Bart Simspon: Thirty years series hints at the 10-y/o’s budding sexuality
Fan theories for some reason is bit of a love-hate thing. One can appreciate that with a certain kind of prestige TV show — your Stranger Things, your Westworld, your Orphan Black — viewers are propelled through the series by burning questions and outrageous twists that raise yet more burning questions.
The problem lies when a significant slot of the internet are given over to people working to decode the grand designs of how they digest their entertainments, it's tempting to argue they in some way, ruin the pleasures of passive watching.
But then again, you keep wondering about Bart Simpson’s sexual identity.
One of the curious side effects of The Simpsons’ longevity — (April marked 30 years since the animated series' debut) — has been the near-subliminal continuity of a few motifs across those three decades. There’s the deliberate refusal to specify which state the town of Springfield is in, Ned Flanders’ obscenely well-toned physique and Homer’s repeated false claims that some new ambition has been his “lifelong dream,” to name a few. And, perhaps, some hints about Bart’s sexual orientation, a suggestion that's really fascinating, because it remains half-formed and necessary for ambiguous appeal.
Dang!, Every Simpsons fan recalls that “Homer’s Phobia,” episode where Homer suspects Bart is gay for a host of trivial reasons related to the influence of a family friend named John.
That episode is rightly praised for its wry take on LGBT politics in the shifting landscape of the late ‘90s — it showed how gay panic is rather passé in it's , and dismissable with a little fact check. And, of course, the story was even less focused on uncovering Bart’s “closet sexuality” than on making a point about Homer’s ignorant prejudice: The kid is 10 years old and largely oblivious to adult views.
But do other episodes partly corroborate Homer’s assumption? In theoretical sense, maybe.
Indeed, some of Bart’s funniest moments involve him undermining his straight bad-boy persona to downright charming queerness. In season four, with Lisa reluctant to participate in a beauty pageant Homer has signed her up for, Bart teaches her how to walk in heels and even speculates he could win the contest. In the Rear Window parody “Bart of Darkness,” Lisa visits her secluded brother in his room — he’s broken his leg and been housebound for the summer — and is disturbed to find he’s writing a stuffy Victorian parlor drama in the vein of Oscar Wilde. Touché.
The strongest argument for Bart’s straightness is his string of dalliances with girls, yet these end up being neither evidence for or against a given reading of his sexual persona. They could just as easily represent the first fumbling advances of a hetero boy or the awkward liaisons of a kid who doesn’t realize that girls aren’t really his thing. In each case, the courtship seems motivated by Bart’s desire to show who he wants to become as opposed to who he wants to be with.
Two rather weak hints at Bart's sexuality come in Season 4 and later onward in Season 11.
His first genuine crush in (episode 8 of Season 4, “New Kid on the Block”) is on his older neighbor, Laura Powers, an unattainable tomboy he seeks to impress with a put-on maturity, but in the end their dynamic duet resolves to that of mischievous siblings.
Then Much later on, in “The Bart Wants What It Wants” (season 13, episode 11) Bart dates Greta Wolfcastle, daughter of action star Rainier Wolfcastle, apparently to access her plush lifestyle and famous dad, and finally blows her off for the opportunity to heckle Principal Skinner at a standup comedy open mic. This is callous even by Bart’s standards, and it reveals a shocking lack of interest in the opposite sex. He doesn’t for a moment regret the blasé decision to dump Greta until his best friend Milhouse happens to catch her on the rebound.
I think maybe the gay theme's fairest point was when Bart does find friendship with another boy, it’s expressly coded as romantic: “The Haw-Hawed Couple” of season 18 sees him growing close to class bully Nelson Muntz, only to wind up fearing the intensity of his devotion. In the end, Bart wistfully cradles one of his denim vests — an allusion to Brokeback Mountain. Touché!
Although none of this is to suggest that the crew of creatives behind The Simpsons has made an absolute path for Bart’s choices in life. The boy still hasn’t even hit puberty, remember, and among the show’s pleasures(which of course, might be a purposeful thing) is designed in way in which these matters are left open to fandom interpretation.