Today's Article - Waylon J. Smithers

This article is for quizzes on Monday August 22nd...

Waylon J. Smithers, Jr., usually referred to as Mr. Smithers or simply Smithers, is a recurring fictional character in the American animated sitcom The Simpsons, who is voiced by Harry Shearer. Smithers first appeared in the episode "Homer's Odyssey", although his voice could be heard in the series premiere "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire". He is the consummate executive and personal assistant of Springfield Nuclear Power Plant's owner Mr. Burns.
Smithers' devotion to Mr. Burns was inspired from how numerous Fox executives and staff members acted towards Barry Diller. The idea for Smithers' ambiguous sexual orientation came from Sam Simon, who proposed that Smithers should be gay, but little attention should be drawn to it. Smithers' first name (Waylon) was derived from that of puppeteer Wayland Flowers.

Smithers was originally animated and intended for storyline purposes by some producers and directors to be African American. This however was ultimately changed in later episodes with conflicting and unknown confirmed reasons as to why. Matt Groening however in an unintended interview with TMZ, confirms that the animation director at that time originally drew Smithers black according to plan, but he was changed to "yellow". When asked by the interviewer why he wasn't kept that way, Groening did not respond other than "it was a mistake".

Smithers is an obedient and sycophantic assistant to Mr. Burns, and the relationship between the two is a frequent running gag on The Simpsons. In many ways, Smithers represents the stereotype of a closeted gay man, and numerous overt allusions and double entendres concerning his homosexuality are made, though some of the show's producers instead interpret him as a "Burns-sexual". In the season 27 (2016) episode "The Burns Cage", he came out as gay.

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 quashed this dream, while whimsically bestowing the vice presidency on a dog. Smithers has the largest collection of Malibu Stacy dolls in Springfield and is the president of the Malibu Stacy fan club.


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