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Recap / The Simpsons S8 E15: "Homer's Phobia"

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"Homer's Phobia" is the fifteenth episode (code 4F11) from the eighth season of The Simpsons, first aired on 2/16/1997. In this episode, Homer befriends John, an eccentric antiques dealer, only to call the friendship off upon learning that he's a homosexual. He then begins to fear that Bart might be influenced by John and become gay.


Episode Summary

Bart organizes a race between the washing machine and the dryer, which ends up with both appliances breaking the gas line. To pay for the steep repair bill (and after an attempt by Homer to mail the gas company a huge jar full of coins from the retirement fund ends with the jar sinking to the center of Earth), Marge decides to sell an old figurine of a Confederate soldier that belonged to her grandmother. The family then goes to "Cockamamies", an antique shop at the mall, whose owner John (voiced by B-movie director John Waters) tells them the heirloom is actually a decorative whiskey bottle from the early 1970s, but nevertheless takes it, as his store is full of campy merchandise, ranging from an issue of TV Guide that belonged to Jacqueline Onassis with Laverne and Shirley on the cover to a 1950s-style sci-fi board game. Homer takes a liking to him and invites him over to their house, spending a good time.

The following morning, Homer is told by Marge that John is a homosexual, a revelation that truly shocks him, as he thought he wasn't flamboyant enough. While Marge and the kids continue to socialize with John, Homer refuses to associate with him and begins to fear that Bart might be turning gay after seeing him sporting a Hawaiian shirt, dancing to "The Shoop-Shoop Song" wearing a bouffant wig and preferring pink Sno-Balls for dessert instead of Hostess chocolate cupcakes. Marge then tells Homer to spend more time with Bart, something he does by taking his son to see a billboard featuring two scantily-clad girls having a pillow fight, which only makes Bart want to smoke slims. They then go to a steel mill expecting to see manly men in action, but it turns out the place doubles as "The Anvil", a gay disco.

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At the tavern, Moe and Barney convince Homer that the world is turning gay, and that the only way to keep Bart straight is to take him hunting. Unable to find any deer (as they have long moved out of the woods), the entourage intrudes on a Christmas village, where they force a tearful Bart to shoot one of the reindeer, who soon begin to attack them. They are saved in the nick of time, however, when John brings his Japanese Santa Claus robot and scares the reindeer away. While Moe and Barney are embarrassed at being rescued by an homosexual, Homer thanks John for saving his life and tells Bart he will love him regardless of his choices. Lisa then tells a confused Bart that Homer thinks he's gay.


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"Homer's Phobia" contains examples of:

