A ground-breaking Simpsons episode just aired featuring the first-ever deaf voice actor and the first time using American Sign Language.
The Simpsons made history this week showcasing the first-ever deaf voice actor and the use of American sign language (ASL) for one of their most recent episodes, airing on April 10th.
The biggest issue they had to worry about for the episode was translating the ASL into the show, as the characters only have four fingers. It makes things very difficult.
For those curious, ASL is a sign language that individuals communicate using one hand. British Sign Language or BSL differs as it requires both hands for communication.
Writer Loni Steele Sosthand said: “That was a little tricky, especially because the one thing we’re translating is Shakespeare, but I think we pulled it off.”
Loni has been a writer on The Simpsons since 2020 and was the writer behind this ground-breaking episode titled “The Sound of Bleeding Gums.”
The story follows Lisa Simspon as she discovers that her mentor and idol, the late Bleeding Gums Murphy, had a son. She meets up with his son, Monk, who was born deaf and is in the process of getting a cochlear implant.
The second half of the episode explores Lisa’s emotional development as her enthusiasm for the procedure goes unrestrained, and Monk has to address it.
The story has a special place close to Sosthands heart as her family inspired it.
In an interview, Sosthand said: “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.”
She continued: “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.”
It’s a beautiful, inclusive tale and one that shows like The Simpsons need to showcase more, especially as they’ve missed the mark before. If you want to learn more about sign language, please use the following resources.