- Smithers has shown clear signs of being in love with Mr. Burns throughout The Simpsons series.
- Hints about Smithers's feelings have been dropped since the early seasons through subtle jokes and gags.
- Smithers's sexual orientation and attraction to Mr. Burns has frequently been called into question.
- An episode in 2016 finally showed Smithers coming close to admitting his love directly to Mr. Burns.
- Smithers briefly found happiness in a relationship away from Mr. Burns, but ultimately couldn't stay apart from him.
- In 2021, Smithers finally found reciprocal love with a new character, confirming his sexual orientation.
The long-running animated sitcom The Simpsons is known for its colorful cast of characters, humor, and pop culture references. Among the many beloved characters are Waylon Smithers and his boss C. Montgomery Burns, better known as Mr. Burns. Their relationship has been a fixture on the show for decades, with Smithers dutifully assisting the elderly Burns as his executive assistant and sycophantic devotee. But does Smithers harbor deeper feelings for his boss? Let's take a closer look at the clues that Smithers is in love with Mr. Burns.
A Long-Running Gag Based on Subtle Hints
Since his first appearance in the third ever episode of The Simpsons in 1989, Smithers has been portrayed as overly devoted to Mr. Burns. His loyalty and obedience often go above and beyond typical workplace behavior, taking on an almost puppy-dog like eagerness to please his boss. This excessive dedication has naturally raised questions about whether Smithers's interests in Mr. Burns are purely professional.
Indeed, there have long been subtle jokes and gags that hint Smithers has an unrequited crush on his employer. Oftentimes the show drops sly references to Smithers's sexuality or attraction to Mr. Burns that fly over the heads of younger audience members. Yet observant adult viewers picked up on the hidden meaning behind the jokes.
In the season 1 episode “Homer's Odyssey”, Smithers has a fantasy about Mr. Burns emerging nearly naked from a birthday cake. Later seasons built on this, showing Smithers collecting memorabilia and even videotaping a vacationing Mr. Burns. The devoted assistant privately confesses his dream of Mr. Burns flying in like Peter Pan to whisk him away.
These examples demonstrate how the writers cleverly layered in tidbits about Smithers's apparent but undisclosed love for Mr. Burns from the very early days of the show. It became an underlying gag and nod to adult viewers, while remaining subtle enough to avoid controversy.
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Questioning Smithers's Sexual Orientation
The hints about Smithers's unspoken devotion to Mr. Burns inevitably lead fans and critics to question what his actual sexual orientation might be. The earliest seasons kept Smithers's preferences vague, leaning heavily on his crush-like admiration of his boss. Various jokes imply that Smithers has interest in both women and men.
However, later seasons took the Smithers/Burns dynamic further, increasingly painting Smithers as potentially gay or bisexual. Besides his infatuation with Mr. Burns, Smithers displays little romantic investment in female characters. There are also subtle indications that Smithers frequents Springfield's underground gay district.
When directly asked about his orientation, Smithers tends to dodge or downplay the issue. But the most common fan interpretation is that Smithers is either gay or “Burns-sexual”, meaning exclusively attracted to Mr. Burns regardless of gender. This theory persists due to the singular obsession Smithers demonstrates towards his boss.
Smithers Comes Close to Confessing His Love
In the twenty-seventh season episode “The Burns Cage” in 2016, Smithers finally seems ready to admit his true feelings to Mr. Burns. He tries composing a coming out letter to test confessing that he's gay and in love with Mr. Burns.
However, every time he works up the nerve to give Mr. Burns the letter, his boss unknowingly insults him or makes it clear he views Smithers with contempt. Mr. Burns even mistakes the letter for a resignation and happily accepts, crushing Smithers.
This episode marked one of the first clear instances of Smithers directly preparing to open up about his long-rumored sexual orientation and love for Mr. Burns. However, Mr. Burns's cluelessness and emotional neglect once again keep Smithers sealed in the metaphorical “Burns cage” of his unreciprocated infatuation.
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A Brief Love Apart from Mr. Burns
After finally reaching a breaking point with Mr. Burns in “The Burns Cage,” Smithers finds the courage to quit. He soon begins dating Julio, a Cuban immigrant. For once, Smithers seems to move on and have a healthy romantic relationship separate from his toxic obsession with Mr. Burns.
In a flashback, we learn Smithers was married to a woman once but left her because Mr. Burns kept interfering. This fuels his resolve to avoid falling back under Mr. Burns's spell.
However, when Julio relocates out of Springfield, Smithers takes it as a sign that he should return to Mr. Burns. It seems the years of unrequited longing made it impossible for Smithers to commit fully to Julio or sustain a love life outside his non-relationship with Mr. Burns.
While fans cheered Smithers finally asserting his orientation, the episode reaffirmed that his character remains defined by an inability to quit Mr. Burns. For now, Smithers remains trapped in the Burns cage.