  • Call-Back: The "Pin Pals" shirt John found at Goodwill is Homer's from "Team Homer".
  • Camp: John is a big fan of this, and considers the Simpson home a prime example.
  • Camp Gay:
    • Subverted. John is gay and the campiest person ever (and in fact was played by John Waters), but Homer fails to realize, and he even accuses John of having "fooled" him by not making his sexuality (even more) obvious.
      Homer: I like my beer cold, my TV loud, and my homosexuals flaming!
    • The steel mill workers are another example, as they even turn their workplace into a gay disco during their freerime much to Homer's further horror.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The Robot Santa in John's car ends up saving the day by scaring off the reindeer.
  • Comically Missing the Point:
    • As usual for him, Homer doesn't realise John is gay until it's spelled out for him as blatantly as possible.
    Homer: We gotta have [John] and his wife over for drinks sometime.
    Marge: Mmm, I don't think he's married, Homer.
    Homer: Oh, a swingin' bachelor, eh? Well, there's lots of foxy ladies out there.
    Marge: Homer, didn't John seem a little...'festive' to you?
    Homer: Couldn't agree more, happy as a clam!
    Marge: He prefers the company of men.
    Homer: Who doesn't?
    Marge: Homer, listen carefully. John is a homo—
    Homer: Right.
    Marge: —sexual.
    (beat)
    Homer: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA—
    • Bart also fails to notice what Homer is doing until Lisa tells him that Homer thinks he (Bart) is gay, right at the end.
    • While strangling Bart (see Disproportionate Retribution below), Bart points out to Homer that they have company who's not used to seeing Homer's method of discipline. Homer tells John he'll just be another minute, then keeps strangling Bart.
  • Compressed Vice: Homer suddenly develops a case of homophobia in this episode, despite a previous episode having him take a kiss and a butt slap just fine from a Straight Gay guest star, only finding it odd at most. After this episode, his homophobia is never mentioned again.
  • Crapsack World: If you ask Homer, at least.
    Homer: The whole world's gone gay!
  • Cure Your Gays: Homer attempts this on Bart.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: As John and Marge playfully tap one another in complimentary fashion over her corn on the cob kitchen drapes, Bart then whacks Homer in the stomach as hard as he can only for him to begin choking him in front of them.
  • Driven to Suicide: Feeling humiliated at being rescued by John, Moe says he's considering killing himself again (this being the first mention of his suicidal tendencies, a couple of seasons before it became his signature non-sex offender trait).
  • Epic Fail:
    • Homer tries to mail the gas company a huge jar full of coins to pay the repair bill. The jar then sinks to the center of Earth wonders if the Chinese can help him out.
    • In an effort to straighten Bart out, Homer accidentally takes him to a steel mill that turns into a gay dance club/bar after the work day is over.
  • Fictional Video Game: The Astro Blast arcade game at Cockamamie's in Springfield Mall.
  • Gay Aesop: Homer unknowingly befriends a gay man, (wrongly) fearing that Bart was gay, and various other things along those lines. He ends up getting saved from a herd of angry reindeer by the gay guy.
    John: Well, Homer, I won your respect, and all I had to do was save your life. Now, if every gay man could just do the same, you'd be set.
  • Gay Bar Reveal: Homer takes Bart to a steel mill, intending to straighten him out by showing manly straight guys at work. However it turns out to be a gay steel mill that turns into a gay dance club/bar after the work day is over.
    Worker: We work hard, we play hard.
  • Gay Moment: Homer tries too damn hard to avoid these.
  • Girl-on-Girl Is Hot: The reason Homer thought the cigarette ad would cure Bart. Ironically, the billboard could be interpreted as displaying homosexuality. But Homer apparently only discriminates against homosexual men, not homosexual women, like a lot of entertainment media and men do in real life.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: Homer's attempts to keep Bart in straight territory led them to visit a steel mill full with sweaty men in trousers... who are gay to the last of them.
  • Heteronormative Crusader: Homer is worried that Bart is becoming gay and spends most of the episode trying to keep him straight by forcibly exposing him to "manly" things like hunting and cigarette ads (the second attempt backfires spectacularly because the ad portrays two panty-clad, pillow-fighting pinup girls, and Bart decides he wants to smoke their brand).
  • The Hunter Becomes the Hunted: And the prey turned hunters consisted of domesticated reindeer.
  • Hypocritical Humor: When Homer tries to make Bart tougher by going hunting:
    Bart: Something about a bunch of guys alone together in the woods... seems kinda gay.
    (beat)
    Homer: That is a very immature attitude, young man!
  • Ink-Suit Actor: John looks exactly like John Waters, although his mustache is squigglier than in Real Life because it was easier to animate.
  • Karma Houdini: Bart doesn't get in trouble for breaking the dryer, which is what sets up the episode.
  • Kissing Cousins: Invoked by Moe, who thinks Homer and Marge are these after being told that Lisa is a vegetarian.
  • Macho Disaster Expedition: Homer gets increasingly worried that Bart is going to become a homosexual like the campy kitsch antique store owner John that he and the guys try to make sure Bart will still be a macho kid. Homer's attempts all end up in failure and culminate in a hunting trip that flops completely due to all the deer having left Springfield due to the city replacing all the grass in the woods with artificial turf.
  • Manly Gay: Homer takes Bart to a steel mill because he's worried Bart spending time around John will emasculate him. Much to Homer's consternation, it turns out the steelworkers are all this trope (with some Camp Gay mixed in). Then the five o'clock whistle blows...
  • N-Word Privileges: Homer berates John for using the word "queer" because "that's our word for making fun of you. We need it!"
  • Papa Wolf: When the reindeer attack Homer and Bart, Homer lifts Bart above his head to keep him out of harm's way while he takes the brunt of the attack.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Homer is incredibly homophobic, which is shown after he met John, but does mellow a bit after John saved his life. John summed it up rather well at the end:
    Well, Homer, I won your respect, and all I had to do was save your life. Now, if every gay man could just do the same, you'd be set.
  • Pun-Based Title: Homer's Phobia (homophobia)
  • Queer People Are Funny: Everyone at the steel mill.
  • A Real Man Is a Killer: The reason Homer, Moe and Barney took Bart to deer hunting.
  • Real Men Hate Affection: The conversation between Homer and his brain when he decides to make sure Bart doesn't turn out gay. It does not go well.
    (Homer places his arm on Bart's shoulder)
    Homer's Brain: You're leaving the arm there too long. You want to make it worse? (Abruptly removes it)
    Homer's Brain: No, no! He'll know you're on to him! Quick! Shake his hand!
    Homer: (shaking his hand) Just remember son, whatever happens, I'll always love you.
    Homer's Brain: (fearfully) As? As?
    Homer: As a father! Uh, a father! Regular father! (sighs with relief)
  • Shout-Out: In one scene, Marge presents the kids their favorite snack. The dialogue only refers to them as "store-bought snack cakes — both kinds", but they're clearly specifically Hostess CupCakes and Sno Balls. (To Homer's obvious dismay, Bart picks a Sno Ball.)
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!:
    • The mill workers.
    Homer: (to the gay steel workers) You people are sick!
    Worker: (mockingly) Oh, be nice!
    • The European Spanish dub makes it even greater (though it features an Insult Backfire Pun that is sadly untranslatable to English).
    Homer: You are all crazy!
    Worker: You're crazier, bald woman!note 
  • There Are Two Kinds of People in the World: Upon seeing Bart with a Hawaiian t-shirt, Homer tells Marge that there are only two people who wears those shirts: gay guys and big fat party animals and Bart doesn't look like the latter to him.
    Marge: So if you wore a Hawaiian shirt, it wouldn't be gay?
    Homer: Right. Thank you!
  • Very Special Episode: Homer makes a new friend named John, but when John turns out to be gay, he's horrified and Marge calls him out for it. Things get worse when Homer thinks Bart will end up gay because John spends more time with Bart than Homer does (and even begins wearing Hawaiian shirts and dancing to 1950s music while wearing a wig). Homer tries to "cure" Bart by taking him to a cigarette billboard (which is for slim cigarettes and features two scantily-clad women pillow fighting whilst holding a cigarette each), a steel mill (that turns into a gay disco after the work day is over), and a hunting lodge (which fails). At the end, Homer learns to accept Bart for who he is, and Bart doesn't know what Homer is talking about until Lisa spells it out for him: "He thinks you're gay."
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: "Hot stuff, coming through."
  • Where Everybody Knows Your Flame: Homer makes friends with a kitschy antique store owner, but breaks off the friendship when he finds out that John is gay and Bart may be being influenced by him (the episode ends with Homer learning his lesson, naturally). In an effort to straighten him out, Homer accidentally takes Bart to a steel mill that turns into a gay dance club/bar after the work day is over. We work hard, we play hard.
    Moe: Where have you been, Homer? The entire steel industry is gay.

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