Lenny and Carl

After leaving today’s class discussion, there was one question that continued to linger in my mind throughout the day. It was the question of what is the purpose of homosexual ambiguity on a television series. The example that comes to my mind immediately is the characters Lenny and Carl from the hit series The Simpsons.

Lenny and Carl are almost seen together when either of them appear on screen. Residents of Springfield acknowledge that there is homosexual tension between the characters but rarely do they directly say that the two men are homosexual. I remember an episode where Marge told Homer not to push Lenny and Carl into anything because they have to work it out themselves. In an episode that parodies VHI’s Behind the Music the actor Bart Simpsons said that he had paid people to kiss for entertainment. Immediately the character zooms in on Carl and Lenny sitting down outside Moe’s Tavern. Carl tells the camera that Bart was going around the city asking people to kiss. Then Lenny turns to Carl to say, “Hey, did we ever get that money.” The camera moves on to a different subject matter.

I think that sexual preference status of Lenny and Carl is left ambiguous for comedic purposes. Viewers get hints that can help them indicate an answer to what Lenny and Carl are to each other. The series has produced shows where Lenny and Carl live in separate apartments with their “girlfriends”. What I agree with most of what was said in class is that if a viewer is looking for homosexual hints in any series they can probably find it. That’s true for the Simpsons because Lenny and Carl don’t always perform feministic actions that might portray them as homosexual. Their actions almost mimic those of Homer Simpsons who might be considered the most stereotypical “man” on the series. (Although there is an episode where Homer thinks he might be gay and moves into an apartment with two other homosexual men.)

Even one of the most anticipated episode where the a character was going to come out of the closet as same-sex marriages became legal in Springfield did not comment on Lenny and Carl. The bets were high on Lenny and Carl being the couple that would come out about their sexuality. Instead it was Patti, Marge’s sister, who proclaimed her love for another woman. (But if you have seen this episode you will remember that the woman turns out to be a man.)

Do Matt Groening and the other creators of the series use Lenny and Carl to make a statement of men being forced to keep their sexual preference a secret if they are homosexual? Are they really gay?

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