Smithers Finds Reciprocal Love in a Landmark Episode
In the episode “Portrait of a Lackey on Fire” aired in 2021, Smithers finally finds his first requited gay relationship. He starts dating a new character named Michael De Graff, voiced by Victor Garber.
Michael appreciates Smithers and gives him the healthy romantic partnership he's longed for. When Michaelmakes a grand public gesture of his love for Smithers, Mr. Burns finally realizes he risks losing Smithers's devotion. In a landmark moment for the show, Mr. Burns confesses he loves Smithers too.
Yet Smithers opts to remain with Michael, demonstrating growth in pursuing reciprocal love over chasing the toxic Mr. Burns. Fans praised this episode for bringing Smithers's character arc to a meaningful resolution. After decades pining for Mr. Burns, he moves on with Michael while retaining self-respect.
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Conclusion: A Long-Speculated Love Finally Confirmed
For over 30 years, Smithers's not-so-secret love and obsession with Mr. Burns has been a constant theme on The Simpsons. While early seasons relied on subtle hints and codes, the depth of Smithers's feelings became undeniable over time. He demonstrated a singular romantic fixation on Mr. Burns that superseded any other relationships.
Fans and critics endlessly analyzed clues and questioned Smithers's sexual orientation as either gay or exclusively “Burns-sexual.” The 2016 episode “The Burns Cage” brought Smithers right to the brink of openly confessing his love. Though that attempt was crushed, a later episode in 2021 finally gave Smithers reciprocal love in a healthy gay romance, apart from Mr. Burns.
This fulfilled the character arc that had been built up through decades of jokes, gags and references about Smithers's unrequited feelings for his boss. The Simpsons cemented its status as pioneer in LGBTQ representation by finally resolving Smithers's long- speculated love.
Frequently Asked Questions about Smithers and Mr. Burns's Relationship
Has Smithers ever directly said he loves Mr. Burns?
No, Smithers has never openly confessed his love directly to Mr. Burns. He came close in the 2016 episode “The Burns Cage” but was interrupted before he could admit his feelings. Smithers's love for Mr. Burns has been hinted at through jokes and gags over decades, but never stated outright to Mr. Burns.
Does Mr. Burns have romantic feelings for Smithers?
It's unclear if Mr. Burns harbors any genuine romantic love for Smithers. He seems oblivious to Smithers's crush and regards him primarily as a loyal servant. However, when Smithers found love apart from him in 2021, Mr. Burns did finally confess love for Smithers, perhaps out of fear of losing his worshipful assistant.
What is Smithers's sexual orientation?
While never fully confirmed, the strong implication is Smithers is either gay or “Burns-sexual.” He displays little interest in women beyond a failed early marriage, and few passions beyond serving Mr. Burns. Some fans theorize Smithers is only attracted to Mr. Burns specifically, regardless of gender.
Does Smithers ever find lasting love apart from Mr. Burns?
In 2016, Smithers briefly dates Julio after quitting his job with Mr. Burns. But he breaks it off when Julio moves away, unable to sustain love separate from Mr. Burns. In a 2021 episode, Smithers enters a healthy relationship with a man named Michael De Graff. This marks Smithers finally achieving reciprocal romantic love independent of his toxic obsession with Mr. Burns.
What are some of the early hints about Smithers's love for Mr. Burns?
Early seasons contained subtle jokes about Smithers's interest in Mr. Burns, like his sexual fantasy about Mr. Burns popping out of a cake. Smithers compiling footage and memorabilia of Mr. Burns during a vacation also hinted at a deeper infatuation. The show frequently dropped sly one-liners alluding to Smithers's undisclosed crush.
Did the Smithers/Burns relationship generate controversy?
Their subtle dynamic raised questions about sexual orientation but avoided backlash early on. Later seasons pushed the implications further, like showing Smithers's interest in Springfield's gay community. An episode where Smithers nearly admits his love to Mr. Burns garnered attention for bringing their relationship more unambiguously into the open.
What are fans' reactions to Smithers's character arc?
Many fans are heavily invested in the Smithers/Burns relationship. They were pleased to see Smithers finally achieve an openly gay romance in 2021 after decades pining for Mr. Burns. But some maintain that ending Smithers's unhealthy obsession with Mr. Burns fundamentally changed a beloved dynamic.
Why did Smithers remain devoted to Mr. Burns despite his contempt for him?
Years of unrequited pining and obsession seemed to make it impossible for Smithers to quit Mr. Burns, despite open contempt from his boss. Being trapped in the “Burns cage” of his one-sided infatuation prevented Smithers from finding lasting love with partners like Julio. Only after decades was Smithers able to build a romance with Michael independent of his toxic fixation on Mr. Burns.
Does Smithers have any other close relationships besides Mr. Burns?
No, the show overwhelmingly depicts Smithers as isolated and focused solely on serving Mr. Burns. He has little interaction with other characters beyond professional relationships at the nuclear plant and power plant owner's association. Julio and Michael De Graff represent the only significant romantic relationships Smithers has managed to form over decades. Mr. Burns remains his primary personal relationship throughout the series.