The Simpsons Will Feature Deaf Guest Stars, ASL On Upcoming Episode

This is wonderful news, despite the fact that I fell off watching this series a long time ago. "The Simpsons" will feature an episode with Deaf guest stars and American Sign Language, according to Variety. The episode is called, "The Sound of Bleeding Gums," and features Lisa Simpson and her favorite musician, the late Bleeding Gums Murphy. In the story, Lisa finds out that Bleeding Gums had a son named Monk who was born Deaf. Monk wants to get a cochlear implant. Lisa, "gets a little too over-exuberant in trying to help him," the site explains. 

The new episode was the brainchild of "The Simpsons" writer Loni Steele Sosthand, and was inspired by her family. She told the site:

"I'm mixed race; my father's Black and jazz was big in our house. We grew up in the suburbs, and it was a way for my dad to bring in that aspect of our culture. But when I think about music, I also think about my brother, who was born deaf. When we were talking about this Bleeding Gums character in our initial brainstorms, we thought, wouldn't it be cool if Lisa discovers this whole other side of his life. That led to him having a son, and then we based that character at least somewhat on my brother. And the story grew from there."

Sosthand mentions that there was an issue in creating ASL for the episode, as the show's characters have four fingers. She said, "That was a little tricky because the one thing we're translating is Shakespeare," which makes me doubly excited to watch a show I haven't seen in years. This episode will premiere on Fox on April 10, 2022. This will be the very first time ASL has been used on the show, and features its first Deaf voice actors. One of those actors is Sosthand's brother, Eli Steele. 

A family inspiration

The site reports that Sosthand and her brother Eli Steele had a relationship with Deaf actor John Autry II ("Glee"), who was featured in a pilot they developed based on their own lives. Sosthand mentioned Autry to executive producers for "The Simpsons," James L. Brooks and Al Jean, saying that they approved. She explained that the character of Monk has some of she and her brother's experiences from childhood, but, "is also very much influenced by John." 

Her influence wasn't just with casting or suggesting the story. She told the site that the way Bleeding Gums figures out that Monk is Deaf is based on the way her own parents found this out about her brother, who, as I mentioned, will voice a role. Other Deaf voice actors include Kathy Buckley, Kaylee Arellano, Ian Mayorga, and Hazel Lopez, kids from the nonprofit for Deaf children No Limits. Sosthand also said that some of the themes in the episode of "The Simpsons" are things we saw in the film "CODA" which means children of Deaf adults. The film won Best Picture at the Academy Awards. She said, "I think it's great, because the Deaf experience isn't just one story, there are so many stories to be told."