Monday, March 8, 2010

* The Lincoln Bedroom

Hitting on Homer

I'm all for satire, but the episode of The Simpsons I just watched this evening (3/8/10) goes a bit too far for family entertainment. A gay Abe Lincoln puts his hand on Homer's buttocks while uttering this line, "My wife and I have an ---uh---understanding". (And just to complicate things, Homer and Abe are both posthumous: dead and in heaven!)

Now, there is evidence that Lincoln slept in the same bed with other men, including soldiers he brought home to the White House, but so did Samuel Pepys sleep in beds with other men, according to his famous Diary (1660-69) . Beds were in short supply through most of human history and it was common for men to share beds, even married men.

Recall the proprietor of the Spouter Inn, Peter Coffin, and his question to Ishmael at the opening of Moby Dick, New Bedford Massachussetts, in the year 1841:"You ain't no objection to sharing a harpooneer's bed with him, have ye?" (Of course, he fails to tell Ishmael that the harpooneer is a cannibal, Queequeg.)

As for an "understanding" with his wife, Lincoln was very solicitous of Mary Todd Lincoln. At one point in his presidency (1860-65), he took his Cabinet (which was gossiping about Mrs. Lincoln) aside and told them that he didn't care what they said about the President, but that the First Lady was absolutely off limits as a topic of discussion or criticism.

Yes. There is evidence that Mary Todd Lincoln's brittle mental state through most of their marriage may have burdened Lincoln.

And perhaps it amounted to periods of conjugal coldness.

But there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Mary Todd Lincoln and her husband had an "understanding" that permitted him to act out homosexual feelings with her equanimity; there is only faddish, scholarly conjecture.

I speak as a lifelong reader of Lincoln biographies, and as a student for many summers at Gettysburg College's Civil War Institute, 1998-2003.

Homer Simpson-----------your creators have gone too far.

'Tain't funny for kids.

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