Before The Simpsons, there were crazy rabbits and Akbar and Jeff.
Matt Groening, who created television’s most iconic cartoon family, spoke with Ross Reynolds in the late 1980s on the show Seattle Afternoon.
Groening started drawing Akbar and Jeff in the fifth grade. Years later, he realized they were gay.
"My friends and I were trying to draw Charlie Brown,” he said. “We tried to imitate ‘Peanuts,’ and they never came out looking right. And so eventually those drawings mutated into Akbar and Jeff.
“They still have the Charlie Brown shirt if you noticed. Later I was trying to think about what kind of people they were and finally realized, of course, they're gay, they're lovers.”
Outing Akbar and Jeff highlighted homophobia, Groening said.
“A beer company approached me a few months ago and asked if they could use Akbar and Jeff as mascots,” Groening said. “They wanted Akbar and Jeff to be like Spuds MacKenzie and advertise their beer during spring break.”
The beer company planned to hand out washable Akbar and Jeff tattoos.
“Then the article in Rolling Stone came out about me, and it was revealed that, 'Oh my god. Akbar and Jeff – they’re not normal.’ And the beer company dropped Akbar and Jeff.”
The beer company said it wouldn’t work to market gay characters to frat boys.
“I said, ‘Listen, these are cartoon characters. It’s not that big a deal. Spuds MacKenzie is a girl – he survived that scandal.’”
(Spuds MaKenzie was a terrier who represented Bud Light. He posed as a boy dog, but it was later revealed that he was female.)
Groening said he would still market Akbar and Jeff. “My rabbits are not for sale; they don’t endorse anything. However Akbar and Jeff will endorse anything he said.”
Ultimately, it didn't matter, because a cartoon family from Springfield (Oregon) became his most marketable characters.