Last weekend’s episode of The Simpsons featured a gay love story for fan favorite character and Mr. Burns’ personal assistant, Waylon Smithers.
The character of Mr. Smithers (voiced by Harry Shearer) first appeared in the animated series’ third episode in 1990 and has been portrayed as a closeted gay man who has an unrequited love for his nuclear plant boss, Montgomery Burns. Smithers, who ultimately “came out” in an episode in 2016, was finally featured with a fully realized gay relationship in the Nov. 21 episode entitled, Portrait Of A Lackey On Fire.
Ahead of its airing, the synopsis of the episode read: “Smithers finds true love with a famous fashion designer, but will his new relationship destroy Springfield?”
Smithers, we have lift-off. Ὠ😍 pic.twitter.com/eE2S3eaCBW
— The Simpsons (@TheSimpsons) November 22, 2021
Series writer Rob LaZebnik claimed that he was inspired to write the episode by his gay son, Johnny, and the two teamed up to write the script. Johnny later tweeted his delight at seeing his name credited on the show.
I think it will take me my whole life to accept that this is real. @TheSimpsons pic.twitter.com/hN17TE0jN8
— Johnny LaZebnik (@jlazebnik) November 22, 2021
Johnny’s father also tweeted during the episode.
Many thanks to @mattselman and the @thesimpsons writers and animators for doing amazing work on our gayest episode ever.
— Rob LaZebnik (@Rlazebnik) November 22, 2021
Johnny told the New York Post that he was thrilled that the gay love story was the featured plot and not a secondary theme.
“So often, gay romances are a subplot or alluded to or shown in some kind of montage or as a punchline,” he said of the episode.
“And what I think I was really excited about, with this episode, we get to see – without spoiling too much – the beginning, middle and who knows how it ends of a gay relationship, of really getting into the nitty-gritty of how gay people date, how they meet, what it’s like,” the younger LaZebnik said.
“That was really special to me to get to highlight characters who are not punchlines, who are fully formed,” Johnny concluded.
Emmy-nominated Alias star Victor Garber, who came out as gay in 2012, voiced Mr. Smithers’ gay paramour in the episode.
“I think it’s crucially important that these stories are acknowledged,” the 72-year-old Garber said of the cartoon episode. “I haven’t played a lot of gay characters, but every time I do it, it brings back certain feelings I had as a young actor where I couldn’t be gay.”
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