After 27 seasons of not-so-subtle hints on The Simpsons, longtime Springfield resident Waylon Smithers Jr. will finally come out and reveal to viewers he is gay in an episode inspired by a Simpsons writer's relationship with his gay son.
In the episode, titled "The Burns Cage" and set to premiere Sunday, Smithers finally comes to terms that his unrequited love for his boss C. Montgomery Burns will never be reciprocated, so Homer Simpson goes in search of a better match for his supervisor. "We didn't really want to have that big moment of 'I'm out,' you know?" Simpsons writer Rob LaZebnik told the New York Post. "Instead, just have it be a big embrace — like everyone knows it."
LaZebnik's son Johnny came out while still in high school. "I am a Midwestern guy, so I don't tend to wear my emotions on my sleeve, but I thought, 'What better way to tell my son I love him than to write a cartoon about it?'" LaZebnik said, adding that he originally pitched Smithers' coming out storyline to producers three seasons ago.
Now in college, Johnny LaZebnik told the Post, "The revelation that my father loves me is not much of a revelation, thankfully. He's unbelievably accepting. We're as close as a straight dad and a gay son could be."
While Smithers' sexual orientation was initially kept ambiguous – producers joked that he was "Burns-sexual" – The Simpsons long hinted that the Harry Shearer-voiced Smithers was gay as the seasons wore on, eventually becoming the long-running animated series' worst-kept secret. As the Post notes, the character was once shown wearing "rainbow-striped short-shorts" in Springfield's gay district and going on vacation to an all-male resort.