Pamela Anderson, holding a cheque for $1 million. Anderson was quoted as saying, “A million dollars is a lot of money in Newfoundland.”

That led to comedian Mark Critch offering her $1 million to give up acting.

Tips for a good Newfoundland joke?

Sunday evening’s episode also made jabs at upstate New York, prompting a spokesperson for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to call it “dumb cheap shots.”

Brown says in the fuller context of the joke the show is ribbing on the idea that Canadians are nice to everybody, which isn’t necessarily the case. 

“If we’re trying to be generous, I think it’s a pretty good shot across the port for everybody,” he said. 

Meanwhile, he has advice for anyone wanting to take a dig at the province, or the people living in it. 

“If you want a good Newfie joke done properly, you need to hire a Newfoundlander to tell it.”

Read more stories from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

This story originally appeared on CBC

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