'The Simpsons' Dives Into Gay Controversy

ByABC News
February 18, 2005, 6:18 PM

Feb. 18, 2005 — -- At a time when the culture wars have singed such animated characters as SpongeBob SquarePants and PBS' Buster, the Fox network's "The Simpsons" is gleefully thrusting itself into the crossfire.

This Sunday, Springfield -- the fictional town where the show is set -- will legalize same-sex marriage.

As the mayor of Springfield says in a clip of Sunday's show provided to ABC News: "Springfield: a place where everyone can marry -- even dudes."

What's more, one of the main characters on the show will come out as a homosexual. (This is a carefully guarded secret that has caused much speculation on blogs and in chat rooms.)

The executive producer of "The Simpsons," Al Jean, says the show is not endorsing same-sex marriage. He points out that not all of the characters in the show support the legalization -- and that that many of those who do just hope it will bring in tourist dollars.

In the episode, the town creates a tourism advertisement with the lines: "Gay-o, it's OK-o/Tie the knot and spend your dough/Gay-o, come and stay-o/Visit our Web site for further info."

Some Christian conservatives say the show is yet another example of how "Holly-weird" (as many of them call it) has become increasingly disconnected from average Americans.

"I think television is becoming obsessed with homosexuality," says Robert Knight of Concerned Women for America. "In fact, I wouldn't put it past people to dig up reruns of 'Happy Days' and have the Fonz come out as gay."

This, however, is not your average skirmish in the culture wars. While some Christian conservatives are upset, there's less criticism this time. In part, that's because "The Simpsons" -- unlike "SpongeBob Squarepants" and "Postcards from Buster" -- is not aimed directly at children. In part, it's because many evangelicals have long embraced "The Simpsons" for its high religious content.