The Simpsons character Smithers is finally coming out. In what has been the worst kept secret in television, Waylon Smithers Jr. (voiced by Harry Shearer) will finally come out to viewers and reveal that he is gay, according to Rolling Stone. The new episode, premiering Sunday, is titled “The Burns Cage,” and it is inspired by the personal story of one of The Simpsons writers.
The new Simpsons episode will have Smithers finally accepting the fact that his unrequited love for his boss, Mr. Burns (also voiced by Shearer), will never be reciprocated. That’s when Homer Simpson (Dan Castellaneta) steps in to play matchmaker, and as viewers will see, Homer isn’t looking for ladies for his lovelorn supervisor.
Smithers’ sexual orientation has been a running gag on The Simpsons. While the character’s sexuality has purposely been kept ambiguous, there have been plenty of hints that he is gay along the way. Smithers hangs out in Springfield’s gay district, vacations at an all-male resort, wears rainbow striped shortie shorts, and has had long had a crush on his boss, C. Montgomery Burns. Producers for The Simpsons have even joked that Smithers is “Burns-sexual.”
— The Simpsons (@TheSimpsons) March 30, 2016
Last year, The Simpsons episode “The Princess Guide” even had a scene in which Smithers was daydreaming about Mr. Burns coming out to him. Smithers imagined going for a romantic bike ride with his boss in a tropical paradise, before joining him for a romantic picnic which ended with a passionate kiss. Burns even apologized to Smithers for “pretending not to be gay” all these years.
— Al Jean (@AlJean) March 31, 2016
But reality bites in “The Burns Cage” episode of The Simpsons, as Smithers appears to be finished with pining away for his billionaire boss. The episode will have Smithers taking a big personal leap—and a big professional one—as he finally gets fed up and decides to quit his job working for Mr. Burns. Once he’s free from his demanding boss, Smithers can finally play the field.
— The Simpsons (@TheSimpsons) April 1, 2016
The Simpsons executive producer Al Jean teased the new storyline in an interview with TV Line last fall, hinting that Smithers would get fed up with how he is treated by his selfish boss.
“We actually do a lot with Smithers this year; he gets fed up with Burns not appreciating him and considers his options.”
And as you can see in the clip below, Smithers finally stands up to his man. But Mr. Burns does not take Smithers’ resignation very well.
While The Simpsons wouldn’t usually be described as poignant, the idea for the Smithers coming out storyline actually comes from show writer Rob LeZebnik, whose own son inspired the story. The Simpsons writer told the New York Post that he pitched the story idea several years ago after his own son, Johnny, came out when he was in high school.
“I am a Midwestern guy, so I don’t tend to wear my emotions on my sleeve, but I thought, ‘What better way to tell my son I love him than to write a cartoon about it?’ “
As for how Smithers actually comes out to viewers on The Simpsons, it will be more of a low-key reveal than a giant shout-out, according to Jean.
“We didn’t really want to have that big moment of ‘I’m out,’ you know? Instead, just have it be a big embrace — like everyone knows it.”
Indeed, Simpsons viewers have long known that the character is gay, and the only person who seemed to be clueless about it was the object of his affection, Mr. Burns. Hopefully after “The Burns Cage,” the billionaire will get a clue, but he may have to find himself a new assistant.
The Simpsons airs Sunday at 8/7c on Fox.
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