“Sir, there may never be another time to say… I love you, sir.” – Smithers to Mr. Burns, 1991
It’s been 25 years, and Waylon J. Smithers, Jr. is finally coming out of the closet. Officially.
I know what you’re thinking. If you’re a Simpsons fan, you’re probably wondering what the big deal is. Smithers’s homosexuality has been common knowledge throughout Springfield for years now. In the upcoming 27th season, however, Smithers will confirm his feelings to the person who matters most to him.
That’s right: Smithers is going to come out to Mr. Burns.
Previously described as “Burns-sexual” by the show’s producers, it would seem that the only person who isn’t explicitly aware that Mr. Smithers is gay is Mr. Burns, his boss, master, and object of infatuation. The executive producer of the show explained just why they decided now is the time for this to happen.
According to Al Jean, executive producer of The Simpsons, “most people [in Springfield] know he’s gay, but obviously Burns doesn’t.” The big reveal will come in a two-part episode this season.
While this may not seem like a big deal to most Simpsons fans, seeing that Smithers’s closet was pretty much glass to begin with, the truth is that it’s a big deal for animated series and television in general.
Easily one of the most popular or recognizable TV programs throughout the world, The Simpsons has been a cultural staple since its premiere in 1989. In 2013, it was ranked by TV Guide as the greatest TV cartoon of all time. In 1999, Time named it the century’s best television series. Regardless of the critics who pan the show as mindless or immoral, it clearly has established a reputation in the world of entertainment.
The head of comparative media studies at MIT, Edward Schiappa, said that “Smithers coming out within that fictional world [of Springfield] mirrors—and reinforces—the mainstreaming of gays and lesbians in the real world.” Like all art and especially satirical television, most of the jokes and storylines on The Simpsons have their basis in reality, including sociocultural, pop, and political events.
To have had Smithers’s gay persona on the show all these years has been a subtle while often comical acknowledgment, and taking the step to come out to Mr. Burns—perhaps the one cantankerous obstacle standing in the way of Smithers’s complete self-acceptance—reinforces a vindication for the gay community as a whole. The stalwart servant coming out to his beloved Mr. Burns is a powerful allusion to the changing world we live in regarding LGBQT issues and the increasing normalcy of alternative lifestyles.
I wonder if Smithers will become an inspiration for a new generation! SHARE this to spread the word! And lest we forget…
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