The Simpsons episode featuring guest star Michael Jackson is getting pulled from circulation. The news comes after the explosive HBO documentary Leaving Neverland alleged Jackson sexually abused two young boys in the 1990s.
In the 1991 Simpsons episode, Stark Raving Dad, the singer voiced Leon Kompowsky, a patient Homer meets in a mental institution. Leon says he is a singer, but no one believes him at first, not able to see past his history of institutionalization and his claims that he is Michael Jackson. The episode ends with Leon singing a song for Lisa’s birthday.
The song Happy Birthday, Lisa, if not the whole episode, has become a Simpsons classic, but executive producer James L. Brooks told the Wall Street Journal that pulling the episode “feels clearly the only choice to make.” He continued, “The guys I work with—where we spend our lives arguing over jokes—were of one mind on this.”
Michael Jackson subplot eerily reflects alleged behavior
In the wake of the #MeToo movement, this is the first episode that the show is publically pulling. The long-running animated series has had other guest stars who have been outed by the movement including Neil deGrasse Tyson (The Caper Chase), Dustin Hoffman (Lisa’s Substitute,) and Mario Batali (Treehouse of Horror XXVIII and The Food Wife.) However, Stark Raving Dad seems especially problematic in hindsight given the crux of the episode is Jackson’s character befriending a little boy and writing a birthday song, especially after one of the boys in Leaving Neverland recalls Jackson singing him a special song on his birthday.
It also doesn’t help that one subplot to the episode is Bart trying to convince people that Leon is Michael Jackson. When the entire town of Springfield shows up outside the Simpsons’ house, they realize the man is an imposter. So a keen eye will notice a newspaper headline that reads, “Michael Jackson hoax: Everyone mad at local boy.” Considering many, still, believe that these alleged victims are liars, it’s not a great look. ‘Everyone’ being mad at a young boy is, sadly, one of the many events the Simpsons predicted.
Simpsons Producer: We’re allowed to take out a chapter.
“This was a treasured episode,” Brooks said. “I’m against book burning of any kind,” he went on, “but this is our book, and we’re allowed to take out a chapter.” The producer revealed that they are trying to get the episode removed from all platforms including TV, streaming, and even Blu-ray or DVD box sets.
Jackson died in 2009 and maintained his innocence up until his death. In 1993, he was accused of molestation and settled out of court. In 2003, he was charged with seven counts of child molestation from another boy and was ultimately acquitted of those charges.