Proving that the Germans are not all smiles and sunshine—sometimes they are also critical studies of long-running television shows—German librarian Erwin In het Panhuis has compiled a new book, Behind The Gay Laughter: Homosexuality In The Simpsons, arguing that The Simpsons has greatly influenced the public perception of homosexuality, and even helped numerous gay men come out over the years.
As The Huffington Post notes in its translation, In het Panhuis looked at some “490 gay scenes and over 70 homosexual characters” from the series’ run, charting the myriad ways in which it’s explored and combated prejudices. For example, The Simpsons became the first cartoon to dedicate an entire episode to same-sex marriage, and has featured moments where “Homer himself has kissed other male characters on the lips more than 50 times” without being immediately engulfed in cleansing hellfire, all of these things positive. It also, of course, features one of TV’s most beautifully tragic stories of unrequited same-sex love, in the will-they/won’t they dance of Lenny and Carl.
While the book admits that sometimes The Simpsons falters with the occasional “fallback to stereotypes” (with almost 90 percent of these surely contained within that one John Waters episode), the series nevertheless boasts “an intelligent, fair and entertaining handling of homosexuality,” time and again showing that gay people work hard and play hard, in a respectable and relatable manner. Though, oddly, the book devotes an entire chapter to Waylon Smithers, whose real deal is that he’s Mr. Burns’ assistant, he’s in his early 40s, is unmarried, and he currently resides in Springfield, and thus seems like an unusual character to focus on.
“Uh-oh, the Germans get me! Ooooh, the Germans!” The Simpsons’ sociopolitical subtext said.