Talking Simpsons #211: Homer’s Phobia

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Homer’s Phobia is the 15th episode of season eight and the 168th overall, first broadcasted on February 16, 1997 with a script by Ron Hauge and directed by Mike B. Anderson.

The family tries to sell an old heirloom at a collectibles store and strike up a relationship with John, the store owner (voiced by John Waters). The Simpsons invite John over to their house to assess their other belongings and Homer takes a liking to him. Marge then informs Homer that John is gay and he refuses to see him again. Afterwards Homer notices changes in Bart’s behavior and fears that John has turned him into a homosexual. Trying to make Bart manlier, they go on a hunting trip, but get attacked by a herd of aggressive reindeer. Suddenly, John arrives and saves the day. Homer then thanks John for saving his life and accepts him as a friend.

According to Bill Oakley, the Fox censor objected to “Homer’s Phobia” being aired. The normal procedure is for an episode’s script to be sent to the censor and then faxed back with a list of lines and words that should be substituted. However this episode came back with two pages of notes about almost every single line in the show. The censors stated that they did not like the use of the word “gay”, or the discussion of homosexuality at all, and closed with a paragraph which stated that “the topic and substance of this episode are unacceptable for broadcast”. Usually the censor notes are ignored as the offending lines and problems are dealt with after the episode has been animated. In this case the entire episode was deemed a problem, so it could not be solved in this way. The staff asked Waters if he thought the gay community would find the episode offensive. Homer’s use of the word “fag” to insult John was his only problem, so the writers changed it to “queer”. The censor problems ultimately came to nothing as when the episode came back from animation in South Korea, the then-Fox president had just been fired and replaced, with the censors being replaced as well. The new censors sent back merely one line: “acceptable for broadcast”.

This is, of course, not the first time the show has experimented with humor centered around gay people. But has been cited as a significant part of The Simpsons’ exploration of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) themes. The series made several references to homosexuality before the episode aired. In the 1990 episode “Simpson and Delilah“, the character Karl (voiced by Harvey Fierstein) kisses Homer, while the recurring character Waylon Smithers is often shown to be in love with his boss, Montgomery Burns, initially suggestively and since then more overtly. However, “Homer’s Phobia” was the first episode to revolve entirely around homosexual themes.

Yet again, this is The Simpsons at its’ finest combining great satire with a lot of over the top elements…and boy howdy, do they go over the top with this one. But at the same time, it fits for what the episode is trying to be as they examine homosexuality issues without getting political or one-sided about it.

It’s hilarious to watch some of the craziness that the episode gives us, the whole steel mill bit is one of the biggest laugh out loud moments in the show’s history and the final climax at the Christmas park is brilliant.

John Waters himself gives a really good performance as John in this and once again, the episode is very clever to know when to be over the top but also come up with the brilliant satire that the show is known for. Homer’s Phobia was a hilarious episode of the series and one of the definitive episodes of the season.

Let’s celebrate the end of this the way The Simpsons Take The Bowl did:

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Posted in Talking Simpsons
3 comments on “Talking Simpsons #211: Homer’s Phobia
  1. […] him. At the time, the episode was controversial simply for dealing with gay themes. A FOX executive admonished the show, saying, “The topic and substance of this episode are unacceptable for broadcast.” But to […]

  2. […] episode does a good job of making really smart gay jokes like in Homer’s Phobia, but yeah, like Fierstein there, there just wasn’t that Simpsons twist to make it work on the […]

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