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James Brooks Had To Apologize For This Simpsons Episode That Has Aged So Poorly

In its three decades on the air, the writers of "The Simpsons" have sent the titular family around the globe. Not that Springfield has somehow become boring, but as the adventures of America's favorite family have become increasingly zany, it would seem that a singular setting has become too limiting. Countries visited during the run of the iconic animated show include Egypt, China, Israel, Mexico, Canada, Cuba, Russia, India, Belgium, Iceland, Australia, and Japan.

Throw in the show's legendary penchant for satire, and you can easily see how this globetrotting might become a dicey prospect. "Bart vs. Australia," which aired in Season 6, earned its fair share of umbrage from Australians. Then-showrunner Mike Reiss even claimed that the show was denounced in the country's parliament (via The Age). "30 Minutes Over Tokyo" was, according to the Season 10 DVD commentary, never translated into Japanese, and has never aired in Japan.

But very few episodes have caused such discord that they've merited an apology on the part of its producers. That, however, is exactly what happened after the Simpsons went to yet another country and James L. Brooks was forced to issue a mea culpa.

Blame It On Lisa angered Brazilians

"Blame It On Lisa" is the 13th episode of Season 15 of "The Simpsons." In it, the family travels to Rio de Janeiro to search for a young Brazilian boy named Ronaldo (voiced by Tress MacNeille) who Lisa (Yeardley Smith) is sponsoring. During the course of the episode, the family is attacked by violent monkeys in Rio's favelas, robbed by child gangs, and Homer (Dan Castellaneta) is kidnapped by taxi drivers. The episode even ends with Bart (Nancy Cartwright) being consumed by an anaconda.

In other words, the Simpsons didn't so much travel to Brazil as they did to a land full of negative stereotypes about Brazilians. Brazil took notice too. A 2002 article in the Houston Chronicle cited Brazilian critics' claim that much of the episode's portrayal seemed to conflate the culture of Brazil with the nation's surrounding, Spanish-speaking countries (Brazilians speak Portuguese).

Some of it was down to timing as well. As noted by CBR, the Brazilian tourist board Riotur was not happy with how the country was portrayed as a crime-ridden nation with lots of slum dwellings. Riotur even threatened to file a lawsuit against Fox, which was supported by the country's then-president, Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

A 'doh-plomatic' incident and a return to Brazil

Executive producer James L. Brooks issued an apology to the people of Brazil for the portrayal of Rio in "Blame It On Lisa" in April of 2002. Even then, however, he tried to maintain the cheeky humor of "The Simpsons," calling the hubbub a "doh-plomatic incident." Brooks also wrote, "If that doesn't settle the issue, Homer Simpson offers to take on the president of Brazil on Fox Celebrity Boxing." However, Fernando Henrique Cardoso did not take up Brooks' offer (via The Guardian).

This wouldn't be the last time the Simpsons visited Brazil, however. During Season 25, in the run-up to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the family returns to the country after Homer is offered the job of FIFA referee in "You Don't Have to Live Like a Referee." That episode features a notably more balanced portrayal of Brazil, and in any event, is more focused on the soccer than the setting (via The A.V. Club). The episode even managed to predict that Germany would win that year's World Cup, much to the ire of the host country.