Waylon Smithers, Jr.
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Waylon J. Smithers, Jr. (better known as "Mr. Smithers" or simply as "Smithers") is Mr. Burns' personal assistant, executive, and self-proclaimed best friend. In many ways, Mr. Smithers represents the stereotype of the closeted gay man, and numerous overt allusions and double entendres to his homosexuality are made (especially towards Mr. Burns), as he lives in the Gay Neighborhood.
Waylon Smithers was born in 1954. His father, Waylon Smithers, Sr., worked for Burns until he died of radiation poisoning after saving Springfield from a potential nuclear meltdown, making Mr. Burns the closest thing to a father figure he knew. In high school, he was beaten up by bullies (including Homer Simpson), while he was the announcer for the high school gymnastics competition. Eventually he became Mr. Burns' personal assistant.
As a (not very well) closeted gay man, he has had a crush on Mr. Burns for as long as he as worked for him, but Burns has never caught on. He was previously married to a woman (a southern belle, given her accent and personality), but it fell apart when, shortly after an injury with his leg, and his then-wife wanted to have sex with him, his then-wife referred to his true love, Mr. Burns, as "awful". At one point it was implied that he was linked romantically to John, the owner of Cockamamie's thrift shop. He collects Malibu Stacy dolls, writes a newsletter about the doll, and was the author of a Malibu Stacy stage musical that played in Arizona; he played Stacy's boyfriend. He once owned a Yorkshire Terrier named Hercules. When Mr. Burns convinced Sideshow Bob to run for mayor, it was Smithers who revealed to Bart and Lisa a clue that would lead them to the truth about Bob's not-so-honest victory in the mayoral election, hinting that his reasons were due to Sideshow Bob planning on enacting policies that were oppressive to his orientation.
In 1995, when Mr. Burns attempted to block the sun from Springfield after stealing oil from the elementary school, Smithers objected and was fired. This drove him into a nightmare of alcohol abuse and Comedy Central viewing. He was the main suspect in the subsequent shooting of Mr. Burns, but he was cleared. However, he did, in a drunken stupor, shoot Jasper in his wooden leg while trying to rush home to watch his favorite TV show. No charges were pressed in this case. It is unknown as to what religion he practices, although it is heavily implied that he is Protestant, as he goes to a confessional stand (which is primarily a Catholic practice), and before making the confession, he admits to God that he is not a Catholic, although he did try to march in the Saint Patrick's Day Parade.
Smithers' official job at the power plant appears to be that of executive assistant, which he says is "actually about 2,800 smaller jobs", responsible for monitoring employee attendance and is often a disciplinarian and has won dozens of "Employee of the Month" awards. He has often hinted at wanting to be promoted to the position of executive vice president, but Burns has repeatedly squashed this dream, while whimsically bestowing the vice presidency on Homer and a dog. He was once, however, made the CEO of the Nuclear Power Plant in Burns' stead when Mr. Burns was arrested for stealing paintings from a museum, a position that is arguably better than vice president, although he hints that he didn't want the job. He initially tried to be an employee-friendly boss, but after overhearing a conversation between Lenny, Carl and Homer while meeting at Moe's Tavern that revealed that they were abusing his employee-friendly nature to in essence goof off, he became a worse CEO than Mr. Burns (even going as far as to release wolverines in the house instead of hounds). He eventually gave up on the position willingly after Mr. Burns was released by Lenny, Carl and Homer.
Smithers has the largest collection of Malibu Stacy dolls in the World and is the president of the Malibu Stacy fan club.
Smithers has been implied to be gay several times despite not declaring it himself. He has several gay friends and frequents Springfield's gay village. When he was arrested for trying to get opium for Mr. Burns, he is implied to be gay when Mr. Burns says to Homer "I've never seen someone taken to a Turkish prison so quickly." and goes on a vacation to a male-only resort. Smithers is shown to be quite passionate for Mr. Burns. Smithers has occasional fantasies about Burns, like dreaming he is on his bed and suddenly Mr. Burns appears flying through the window. When he turns his computer on, it shows a nude Burns saying "Hello Smithers. You're quite good at turning me on" Smithers has declared his love for Burns on some occasions, such as kissing Mr. Burns on the lips after saying "Oh, what the hell!", believing the world was ending, later explaining it to him as "merely a sign of my respect". Another hint of Smithers sexuality is when he seems to have been dating John, a gay man.
