Growing up on a steady diet of 1990s sitcoms, I felt close to families like the Simpsons, the Tanners, the Winslows and, of course, the Bundys. Which is to say that I also knew those families’ next door neighbors: Ned Flanders, Kimmy Gibbler, Steve Urkel and Marcy D’Arcy.
Throughout the run of Married… With Children, Amanda Bearse played Marcy as perky and pesky — and more often than not as a sharp, feminist foil to Ed O’Neill’s Al Bundy. On a show where characters could be downright nasty to each other, Marcy and Al’s sparring resulted in some of the show’s best insults.
Because I can remember Marcy D’Arcy about as long as I can remember any TV show, it’s pretty significant that Bearse came out of the closet in 1993.
On a personal level, she is the first person I ever knew to be openly gay. That might have actually been how I learned what the word “lesbian” means. But I’m also probably not alone, because Bearse is one of the first TV actors to declare they’re gay while their show was still on the air. Even considering that she was a supporting actor on Married, that’s no small deal.
In fact, it’s Bearse’s place in LGBT history that prompted my podcast, Gayest Episode Ever, to take a look at the Married… With Children episode “Lez Be Friends” (from the show’s 11th season), in which Bearse plays not only Marcy D’Arcy but her openly lesbian cousin, Mandy.
Mandy looks like Marcy in a Joyce DeWitt wig but is low-key and likable to the point that she even hits it off with Al. Given that “Lez Be Friends” aired four episodes from the show’s series finale, it kind of plays out like a ‘thank you’ to Bearse, who’d been an MVP, not just playing the higher-strung Marcy for a decade but also directing a substantial number of later-season episodes.
In addition to letting her play a more chilled-out character, Bearse also got to bring to screen a bit of the strong, assured queerness that had previously only been off-screen. As we discuss on the podcast, Mandy is easily one of the most normal-seeming characters ever to appear on Married… With Children.
Bearse, who also stars in the gay horror wet dream that is Fright Night, would go on to direct various TV comedies, including 15 episodes of The Big Gay Sketch Show. But her turn as Marcy D’Arcy will remain the creative contribution for which she’s best known. And with good reason: She’s great in the role. But let’s also give her all due accolades for representing an out and open character on the show, too.
We hope you’ll follow along this tour through queer TV history. And if you happen to have a favorite LGBT-themed episode of a classic show, hit us up on Twitter or on Facebook to tell us what we should be watching.