The Simpsons spoilers follow, but they're extremely minor.
Most people say their favourite member of The Simpsons is Bart or Homer, but they're lying. Lisa is clearly the best, and not just because she's the Lizard Queen. Sure, she can come across a bit arrogant at times, but little Lisa Lionheart grounds The Simpsons with her outspoken views and unwavering sense of decency.
At just eight years old, cartoon Lisa speaks more sense than most adults do in real life, making lil' Lisa a wonderful role model for everyone who's tuned in since The Simpsons first started in 1989. Climate change, animal rights and gender equality are just some of the causes that Lisa has championed over the past three decades, and it looks like LGBTQ+ rights could be in her sights soon too.
For years, fans have speculated that Lisa might be queer (thanks in large part to her non-conformist views). While it's true that Lisa is generally more interested in the opposite sex, crushing on Nelson Muntz or developing an addiction to Corey's teen hotline, occasional scenes have suggested that boys might not be the only objects of her desire.
For example, the season 23 episode 'Holidays of Future Passed' opens with a montage of photos which looks ahead to the family's future. In one of the pictures, Lisa can be seen holding hands with two women on the sofa, hinting at a queer, polyamorous future for our favourite Simpson.
In season 29, 'Mr Lisa's Opus' flashes forward to an 18-year-old version of Lisa who's about to attend Harvard University. By the end of the episode, Lisa holds hands with a girl who she hints may be "more than a friend". Executive producer Al Jean seemed to confirm this before the episode aired when he suggested to The Hollywood Reporter that Lisa "might end up with a woman" at some point that season.
However, it's worth bearing in mind that most of these hints at Lisa's queerness are just that, hints. And even the most concrete examples tend to just appear in couch gags or future-set episodes considered to be non-canon. Within the show's actual canon, Lisa is pretty much interested in just boys.
Still, that didn't stop Al Jean from doubling down on his previous comments just recently. During a conversation with Metro last year, The Simpsons producer said, "I see Lisa as President and possibly polyamorous."
While it's been implied more than once that Lisa could end up with a seat in the Oval Office, this statement also seems to back up the queer future depicted in 'Holidays of Future Passed'. Of course, it's not always enough to just hint at something. If a character is actually queer, then that shouldn't be merely teased, because this suggests that anything non-heteronormative is to be hidden or deemed as lesser.
Yeardley Smith, the actor behind Lisa's unmistakeable voice, has since weighed in on the conversation. Mid-October, she joined the Stryker & Klein show on Los Angeles’ KROQ radio to discuss her character. When asked if Lisa is bisexual, Yeardley said, "I’m totally open to the possibilities of her exploring other ways of life […] but she’s eight, people!"
Smith continued: "People in the LGBTQ community often say 'I knew from the get-go!', but in my heart and soul, Lisa is eight and she loves girly things."
So there's a lot to unpack here. Aside from the fact that Lisa's love of "girly things" has no bearing on her sexual orientation, there's something rather disconcerting about the way Yeardley emphasises Lisa's age in this discussion.
The implication here is that pre-pubescent children cannot be queer because queerness is purely sexual and nothing more. Now that's simply not true.
Yeardley herself acknowledges that LGBTQ+ people often know they're not straight early on, and there's plenty of scientific evidence that proves queer identities form with nonsexual elements long before puberty hits.
At a time when society still struggles with the existence of queer adults, the concept of queer children has proven even more difficult for people to wrap their heads around. The general assumption is that everyone is straight until they become young adults, and to assume otherwise is to sexualise a child. Not only is that inaccurate, it's also offensive.
Schools have long recognised nascent heterosexuality by organising school dances, for example, so a refusal to acknowledge nascent homosexuality is based on the (misguided) idea that it must be deviant, or lesser than.
Smith objects to the idea that Lisa might be queer because she's only eight, but these same objections didn't come into play when her character developed heterosexual crushes. If Lisa is indeed developing a LGBTQ+ identity on the show, it would make sense then for future episodes to the possibility of queer crushes in a similar manner.
Whether Lisa is queer or not, this wouldn't be the first time that The Simpsons has explored LGBTQ+ representation. Notable examples include Lisa's aunt, Patty Bouvier, who came out as a lesbian in season 16, and Waylon Smithers, who finally revealed his true feelings for Mr Burns in season 27.
Speaking in that aforementioned Metro interview, Al Jean said he wanted to include more LGBTQ+ characters on the show moving forward. If that's true, then lil' Lisa could be a great step in this direction, providing young LGBTQ+ viewers with a much-needed role model who could help them navigate their emerging queer identities free of judgement.
The Simpsons is available to watch on Disney+ in the US and the UK.
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