'The Simpsons' Side Characters Are Having A Moment After Smithers' Episode
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Move over, Mr. Burns – it seems Waylon Smithers, the world's most devoted
simp executive assistant in the whole wide world (of The Simpsons) has a new love interest. Yep, on Sunday night's episode “Portrait of a Lackey on Fire," Smithers took a break from being totally and completely smitten (Smither-tten?) with his disgustingly wealthy and Certifiably EvilTM boss to pursue a new lover, none other than the Victor Garber-voiced Michael DeGraff, a Fortune 500 fashion designer who is also disgustingly wealthy and Certifiably EvilTM. Aside from canonically certifying that Smithers likes his men like I like my sale-rack bleu cheese (old, rich, and sometimes rather questionable), the episode was a revolutionary moment for The Simpsons, marking the first time the character had ever been in a serious relationship, one of the few gay romances prominently featured on the long-running series.
“My dad and I, talked about writing this episode, something that was important to me was to see his relationship grow and flourish and to get those intimate moments of two gay people on screen talking about being gay or dating,” Johnny LaZebnik, who wrote the episode alongside his Simpsons veteran father, Rob LaZebnik, told the AV Club of their creative process. “To have a gay romance be the A-story of a Simpsons episode, I don’t think has ever happened. And that’s what was so exciting to me.”
Aside from marking an important moment for the LGBTQAI+ community, the episode, also seemingly marks a new era in terms of The Simpsons – the broader inclusion of often-overlooked Springfeilders -- a genre Smithers, one of the series (metaphorically) richest and most exciting characters perfectly embodies.
“I think in many ways, he was really an impressive gay character to have early on, because he’s not sort of the stereotypical, flamboyant gay that you see in so many of these late ’90s cartoons,” LaZebnik explained, dubbing Smithers as ‘probably’ being 'the most competent character in the show." “He’s fully his own person and has a life that’s not just being gay, which is so impressive and so much more than a lot of shows depicted in that era,” he continued. “To just keep being able to add to that legacy, and to that story, is awesome. And I think we did a really good job in this episode of keeping true to his character while simultaneously fleshing out his existence as a real person.”
However, it seems Smithers isn't the only Simpsons side character about to have their small-screen moment. A testament to
the series finally running out of plotlines, openness to exploring Springfield's often more understated residents, LaZebnik says that this is seemingly a trend, explaining that “the show is doing such a good job at delving into these individual, more minor characters’ stories."
“Christine Nangle is one of the brilliant writers on the show, and just wrote an episode called ‘Uncut Femmes,’ which is like an Ocean’s 8 parody with Marge, but it’s all about Sarah Wiggum, a side character that we’ve really never heard anything about before,” he explained. “And I love that episode because it was like, yeah she deserves it. When you’ve been on the air for 30 years, you can take a character who literally just ‘Blank’s wife’ and build an episode around them. The show is doing such a good job at fleshing out all those characters, and Smithers is one of them who deserves his time.”
So, readers here's to hoping they do Disco Stu next. If any Springfield deserves their moment in the (disco-ball-speckled) spotlight, it's a man who was seemingly invented specifically to attend a garage sale and find the jacket of his dreams.
Top Image: Fox