When Stewie jumps in on Bart’s prank phone call to Moe’s with a gleeful, “Your sister’s been raped!” When Meg, seeking companionship from Lisa, shows her gratitude for Lisa’s kindness by capping off a litany of her personal grotesqueries by carving Lisa’s name bloodily into her arm. When Stewie tries to get in good with Bart by ball-gagging and torturing Nelson (and Principal Skinner, Apu, Jimbo, and Sideshow Bob). When Peter and Homer’s fight ends up offhandedly injuring children and culminates in a bloody, tooth-detaching climax. When, in its very existence, the episode allowed Family Guy’s sensibilities to seep into The Simpsons’ universe, I felt myself growing genuinely angry.
Look, The Simpsons isn’t what it used to be, and has lost some of its heart over its quarter-century. And there’s a place for deliberately provocative dark comedy predicated on intentional offensiveness (even if Family Guy remains a shoddy example of same). But the two shows are incompatible for one central reason—humanity.
For all its accumulating faults heading into its second 25 years (or however long), The Simpsons’ Springfield has room, amidst all the wackiness, for character, and heart, and growth. These shows have different styles of comedy, fine. But only one of them is diminished for having been associated with the other