I grew up watching The Simpsons. My parents will tell you that as a three year old, I would recognize the theme music and come charging into the room, and would immediately begin dancing along to the song. For me, The Simpsons is such a staple part of my childhood, and in turn, who I am. I grew up admiring Lisa Simpson and aspiring to be like her when I was her age. Now, as a nineteen year old, I can honestly say Lisa Simpson would be proud of the woman I became.
As a kid, I was oblivious to a lot of the stuff presented on The Simpsons, ranging from vulgar jokes, to pop culture references, all the way to something that I can now fully understand: sexuality. If you, like me, are very familiar with The Simpsons, it’s no doubt that you are familiar with Smithers, Mr. Burns’ employee and close friend. Throughout the show, we see Smithers and Burns engage in strange antics which primarily involve Smithers following what Burns dictates. The producers of the show have recently come out saying that in this season of The Simpsons, Mr. Smithers will come to terms with his homosexuality and his homoerotic feelings for Mr. Burns.
If you’ve seen the show, it’s probably very obvious that Smithers is gay. So if the audience is already aware of his sexuality, why is it necessary to make a two-part episode solely dedicated to Smithers’ sexuality? Is it the “gay agenda” being forced upon our children? Are the Christians of America once again being attacked by liberals?
Here’s the thing, and I know this may shock you, but gay people exist, just like you and me! They are human and deserve representation in the media. They deserve to have a voice and to have their sexuality known. In our heteronormative society, it is completely appropriate to address homosexual relationships, as they are seen as abnormal and often wrong. It is important to de-stigmatize homosexual relationships or desires as abnormal because guess what, it is normal. It may not be the cookie cutter idea of what we believed as a six year old child, but it is time to grow up and recognize that there are people of varying sexualities living, breathing, existing, and contributing to our society.
The more apt question is, why now? Why did it take over 20 years for this story to even happen? Well, that itself is a question we shouldn’t really be asking ourselves because we should already know the answer. Sexuality is not only fluid, but it can also be confusing; not everyone will know what their true sexuality is until later life, and even if they have known all along it really is no one’s business unless they want it to be. Those who come out at age 40 are no less deserving of our support than those who do it at 18, whether they withheld the information, or whether they had no idea until later.
Not only that, but The Simpsons was pretty risque for it’s time, so it’s not surprising that they took their time with representing characters who would face oppression. TV networks still have a lot, and I mean a lot, of work to do, but it is clear that 2015 is a more accepting time than 1995, so it’s likely FOX wouldn’t have let them “get away with” LGBT+ characters during the nineties or maybe even noughties.
Why are we so scared of people with other sexual and romantic orientations? Why are we so afraid that by making a character gay, we are telling our children to be gay? Rather, we normalize homosexuality so those who are homosexual do not consistently feel alienated as they cannot necessarily relate to heterosexual relationships. I believe the producers choice to have Smithers come out as gay is extremely appropriate and long past due. The Simpsons is such an influential show and a huge part of our culture, making it an example for other shows to follow its lead. We need diversity in characters on TV. We need to normalize the “abnormal” so we can stop telling people that their sexuality is not normal. It is.