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Gay steel workers greet Homer and Bart as they tour the local factory.

Gay steel workers greet Homer and Bart as they tour the local factory.
Screenshot: Fox

Wanna feel old? One of the greatest gags in Simpsons history just turned older than several members of the Kotaku staff. That’s right, the instant-classic Season 8 episode “Homer’s Phobia” debuted on this day in 1997. In it, Bart befriends John, the owner of an antiques store (played by the iconic filmmaker, writer, and tiny mustache owner John Waters). Homer becomes concerned that John’s influence will “make” Bart gay, so he obsessively seeks out hypermasculine activities for the two of them to do together in order to preserve his son’s heterosexuality.

The most memorable of these manly activities sees father and son visit the Ajax Steel Mill, to see “all-American Joes doin’ what they do best.” Homer assures Bart, “you’ll thank me on your wedding night.” But oopsie! Turns out the men of the mill weren’t quite what Homer was hoping for.

Ajax Gay Steel Mill

After a shirtless beefcake in booty shorts shimmies past Homer with a vat of molten steel, foreman Roscoe declares: “We work hard, we play hard.” As C+C Music Factory’s “Gonna Make You Sweat” blasts from every direction, Homer shields Barts eyes from the boogie-oogie hardbodies.

You’ll be surprised to learn that while I’m a bit of a Simpsons superfan, I didn’t actually have this auspicious day circled on my Troy McClure calendar. The anniversary was brought to my attention by a tweet from Josh Weinstein, writer, producer, and showrunner on the animated classic from 1992 to 1998.

According to the DVD commentary for season 8, recorded back in 2006, Waters accepted his invitation to be a guest star immediately, stating that if it was “good enough for Elizabeth Taylor” (who had appeared in two season 4 episodes) it was good enough for him. In early drafts, the burly steel workers were initially supposed to be longshoremen, but animating the shipyard was too costly, so they changed the location to the mill. And honestly, imagining Moe telling Homer “the whole shipping industry is gay” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

If all this talk of gay steel mills has you hankering for some classic Simpsons antics, Disney+ has a whopping 34 seasons of the show available to stream at a moment’s notice. (“Homer’s Phobia” is season 8, episode 15.) That’s your long weekend sorted.

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