New Study: ’The Simpsons’ Helped Gay Men Come Out?

by Jason St. Amand

National News Editor

Monday July 1, 2013

If the findings in a recent independent study are true, the denizens of Springfield, from the long running primetime cartoon "The Simpsons" have made it easier for a generation of gay men to come out.

As reported in The Daily Mail, the study which has been published as a book titled "Behind the Gay Jokes - Homosexuality in 'The Simpsons"" documents and analyzes over 70 gay characters and nearly 500 scenes with gay themes. It's author, German academic Erwin In het Panhuis concluded that the general like-ability of the show's core characters and the manner in which the series has dealt with themes of homosexuality on prime time television, has helped shape positive attitudes towards gay men and women.

Panhuis, a Cologne-based librarian says of his findings that "[The Simpsons] treats homosexuality as something normal in a media environment which can usually be very hostile to the point of view,"

"Homer has kissed other men on the lips more than 50 times throughout the series but despite that he's happily married to his wife," he says. "He is sometimes heterosexual, sometimes gay and sometimes homophobic."

Since its premiere in 1989, "The Simpsons," has been in the forefront of approaching some culturally volatile subjects involving gay rights, with insight and good humor. Same-sex marriage was the subject of an episode in the sixteenth season titled, "There's Something About Marrying", in which the town of Springfield legalizes same-sex marriage in order to increase tourism and Homer becomes a wedding officiant through an online ministry to cash in.

In the thirteenth season, Lisa attends a gay pride parade where crowds chant "We're here! We're Queer! Get used to it!", to which she responds "You do this every year, we ARE used to it." In an episode aptly titled "3 Gays of the Condo" from the fourteenth season, Homer leaves the family and becomes metrosexual thanks to his two gay roommates.

The 1997 episode "Homer's Phobia" , featuring the guest voice of noted gay auteur John Waters, centered around Homer's fears that exposure to gay people would turn Bart homosexual.According to Wikipedia, the episode was the show's first to revolve around gay themes. It received a positive critical response for its message and won four awards, including an Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program and a GLAAD Media Award.

In his study, which analyzed over 70 Simpsons' characters, Panhuis examines the relationship between Mr. Burns and his assistant Waylon Smithers. "It is a very complicated relationship full of fear and unrequited love and moments of real tenderness," the academic writes.

Interested in discovering which Springfield denizens are "out and proud" and "in the closet"? Visit Simpsons Wiki for a comprehensive list of the show's characters who have identified, or implied, that they are part of the LGBT community.

Watch Homer go from nonchalant to full gay panic mode in this clip from "Homer's Phobia"