The fact that The Simpsons have carried episodes which feature gay characters in sympathetic situations, and in a normalising way, has caused German academic, Erwin In het Panhuis, to conclude that the series has helped gay people to come out.
Over the course of the series, Homer was seen kissing men on the lips approximately fifty times, one of them his gay room-mate, while Lisa manages to get her family to march in a Pride parade. Mr Panhuis feels that The Simpsons:
“treats homosexuality as something normal in a media environment which can usually be very hostile to the point of view.”
He feels that despite its recourse to stereotypes in other areas:
“the Simpsons [is] almost always an intelligent, fair and entertaining [cartoon] when dealing with homosexuality.”
Mr Panhuis’ book, Behind the Gay Jokes – Homosexuality in “The Simpsons”, analyses five hundred scenes, and notes that there are over seventy gay characters in the series, with Marge’s sister Patty featured in a gay marriage, where Homer conducts the ceremony. The series also sees Springfield trying to promote gay tourism, as Springfield has legalised gay marriage, and features the seemingly one-sided Burns-Smithers relationship:
“very complicated.. full of fear and unrequited love and moments of real tenderness.”
Matt Groening’s series is, in retrospect, all the more remarkable when one considers it was featured for twenty years on the Fox channel, a channel known for its conservative reporting, and what at times seems like a Republican bias.