This Sunday, Fox will air (and Disney+ will release the episode shortly after) the latest episode of The Simpsons – Season 33, Episode 17 – and it’s one for the history books.
The episode, titled The Sound of Bleeding Gums, will follow Lisa meeting a new character, Monk, the son of the late jazz musician Bleeding Gums Murphy. OG Simpsons fans will know Bleeding Gums from multiple early Simpsons episodes and will remember him dying in the Season 6 episode, Round Springfield.
So why is the introduction of this new character, Monk, history-making? Well, the character is deaf and will be voiced by deaf voice actor, John Autry II. And this marks the first time a deaf voice actor will appear on The Simpsons. Autry himself has applauded the animated sitcom for this monumental decision, telling Variety,
“It’s so incredible… It’s life-changing equality and participation. This can impact change for all of us. It’s about hard of hearing and hearing characters coming together. It’s a part of history.”
The new Simpsons episode will also mark the first time American Sign Language (ASL) is used on the show. However, this – at first – proved difficult as all Simspons characters only have four, not five, fingers. The writer of the episode, Loni Steele Sosthand said,
“[It] was a little tricky, especially because the one thing we’re translating is Shakespeare. But I think we pulled it off.”
Sosthand’s brother, Eli Steele, who is deaf, will also voice a character in The Sound of Bleeding Gums, as will deaf comedian Kathy Buckley and Kaylee Arellano, Ian Mayorga and Hazel Lopez, three deaf children from No Limits, a nonprofit devoted to deaf children.
As much as I personally believe that The Simpsons has lost its touch, I will admit that some of the new episodes are good and I think this new episode will definitely be one of them, and therefore can’t wait for it to air.