“Simpsons” Episode Offers Fresh, Funny Take on Gay Marriage

Patty (right) with her lover Veronica

In the show’s tradition of equal-opportunity lampooning, the message is not all pro-gay. Irksome lesbian stereotypes abound, and Nelson the bully suggests they “legalize gay funerals.” And naturally, Reverend Lovejoy shutters his church to the same-sex sinners. “Now go back to working behind the scenes in every facet of entertainment!” he admonishes.

Spotting a chance to make a buck, Homer becomes an ordained minister via the Internet, converts his garage into a chapel (“The Church of Matri-money”), and proceeds to marry all the gay visitors in town. He gleefully begins each ceremony with the words, “Queerly beloved…”

So which lovable Simpsons regular wants to get hitched? It’s not the obvious candidate, Smithers, the fey manservant who’s secretary for the Malibu Stacey doll fan club. And it’s not Homer’s pals Lenny and Carl, though Marge does remark that their attraction to each other is “something they need to work out for themselves.”

It’s Patty Bouvier, Marge’s chain-smoking, Homer-hating sister, who announces she’s gay and plans to marry a lover she met on a women’s pro golf tour. Marge is the only person who’s shocked. Apparently, the poster of the mannish Miss Hathaway (of The Beverly Hillbillies) in Patty’s childhood bedroom wasn’t clue enough.

Although Marge gives lip service to the idea of codifying the highest form of love between two people, she’s clearly uncomfortable. “You can’t handle it when you sister finds love in the locker room,” snaps Patty, and she’s right; unfortunately, Patty discovers her locker-room lover Veronica is actually a man, and calls off the wedding. But Patty remains a lesbian, and as Marge so succinctly puts it, "just because you're a lesbian doesn't mean you're less of a bian."

So is this Simpsons episode scandalous? No more than many others that take on controversial socio-political topics. Sure, we witness Patty and her fiancee smooching on the couch, perhaps a nod to the girl-on-girl lip-locks on Showtime’s The L Word, and in a fantasy sequence we even see Homer in an extended kiss with himself (don’t ask).

It’s refreshing to see a hit network TV show in prime time, watched by children and adults, serve up such a politically charged issue, FCC be damned. And there were no advertiser boycotts, no letter writing campaigns. Perhaps it’s this willingness to take on current events with creativity that keeps the show fresh year after year.

And keep in mind, this is network TV, not late-night cable, where Comedy Central’s South Park has gloriously skewered homosexuality in several episodes (remember that brilliant spoof of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy last season?). Or that channel’s thoroughly twisted new Drawn Together animated show, with its fabulously swishy video game warrior.

Of course, the producers of The Simpsons did make a concession to appease jittery parents and right-wingers. Before the program, there was one of those somber warnings in white type on a black background—the kind normally reserved for violence and foul language—cautioning viewers: “This episode contains discussions of same-sex marriage. Parental discretion is advised.”

Or was the announcement one of those crafty Simpsons sight gags that’s actually part of the program?

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