German author Erwin In het Panhuis has written a book discussing the influence that The Simpsons, the longest running cartoon show, has had on people coming out of the closet. According to a study published in “Behind the Gay Jokes – Homosexuality in ‘The Simpsons’” the show has portrayed gay issues in a sympathetic manner.
During its long run, the show has tackled many social issues, and was among the first cartoons on mainstream airwaves to talk about marriage equality.
”[The Simpsons] treats homosexuality as something normal in a media environment which can usually be very hostile to the point of view,” Panhuis said in an interview with the Local. “It set the standard for cartoon series … and I believe it’ll always be a trailblazer.”
Panhuis conducted his study over the span of many years and analyzed 500 scenes with many episodes having LGBT-related scenarios – such as the family marching in a gay pride parade, Marge’s closeted sister entering a sham marriage with a male actor, Homer kissing his gay roommate, and Homer questioning Bart’s sexuality.
Panhuis concluded that the show has helped to dispel LGBT discrimination through exploring the patriarch’s (Homer’s) complex relationship with the issue.
“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,” Panhuis explained. “He is sometimes heterosexual, sometimes gay and sometimes homophobic.”
The show has showcased 70 gay characters, including the running gag of the unrequited love between closeted assistant Mr. Smithers and his boss, Mr. Burns.
“It is a very complicated relationship full of fear and unrequited love and moments of real tenderness.”
Created by Matt Groening, the show continues to be on the air after premiering in 1989.