Burns has remained largely ignorant of Smithers' devoted adoration. Burns himself has been involved with several women, much to Smithers' frustration, like when Mr. Burns fell in love with Marge and with a woman called Gloria. Smithers was noticeably disgusted when Burns started looking for a female companion. Burns, for his part, views (and refers to) Smithers as a lackey, albeit a highly valued one for his competence and toadying. He has "rewarded" Smithers' devotion with the future "honor" of being buried alive with him after he dies. Smithers has been shown to be somewhat dependant on his relationship with Burns, like the occasion when Burns orders Smithers to take a vacation and Homer is hired as a temporary replacement. When Homer loses his temper and punches Burns in the face, Mr. Burns learns to become self-reliant and this results in Smithers being fired. Smithers decides that he needs to be Burns' assistant and eventually gets his job back. For all his sycophantic devotion to Mr. Burns, Smithers has been willing to challenge him on some occasions. He opposed his employer's various evil schemes Burns fired him. As a result of his firing, Smithers became a "hideous drunken wreck" and when Mr. Burns was shot later, Smithers thought he might have done it while he was drunk. When it was proven that he had not, Smithers seemingly forgave Burns and demanded that the culprit be brought to justice, offering a reward for the capture of the perpetrator.
As seen on Professor Frink's future machine, at age 58, Smithers injects himself with medicine every 10 minutes to become straight (upon taking the injection he waves his arms in the air and shouts "I loves boobies!"). At age 65, he thawed out Mr. Burns and had his 17 stab wounds to the back cured. He attended Lisa Simpson's wedding with him. At age 1,000,050, his head is on a robotic dog body and follows Mr. Burns' head everywhere.
The Simpsons: The Arcade Game
Smithers appears in this game as the first boss of the final level, as well as one of the main antagonists. Smithers, presumably under Mr. Burns' command, broke into a jewelry store to steal a diamond. As he and his fellow henchmen were making their escape, he (quite literally) bumped into the Simpson's family, causing him to lose the diamond, and for Maggie to catch it. Because of this setback, Smithers ends up kidnapping Maggie and, after a few misadventures, Smithers makes it back to the Nuclear Power Plant, although not without the Simpsons family following him. He then fights the Simpsons family, remarking "Welcome to my world!" He lobbed several explosives at the family. When sensing that he would soon lose, he opened his cape, revealed to be filled with explosives, cackling maniacally only to react in shock as he discovers that the explosives had activated, causing him to be caught in the explosions. For unknown reasons, Smithers in this game actually sounds much higher pitched than in the regular series (most of the other characters usually have more or less the same voices in the game).
The Simpsons Game
In The Simpsons Game, level "Lisa the Tree Hugger", Smithers was involved in Mr. Burns' plan of trying to cut down the entirety of Springfield Forest, and is comforting him about doing better next time when the plan fails due to Lisa and Bart's interference, as well as phoning some goons to beat up Al Gore. In Mob Rules, he appears as one of the people Marge can use to protest the sales of the Grand Theft Scratchy videogame to minors. In Medal of Homer, a squad of sailors resembling Smithers protects Private Burns on board his personal naval carrier where he protects the stolen paintings from the village of St. Capitulons. According to Abraham Simpson during the briefing for the level, the sailors in question fight neither for country nor for God, solely for love.
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The Simpsons: Tapped Out
Waylon Smithers was partly based on how numerous Fox executives and staff members acted towards Barry Diller. The idea for Smithers's orientation came from Sam Simon, who proposed that Smithers should be gay, but the writers should never draw too much attention to it and should try to keep it in the back of their heads. The script for "Blood Feud" originally featured Smithers saying "Just leave me enough to get home to my wife and kids," but the line had to be cut for time. Smithers is voiced by Harry Shearer, who is also the voice of Mr. Burns. Shearer is often able to perform dialogue between the two characters in one take. Dan Castellaneta occasionally fills in for Shearer at table reads and voices Smithers.
Smithers made his first appearance in "Homer's Odyssey", which was the third episode of the first season, although he can be heard over a speaker in The Simpsons series premiere "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire". In his first visual appearance in "Homer's Odyssey", Smithers was mistakenly animated with the wrong color and was made African American by Gyorgi Peluce, the color stylist. David Silverman has claimed that Smithers was always intended to be "Mr Burns' white sycophant," and the staff thought it "would be a bad idea to have a black sub-servient character" and so switched him to his intended color for his next episode. The first appearance of yellow Smithers was "There's No Disgrace Like Home", the fourth episode of the first season.
