After going after Spongebob, right-wing cleric James "SpongeDob" Dobson might next have to pick on someone his own size: a "Simpsons" character is about to emerge from the closet, and then get married. The episode will air February 20:
Simpsons producers haven't revealed which character turns out to be gay, but that hasn't stopped fans from speculating or placing bets on who it might be. Patty Bouvier, the chain-smoking, raspy-voiced sister of Marge who has rarely dated men, seems to be the leading contender - one Web betting site, PaddyPower.com, stopped taking wagers because so much money was being placed on her.
The Internet rumor that Patty, Marge's sister, comes out and marries a female golf pro has been circulating for so long that it's hardened into what passes for "fact" on the Internet. There have been some clues along the way. When her sister Selma was looking for a husband to start a family, Patty showed no interest. When Homer, naked, runs by the sisters in one episode, Patty says, "There goes the last lingering shred of my heterosexuality."
In any case, [producer Al] Jean warns that the show could be changed at the last minute and is not in its final form. The episode has been in the works for about a year, since San Francisco decided to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry (a move later overturned by the state's Supreme Court) and several other cities followed suit.
"We thought it would be an interesting thing for Springfield to do," Jean says, adding that the town splits into pro- and anti-gay marriage camps. "Lisa thinks it's good for civil rights. The reverend of the local Protestant church is opposed to it. Other people think tourists will come to town. Mayor Quimby wants the money. We don't take a position as much as explore everybody's positions."
Besides Patty and Smithers, there are some other possibilities:
- Barkeeper Moe: Famous for making a drink called the "Flaming Moe." However, in this week's episode he was spotted with Nelson the bully's mother.
- Lenny and Carl: The two inseparable buddies work with Homer at the nuclear plant.
- Duff Man: Well-muscled spokesman for Duff Beer. Clearly spends a lot of time at the gym. Wears a cape.
- Groundskeeper Willy: Wears a kilt, single, buff.
- Ned Flanders: Mustachioed neighbor of the Simpsons whose trademark greeting is "Hi-dilly-ho!" Choreographs the Super Bowl halftime show in a future episode. Has also worn his late wife's dress while mowing the lawn.
So who will it be? I'm not sure, but I think I can tell you who won't be the new animated face of gay rights:
- It probably won't be Smithers, because there would be no drama
- Not Patty, because she lacks the emotional capacity to love anybody or anything except perhaps the pet lizard, Jub-Jub, she shares with Selma
- Not Flanders, because, one, he's already hooked up twice since his wife's death, and two, I think the show's producers honestly like that he's become something of a Christian cult hero
- It won't be Moe, just because nobody wants to envision Moe in any kind of intimate (or, as Homer once spelled it, "intamit") situation.
So if not any of them, then who? My guess is that either Lenny and Carl really will get together--which, as an interracial gay couple, would really upset the KulturKampf Krew--or a minor but recurring character like Disco Stu or Ms. Hoover (Lisa's second-grade teacher) will declare the love that once dared not speak its name.