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The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show
Homer's Phobia
Brother from Another Series

"Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God! I danced with a gay! Marge, Lisa, promise me you won't tell anyone. Promise me!"
Homer, after discovering John's sexual orientation

"Homer's Phobia" is the fifteenth episode of Season 8.

Synopsis[]

Homer makes friends with John, a kitschy antiques store dealer and lover of all things camp. However, when Marge tells Homer that John is a homosexual, Homer freaks out and, fearing that his son will emulate John, takes Bart on a misguided journey to make his son heterosexual.

Full Story[]

Homer'sPhobia2

Homer meets John

The Simpsons need money to pay for a $900 repair after Bart wrecks the dryer and damages the gas line. Marge tries to sell a family heirloom — an "authentic" American Civil War doll — to Cockamamie's, a campy collectibles shop. Marge is disappointed when John, the shop owner, reveals her precious heirloom is a cheap liquor bottle of little value. The Simpsons take an instant liking to John, who is invited to their house to see campy items that the family owns.

The next morning, Homer tells Marge that he likes John and suggests they invite him and "his wife" over some time. When Marge informs Homer that John doesn't have a wife and is a homosexual, he is horrified. Homer's attitude towards John changes completely, and he refuses to join the tour of Springfield that John has arranged. The rest of the family joins John for the tour and enjoy his company. Bart starts wearing Hawaiian shirts, dancing in women's wigs and eating cupcakes with strawberry icing instead of chocolate icing; which makes Homer worry that Bart might be gay.

Hoping to ensure Bart likes girls, Homer forces him to stare at a cigarette billboard featuring scantily clad women. This backfires when Bart craves slim cigarettes, considered effeminate because they are marketed to women. Homer takes Bart to a steel mill to revel in a manly environment; however, the entire workforce is gay, which Homer learns when the steel mill turns into a gay disco during breaks.

Desperate, Homer tries to snap Bart out of his brainwashing state by taking him deer hunting with Moe and Barney. When they cannot find any deer, they decide to shoot reindeer at Santa's Village instead. The reindeer violently attack the hunters, who are genuinely afraid and drop their macho posturing. With help from Lisa and Marge, John uses a Japanese Santa Claus robot to scare away the reindeer and save the hunting party. Homer is grateful to John for saving their lives and grudgingly accepts him. As John drives everyone home, Homer tells Bart he is fine with however he chooses to live his life. Bart is confused until Lisa explains Homer thinks that Bart is gay.

Before the credits roll, the episode is dedicated to all the steelworkers of America, telling them to keep reaching for that rainbow.

Reception[]

"Homer's Phobia" was the show's first episode to revolve entirely around gay themes and received a positive critical response both for its humor and anti-homophobia message. It won four awards, including an Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program (For Programming One Hour or Less) and a GLAAD Media Award for "Outstanding TV – Individual Episode" in 1998. John Waters himself was praised for his role in the episode. According to John, many kids recognize him for this role.

"Homer's Phobia" has been cited as a significant part of The Simpsons' exploration of 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. Two later episodes that explored LGBT issues were "Three Gays of the Condo" and "There's Something About Marrying", both of which have been compared unfavorably to this episode, as "Three Gays..." resorted to offensive stereotypes of homosexual men (to the point that Harvey Fierstein, who originally was supposed to guest star in that episode, refused to come back for that episode) and "There's Something About Marrying" did a poor job of lampooning same-sex marriage and had unfortunate implications and stereotypes about the transgendered (even though Patty's fiancee was a man cross-dressing as a woman rather than an actual transman or transwoman). Although the latter was more liked than the former.

When the episode aired, the production team received "very few" complaints about its content, with most of the response being positive. Alan Frutkin gave the episode a positive write-up in the LGBT-interest magazine The Advocate, calling it "vintage Simpsons." Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood stated in their book, I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, that: "Only The Simpsons could do this so tongue-in-cheek that nobody could get in a tizzy about it. Very good indeed." In the book Leaving Springfield, Matthew Henry praised the episode's critiquing of "the most common misconception about homosexuality: namely that gayness is somehow contagious", as well as its other themes. Catharine Lumby of the University of Sydney cited the episode as an example of good satire as it "managed to explore a lot of [homosexual] issues in quite a deep way [...] without being overtly political", which she claimed, along with the episode's humor, made its anti-homophobia message more successful than that of other gay-themed shows like Queer as Folk. In his review of The Simpsons – The Complete Eighth Season DVD, Todd Gilchrist said that the episode "certainly qualifies as one of the all-time greatest episodes".

In 1998, TV Guide listed it in its list of top twelve Simpsons episodes. It was placed fifth on Entertainment Weekly's top 25 The Simpsons episode list. In 2003, USA Today published a top 10 episodes list chosen by the webmaster of The Simpsons Archive, which had this episode listed in tenth place. IGN ranked John Waters's performance as the ninth-best guest appearance in the show's history, with TV Guide naming him the third-best film-related guest star. In a 2008 article, Entertainment Weekly named Waters as one of the 16 best The Simpsons guest stars. John Patterson of The Guardian wrote that Waters' appearance "felt to me like a summit meeting between the most influential pop-culture figures of the last 25 years". When The Simpsons began streaming on Disney+ in 2019, former Simpsons writer and executive producer Bill Oakley named this one of the best classic Simpsons episodes to watch on the service.

Conversely, in 2002, Off the Telly writers Steve Williams and Ian Jones named "Homer's Phobia" one of the five worst episodes of The Simpsons, stating that it "leaves such a nasty taste in the mouth," as Homer is "quite simply a bastard" throughout the course of the episode. The pair concluded by saying "this is a side of the show we'd not seen before, nor particularly wanted to see." There are also viewers today who, while applauding the show for its positive messages about homosexuality and acceptance (as well as lampooning toxic masculinity), still hate the episode for using male homosexual stereotypes just to prove their point.

In June 2003, Igor Smykov sued the Russian television channel REN TV on claims that The Simpsons, along with Family Guy, were "morally degenerate and promoted drugs, violence and homosexuality". As evidence, "Homer's Phobia" was shown to the judge to prove that The Simpsons promoted homosexuality and should not be aired again on the channel. The case was thrown out after one day.

In July 2021, Cathal Gunning of Screen Rant argued that the episode made a huge contribution to "normalizing LGBTQ+ characters," noting that they were a rarity at the time the episode aired, and it didn't "treat its first openly gay character as a walking joke." Gunning also argued that the episode was "groundbreaking" because Homer's fear of a gay man, voiced by John Waters, was mocked, rather than Waters' character, and heralded the episode for being "one of the first attempts to break down the invisible barrier faced by gay characters" while noting it lampooned the hypermasculinity of Homer's friends.

Broadcast History[]

United States[]

Broadcast date(s) Channel aired
  • February 16, 1997
  • August 24, 1997
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  • December 21, 2020
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Season 7 Season 8 Episodes Season 9
Treehouse of Horror VIIYou Only Move TwiceThe Homer They FallBurns, Baby BurnsBart After DarkA Milhouse DividedLisa's Date with DensityHurricane NeddyEl Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer (The Mysterious Voyage of Homer)The Springfield FilesThe Twisted World of Marge SimpsonMountain of MadnessSimpsoncalifragilisticexpiala-D'oh-ciousThe Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie ShowHomer's PhobiaBrother from Another SeriesMy Sister, My SitterHomer vs. the Eighteenth AmendmentGrade School ConfidentialThe Canine MutinyThe Old Man and the LisaIn Marge We TrustHomer's EnemyThe Simpsons Spin-Off ShowcaseThe Secret War of Lisa Simpson
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