The Simpsons in Rio in 2002

A documentary about the Simpsons round the world travels aired on Fox Sunday night to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Springfield’s best-known family. (There’s a link to the show here but it’s only accessible from the US.)

I worked helping producer Morgan Spurlock of Super Size Me fame to set up interviews and arrange locations in Rio. His company called me after seeing this piece I wrote in Time magazine about the truth and fiction behind the Simpsons controversial visit to Brazil in 2002.

On that trip, the Simpsons saw monkeys roaming the streets of Rio de Janeiro, Homer was kidnapped and Bart was eaten by a snake. Irony is a foreign language in Brazil and the country went crazy. (More here on Brazilians over sensitivity to criticism.)

Which made writing a piece vindicating some of the more outlandish tales all the more pleasurable. I had been planning to write something on Rio’s natural zoo for years, after repeatedly seeing pictures in the Rio papers of snakes, alligators, spiders and monkeys being rescued from pools and homes and roads. That Simpsons episode gave me the impetus to start gathering string.

Cariocas’ reaction to the episode shocked me and I was heartened to hear those in the know say Bart was not wrong.  As I write in my Time story:

Firefighter Colonel Wanius Amorim remembers the Simpsons every time he catches a monkey in someone’s front room, drags an alligator from a back porch or gingerly lifts a snake from the street. For the commander of a Rio fire station nestled in the middle of the world’s biggest inner-city forest, saving wild animals is all in a day’s work.

“Bart was right,” Amorim says with a smile. “When foreigners say it, we get upset, but here in Rio we see alligators, sloths, snakes and monkeys all the time. To me, it’s something positive, it shows that the city is alive and vibrant, that nature has survived the arrival of 6 or 7 million people.”

I look forward to seeing Spurlock’s documentary soon. I believe he even visits Scotland. A wise man indeed.

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