Compare & Contrast: Gay Bars

“We work hard.  We play hard.” – Roscoe

In everything but similarity of title, “Homer’s Phobia” is the obvious choice for a comparison episode to “Flaming Moe”.  But rather than stacking up the plot structures, characters, and jokes and marveling at how greatly Season 8 towers over Season 22, I want to focus on one small aspect of these two episodes that I think goes a long way toward illustrating the point I was trying to make yesterday.  Specifically, it’s easy to see how much more tame and thoughtless Zombie Simpsons is when you compare their gay club, “The League of Extra-Horny Gentlemen”, to “The Anvil” from The Simpsons.  The two clubs/bars/whatever are relatively small parts of their respective episodes, but in them we can see a much larger reflection of the comedy sensibilities behind The Simpsons and Zombie Simpsons.

In “Flaming Moe”, the only thing about “The League of Extra-Horny Gentlemen” that’s even trying to be funny is the name of the place.  Other than that it’s just a yellow approximation of a trendy gay club.  The bouncer’s keen on tall, statuesque guys who wear revealing clothes and look like they do a lot of sit-ups.  Homely, ill clad Smithers is unwelcome.  Later, we get a quick peek inside and see another tall sit-up enthusiast, this time dressed as a shirtless fireman.  There’s nothing at all creative about any of this, it’s the standard Hollywood version of what a gay club looks like.  You could see the exact same thing in an episode of Sex in the City or Entourage or just about any movie where straight characters accidentally stumble into a gay bar.

Generic Gay Bar LineEven with Safe Mode on, you’d see more creativity by searching Google Images for “Gay Bars”. 

Of course, “The Anvil” is also filled with tight clothes and big muscles, but it’s not some forgettable, anonymous club.  Nor is it just another bar with a line out front and a selective bouncer.  It, the entire thing, is the joke, because “The Anvil” is built into a working steel mill that is staffed entirely with flaming, hunky gay guys.  The mere existence of the bar is a gag, and its hard working, hard playing clientele are the icing on the cake.

Homer's Phobia3 Nothing like this has ever existed . . . but it should.  Do you think they’d make you work a shift to get in?

Both bars traffic in well known stereotypes, the difference is in how they use them.  “Flaming Moe” expects the audience to guffaw upon recognizing the stereotype: ‘That is so what gay bars are really like, I saw one on How I Met Your Mother!’.  “Homer’s Phobia”, on the other hand, takes the stereotype of the gay club and puts it in the last place the audience would ever expect it to be.  It’s the kind of deep seated silliness that The Simpsons was always really good at, like making the head of the Kwik-E-Mart a mountain dwelling swami or having the highly sophisticated machine that scores the Career Aptitude Normalizing Test be operated by a rocking chair bound hayseed who calls it “Emma” and hits it with a broom.

Zombie Simpsons has a gay bar that’s exactly like every gay bar you’ve ever seen on television, just with a cute name.  The Simpsons has a gay bar that’s nothing like anything anyone’s ever done before or since.  One is reductive, the other is creative, and it’s just another way Zombie Simpsons falls hopelessly short of the real thing. 

13 Responses to “Compare & Contrast: Gay Bars”

  1. 1 Celia
    18 January 2011 at 6:45 pm

    It’s as I said in the comments to the other post – most of this gay stuff in TV shows is still a shell of varnish for the sorts of straight people who refer to themselves as “fag hags” or whatever the masculine equivalent is. We have come to a time when gay characters are featured and it’s not a big deal (only Queerty, of all the gay blogs I saw, saw fit to even mention it) and yet they’re just this stuff. I am suddenly reminded of Homer in one episode (I forget which one) trying to lift a set of weights, and yet he cannot raise the bar over his head until all the weights have fallen off the ends, scaring the cat in the process.

    • 2 Charlie Sweatpants
      18 January 2011 at 7:12 pm

      It’s “Brush with Greatness” when he’s trying to lose weight.

      • 3 Celia
        18 January 2011 at 8:17 pm

        I thought it might be. But I didn’t know how or where to start looking to make sure. Lucky we have your info-stocked brain :)

  2. 4 Cassidy
    18 January 2011 at 9:23 pm

    Speaking of “Homer’s Phobia” I have to say one of my favorite bits of the episode is the scene with Bart and Homer when the mill converts to a dance club. It’s not really a joke per se but I love Bart’s question to Homer:

    Bart: Dad, why did you bring me to a gay steel mill?
    Homer: I don’t know!

