The Simpsons has always been subversive, but last night, the animated show took that to a new level by airing a dark, extended opening title sequence — created by UK graffiti artist Banksy — that depicted Asian workers laboring over Simpsons animation and merchandise. The effect was rather stark and piercing: The first few 35 seconds of the sequence feature the near-usual credits, except for a few “Banksy” tags on prominent Springfield buildings, before rather unexpectedly veering into a depressing tour of overseas sweatshop facilities, where legions of workers slave over Simpsons animation stills (see: photo here!), kill kittens to stuff Bart Simpson dolls, and even use a chained unicorn to punch out the center of Simpsons DVDs.

Apparently, the title sequence was a reaction to reports that the show outsources much of its animation to a company in South Korea. The BBC is reporting that the controversial credits caused delays behind the scenes because of disputes over broadcast standards and a threatened walk-out by the show’s animation department. The news organization even quoted Simpsons executive producer Al Jean as saying: “This is what you get when you outsource.” Watch the clip here:

The questions here are many: How did the show get away with airing this? It puts both Fox and The Simpsons in a bad light, whether or not the reports about South Korea are true. Is this simply the rebuttal? Is this supposed to be funny? Are we supposed to laugh at this? Should The Simpsons be co-opting criticism of their show and making light of it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Tanner on Twitter: @EWTanStransky

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