Smithers's relationship with Mr. Burns has long been a running joke on The Simpsons. Smithers is an obedient and sycophant assistant to Mr. Burns. There have often been strong hints about Smithers's true feelings for his boss, with one of the earliest references being in the season one episode "The Telltale Head". Smithers's sexual orientation has often come into question, with some fans claiming he is a "Burns-sexual" and only attracted to his boss, while others maintain that he is, without a doubt, gay. During the Bill Oakley/Josh Weinstein era, they still tried to keep his sexuality mysterious and there was debate among the writers about his orientation. Al Jean, who thinks of Smithers as being a "Burns-sexual", felt that had Mr. Burns been a woman, then Smithers would not be gay. David Silverman, a former supervising director has said, "[Smithers] seems to be focused on one particular human, as opposed to anything beyond that. [Rather than being gay], he's sort of 'Burns-sexual.'" "Waylon Smithers" is actually an anagram of "Wants him sorely". In a 2006 study conducted by the "Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation", it was determined that nine of the 679 lead and supporting characters on scripted broadcast television were gay or lesbian. Smithers was not included among these nine characters, and it caused a mild online controversy. Patty Bouvier, Marge Simpson's lesbian sister, was included on the list. The debate is referenced in "The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular", when the episode host, Troy McClure is answering viewer questions, and one that is asked is "What is the real deal with Mr. Burns' assistant Smithers? You know what I'm talking about." A montage of various clips that shows Smithers' lust for Mr. Burns follows, and in the end, McClure says "as you can see, the real deal with Waylon Smithers is that he's Mr. Burns' assistant. He's in his early forties, is unmarried, and currently resides in Springfield. Thanks for asking!"
Several of the allusions to Smithers's sexuality have turned into battles with the censors. For example, in Smithers' fantasy of a naked Mr. Burns popping out of a birthday cake in "Rosebud", the censors had not wanted Mr. Burns to be naked. Another example is "Marge Gets a Job", which has a dream sequence where Smithers is sleeping and Burns flies through a window. The sequence shows Burns flying towards him and Smithers looking happy, but originally it went on for a few seconds longer. It had to be trimmed down due to scenes that showed "Mr. Burns land[ing] on a particular position on Smithers's anatomy". There were also issues with "the lump in his bed", which the animators had been drawn as his knee, but the censors had misinterpreted.
In the early seasons, Smithers has an occasional catchphrase, which comes from a recurring joke that Mr. Burns never remembers who Homer is. In some scenes, Smithers and Burns would watch Homer over a security camera Burns will ask, "Who is that man?", to which Smithers would reply, "That's Homer Simpson sir, one of your [insert drones, organ banks, carbon blobs, etc.] from sector 7G."
In the second season, the writers started to enjoy writing about Smithers and Burns's relationship, and the writers often pitched episodes with them as the focus, but many never came to fruition.
In 2004, Simpsons producers announced that one of the characters was going to come out of the closet. Speculation on who it would be was printed in newspapers throughout the United States and Canada (even claiming Smithers's "sexual orientation was about the worst-kept secret in Springfield,") as well as in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, (the Irish Independent called Smithers "too obvious" a choice) and the United Kingdom. Despite Matt Groening joking that it would be Homer, The Boston Herald calculated the odds of several characters being gay with Smithers at a million to one. PlanetOut hosted an online poll in the weeks prior to the episode to determine based on "cartoon gaydar" who was gay on the Simpsons, with 97% of the respondents choosing Smithers. Jenny Stewart, the entertainment editor at the site said of the poll, "We've never had such an avalanche of people voting in any of our polls as we did on The Simpsons." After the guessing, it was Patty Bouvier who came out.
In a 2007 article, Entertainment Weekly named Smithers the sixteenth greatest sidekick of all time. They have also described Smithers and Mr. Burns as being "TV's most functional dysfunctional couple". Star News Online named "Smithers' fey way" as one of the four hundred reasons why they loved The Simpsons. In a 2003 article, Entertainment Weekly named the Who Shot Mr. Burns? duo of episodes, in which Smithers was prominently featured, 25th best episode.
Smithers was made into an action figure, and four different versions were included as part of the World of Springfield toy line. The first shows Smithers in his normal attire with a picture of Mr. Burns at his feet and was released in 2000 as part of "wave two". The second, released in 2002 as part of "wave ten", is called "resort Smithers" and shows him dressed as he was at the resort in the episode "Homer the Smithers". In 2003, a series of figures exclusive to Electronics Boutique was released, and a set of one Mr. Burns figure and two different Smithers toys based on the episode "Rosebud" were included. One, called "Bobo Smithers" shows Smithers dressed as Mr. Burns' teddy bear Bobo; and the other, known as "future Smithers", shows him as a robotic dog. A "future Burns" was included in the set as a companion to "future Smithers" and depicts Burns as how he appeared as a robot at the end of the episode.