    That little exchange always makes me laugh. Both Bart’s nonchalant reaction to the goings on (and almost-exasperated attempt to figure out what his dad is doing) to Homer’s panicked and despairing answer.

    Also came across this little bit in the wikipedia entry for “Homer’s Phobia”:

    The “gay steel mill” scene was written by Steve Tompkins. He first pitched that Homer and Bart would encounter longshoremen, but it was too much work to animate the lading of ships, so a steel mill was used instead. Tompkins also wrote a different third act for the episode which was replaced in the final cut. Instead of Homer, Bart, Barney and Moe going deer hunting and ending up at “Santa’s Village” they would go back to the steel mill. There, Homer would attempt to prove his heterosexuality by having a human tractor pulling contest with some of the steel mill workers. It was decided that it “didn’t really service the story” and was dropped.

    My emphasis on that last line. I wonder when the last time a decision like that was made by the writers?

    • 19 January 2011 at 5:41 am

      Woah, the ending to Homer’s Phobia wasn’t great, but it could’ve been a lot worse! If Zombie Simpsons conceived an idea as original as a Gay Steel Mill, you just know they would’ve gone back to it at the first opportunity and milked it to death.

  3. 6 Mike Russo
    19 January 2011 at 10:31 am

    Have I mentioned yet that “Flaming Moe” was a steaming pile of shit?

    I’m amazing how episodes like “Homer’s Phobia” and even a second season episode like “Simpson and Delilah” were so ahead of the curve when handling the subject matter. In “Phobia” (aside from the Gay Steel Mill joke) I don’t feel like I’m being assaulted with stereotypes the entire half hour. John is just a nice guy who happens to be gay. He’s quirky, but not a flaming, soulless, lisping mega-queer. It’s Homer who has the problem and by the end he learns to deal with it.

    In “Flaming Moe” (and really in all recent episodes that deal with homosexual characters) everyone is an ascot wearing, twinkle-toed extreme stereotype who act like the writers had never actually met a gay person in their entire life. It’s unpleasant and there’s no way to really get much sympathy out of these pathetic characters. You really just want them to go away.

    Why does Moe think it’s necessary to pretend to be gay again? I missed the reasoning. What’s with the tacked on subplot? Why does Bart being involved make or break Skinners relationship? Since when is Largo flaming? How does dressing up as a bug make Bumblebee Man a furry? Why does this kid sound nothing like a third grader? Why are one-off characters like this designed and dressed for more realistically than the rest of the plain-clothed, bug eyed cast? I’ve got to give Family Guy credit. 12 years later and their new and one off characters still look like they belong in the show’s universe. Not so with Zombie Simpsons.

    No one gives a shit about this show anymore. “Flaming Moe” is hard evidence,

    • 7 Charlie Sweatpants
      19 January 2011 at 10:52 am

      “Why are one-off characters like this designed and dressed for more realistically than the rest of the plain-clothed, bug eyed cast?”

      Funny you should mention that, I noticed the exact same thing and it’s the topic of a post I’m working on for Thursday.

      • 8 D.N.
        21 January 2011 at 9:16 pm

        I made a post here some time ago in which I mentioned that earlier on in the show, guest-star characters were drawn to fit in with the regular characters, being appropriately bug-eyed and all, but later on it seemed like the animators got so hung up on making the guest stars resemble their real-life counterparts, that the end results did fit at all with the regular characters. If you look at, say, how the animators drew the Spinal Tap and Aerosmith, there’s a world of difference to how they draw guest-stars now.

    • 9 Patrick
      20 January 2011 at 8:45 pm

      Speaking of Family Guy has anyone noticed that in background shots and street scenes that auxiliary characters are rarely seen and they don’t even use the same generic random people over and over like South Park does (then again it is a pissant-white-bred-mountain-town in the middle of the Colorado Rockies), American Dad only did it in the 100th episode and King of the Hill never did that and hell even The Cleveland Show never did it.

    • 10 D.N.
      21 January 2011 at 9:13 pm

      “Since when is Largo flaming?”

      Harry Shearer’s voice for Largo seemed to have evolved, becoming more fey and swishy over time. I looked up Largo on Wikipedia and apparently there was a season 17 episode which pretty much revealed that he’s gay.

  4. 11 Anonymous
    19 January 2011 at 1:28 pm

    “The Anvil”= THERES NO JOKE


    • 12 Patrick
      20 January 2011 at 8:48 pm

      Oh not you again… :|

      The Anvil = Multi layered very subtle visual joke as explained

      The League of Extra-Horny Gentlemen = very bloody obvious cliched gay joke that you could easily laugh sarcasticly about

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