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In S10E13 of The Simpsons, "Homer to the Max", Homer and Marge attend a garden party. During which, Marge dances with then-president Bill Clinton. However, he is forced to excuse himself on what appears to be official business, giving the excuse:

Aw, shoot. Quebec's got the bomb.

That is, presumably, the Canadian province of Quebec has acquired nuclear weapons.

I've never got this.

Was there, at the time this episode was written (late 90s), some context or reference that can explain this? Why specifically Quebec, rather than Canada in general? Was there some political tiff between the US and Quebec?

  • Maybe he just wanted to get away and it was an off-the-wall excuse? – Bloke Down The Pub Jul 4 at 12:48
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The USA and the West in general are constantly concerned with countries getting "the bomb" and threatening them. Over more recent past this has included Libya, Iraq, Iran and North Korea.

The joke is simply that Quebec isn't likely to either develop their own nuclear weapon or indeed threaten anyone. Canadians in general are stereotyped in the USA as noticeably nicer than Americans.

The joke also plays on the fact that Quebec does have a separatist movement wanting to split the province from Canada. Quebec had an independence referendum two years previous to this episode being broadcast, which failed by only 1% (thanks F1Krazy).

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    Quebec had in fact held an independence referendum in 1995, just two years before this episode aired. It failed by only 1%. – F1Krazy Jul 3 at 15:33
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    Nuclear proliferation was an extra big deal in 1999 (the episode date). It had mostly stopped, but in 1998 Pakistan got the bomb. They were nearly at war with India (also nuclear), so that was scary. Then it was revealed Pakistani main nuke scientist Abdul Khan was talking to Iran, North Korean, and Libya about nukes. That was all a very big story, how nukes were suddenly getting out of control. – Owen Reynolds Jul 3 at 21:57
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The Simpsons episode isn't the first time a joke is made about a state or province that is part of a larger country getting atomic weapons.

The Tom Leher song "Who's Next" in his album "That Was the Year That Was", 1966, is about nuclear proliferation.

It includes the lines:

"we'll try to stay serene and calm / when Alabama gets the bomb."

I just checked out a performance on the internet, and those the lines, even though I remembered them as:

"I'll surely lose all my aplomb / when Alabama gets the bomb."

Just a day or so ago I happened to read something about that episode, "Homer to the Max". According to that, President Clinton was flirting with Marge to create a scandal that would fascinate the press so they would be too preoccupied with it to investigate or report that Clinton was plotting to invade Quebec.

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If the writers or producers were steep in history, the reference is not without precedent.

The Front de Liberation du Quebec operated (mostly in Montreal) in the 60s, and its actions included several bombings, including the Montreal Stock Exchange in 1969. Moreover, although Canada has chosen not to develop nuclear weapons, Montreal was the initial site of the Canadian effort in the project Tube Alloy.

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