After 27 seasons in the closet, a beloved character on The Simpsons is coming out as gay -- though everyone in Springfield probably already knew.
Waylon Smithers' abiding love for the emaciated and evil billionaire Mr. Burns is a running joke on The Simpsons, but the character will finally let the world know that he's gay in two special episodes this season, The New York Daily News reported.
The Simpsons' season 27 premiered Sunday and so far, show producers are upping the ante on their story lines, TV Line added. There's family drama, an arrest, and, of course, the demise of the cartoon world's longest and most loving marriage.
But Smithers' reveal as The Simpsons' most prominent gay character may be the most dramatic story line of the season. After all, he's spent nearly three decades keeping his love for his boss secret. Though not very well.
He's hinted at being gay over the years: he kissed Mr. Burns just before the apocalypse came to Springfield. He is the president of the Malibu Stacy dolls fan club. And during the town's "do what you feel" festival, the character nearly let the cat out of the bag, declaring to his boss: "Sir, in the spirit of the festival and everything, I'd just like to say that I … love you … In those colors!" Then he chides himself: "Oh, who am I kidding? The boathouse was the time!"
Executive producer Al Jean defined the character not as gay, but as a "Burns-sexual."
"In Springfield now, most people know he's gay, but obviously Burns doesn't. We deal with that in two episodes. We actually do a lot with Smithers this year. He gets fed up with Burns not appreciating him and considers his options."Which begs the question: will the dedicated "Burns-sexual" decide to express his love elsewhere? As The Simpsons' new forerunner, perhaps that question will be answered and fans will get to see Smithers start a new life with a new love.
Of course, Waylon isn't the only gay character on The Simpsons, The Guardian noted. Many of them work at the Ajax Steel Mill, which transforms into a gay nightclub in the evening. And Marge's sister Patricia "Patty" Bouvier" is the show's most prominent lesbian character.
Though announcing that a fictional cartoon character is coming out of the closet may not seem like an important announcement, it should have a meaningful impact on American culture: adding homosexual characters to TV shows actually helps mitigate prejudice. And The Simpsons is one of the longest-running and most loved shows of all time, which makes Smithers' coming out even more significant, said MIT Comparative Media Studies Chair Edward Schiappa.
"Springfield is about as middle American as one can get, and Smithers coming out within that fictional world mirrors – and reinforces – the mainstreaming of gays and lesbians in the real world. I am sure there will be fireworks among certain conservative politicians, or maybe they will surprise me and just let the show have its fun."Waylon's surprise announcement isn't the only drama planned for The Simpsons' season 27. In another story line, Marge makes Bart go play in the park when he starts grating on her nerves, and ends up getting arrested. The episode, "Orange is the New Yellow," was inspired by a Mitch Albom column.
"I read a column by Mitch Albom, the writer of Tuesdays with Morrie, about a mother who was arrested for letting her son play in the park while she had to work," Jean said. "Albom was saying, 'When did it become illegal to let your kids play in the park when they're 10? When did kids have to be on a leash every minute?' So that's the basis of our story … Nobody wants a child to be neglected, but I very much feel for a mom who has to work and can't afford a sitter."
[Photo Courtesy YouTube Screengrab]