“It [The Simpsons] set the standard for cartoon series … and I believe it'll always be a trailblazer,” In het Panhuis told the Süddeutsche Zeitung.
The focus on gay characters helped to dispel prejudices about homosexuality, according to the author, who points out that in 2005 The Simpsons was the first cartoon series to dedicate an entire episode to gay marriage.
According to In het Panhuis, the complexity of the characters plays a particularly important role, citing the example of Smithers, whose unrequited love for his boss Burns is dealt with in depth.
Conservative TV channel Fox, which has been showing The Simpsons, for twenty years, has a history of censoring gay scenes. In het Panhuis advances the notion that the network stuck with the series in part because it needed a “liberal fig leaf” in its entertainment package to appear diverse alongside its ultra-conservative news coverage.
As for Homer Simpson, Pater Familias and loveable snob, In het Panhuis believes that beneath the gay jokes lies a more complex character.
“Homer has kissed other men on the lips more than 50 times throughout the series but despite that he' s happily married to his wife,” In het Panhuis said. “Homer is sometimes heterosexual, sometimes gay and sometimes homophobic.”
The book titled 'Behind the Gay Jokes - Homosexuality in 'The Simpsons' Hinter den schwulen Lachern - Homosexualität bei den Simpsons can be bought at the reduced price of €20 until 7 July.