A Joke From Futurama's Proposition Infinity Episode Fell Victim To Fox Censors

One of the best (and silliest) qualities of "Futurama" is just how much the world of the future hasn't changed from the present. Yes, there are alcoholic robots and aliens all around, but the characters are always just so happening to deal with the same basic social issues of the audience's time, from global warming to corporate greed to bitcoin. History repeats itself, it seems, and according to "Futurama" it repeats itself in thousand-year cycles. 

Case in point was the 2010 episode "Proposition Infinity," an episode that was clearly inspired by California's Proposition 8, in which California voters in the 2008 election voted to effectively ban gay marriage in the state. The controversial proposition is so infamous in part because of how quickly voters' views on gay marriage would change; if the proposition had been on the ballot just a year later, it's likely most Californians would've voted against it. If it had been on the ballot from 2011 onward, there'd be zero doubt that gay marriage would win. 

Right in the middle of the historic shift in sentiments, the "Futurama" writers started working on an episode clearly inspired by the debate. But instead of the episode centering around homosexual marriage, it focused on robosexual marriage: Marriage between a human and a robot. It all starts when Amy and Bender become a couple, and Professor Farnsworth turns out to have strict moral objections. 

Despite tackling a controversial subject, the episode itself wasn't all that controversial, thanks to how the social commentary is all wrapped up in a ridiculous sci-fi premise that's impossible to get too angry about. There was some behind-the-scenes controversy with the censors, however. Was it because of the show's adamant support for gay marriage? No, Fox was upset about something far more trivial.

A dumb line made dumber

In a 2017 "Ask Me Anything" thread on Reddit, co-creator David X. Cohen was asked about any jokes they wrote that the "higher ups" made them cut. Cohen gave an example of a joke that wasn't particularly clever or dirty, but which nevertheless got Fox's attention:

"...where Bender debates against the Professor to legalize robosexual marriage. When the show was edited for syndication and possible earlier broadcast times, the Fox censor would not let Bender say 'I'm our A in the Hole.'"

You may be thinking, "That's it?" The line is just a mild play on the phrase "ace in the hole," with Bender instead referring to himself as an ass that nobody wants to deal with. Although Comedy Central was fine with the line, if you're watching a rerun on Fox you'll probably hear Bender call himself "a master debater," which Cohen said "was deemed acceptable."

It's a bizarre change, because a pun about masturbation seems more inappropriate than the original line. But the Fox censors work in mysterious ways, as multiple Matt Groening-created shows have mocked over the years. Their most potent critique was probably the opening to a "Treehouse of Horror" episode in "The Simpsons," where a Fox censor is shown crossing out all the jokes in the script for the episode, even the jokes he finds funny. The segment ends with the censor being stabbed to death, which should give you a good idea of the writers' thoughts on their constant meddling. 

The good news, as Cohen's example shows, is that their arbitrary rules are often easy to work around. When they tried to prevent the "Futurama" writers from telling a risqué joke, the writers slipped an even more egregious joke right under their noses.