A 1991 episode of The Simpsons in which Michael Jackson guest-starred has left circulation, in light of recently resurfaced allegations about the pop star’s history of child sex abuse.
The decision to pull “Stark Raving Dad,” which opened the show’s third season, comes from the creative brain trust behind The Simpsons: executive producers James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, and Al Jean. Brooks told The Wall Street Journal that eliminating the episode from DVD box sets, streaming, and syndication was “the only choice to make,” out of respect for Jackson’s alleged victims.
“Stark Raving Dad” has Homer befriend a man at a mental ward who says he’s Michael Jackson — despite looking nothing like him. Jackson voiced the character, and even wrote an original song for the episode. He was uncredited for the guest spot, but the show made no attempt at hiding who the guest star was.
Showing Jackson in a prominent and positive role is understandably contentious. Last weekend, HBO aired Leaving Neverland, a four-hour documentary about Jackson’s alleged sexual relationships with two young boys who, now as adults, reflect on the abuse they say they suffered and its lifelong effects. The film has both reopened widespread discussions about Jackson’s controversial legacy and led many to relitigate it, based on these graphic new allegations.
Brooks told The Wall Street Journal that removing the episode was the only real way to show compassion for the victims in Leaving Neverland.
“This was a treasured episode,” Brooks said. “There are a lot of great memories we have wrapped up in that one, and this certainly doesn’t allow them to remain.”
The Simpsons episode in question aired just two years before Michael Jackson was first accused of sexually abusing a minor. Jackson went to court in 1993 because of his inappropriate “friendship” with a 13-year-old boy; he settled out of court. But it was the first allegation of several that the singer faced until his death in 2009.
Brooks says that 20th Century Fox is now working on removing “Stark Raving Dad” from every platform. It’s already gone from the FXX Simpsons World app, which houses every other episode of the series.
Update (Nov. 13): Following its removal from syndication and all digital platforms this past spring, “Stark Raving Dad” is the only episode out of the 662 from The Simpsons’ first 30 seasons to be missing from Disney Plus.
It originally aired in 1991 as the season 3 premiere, but on the streaming service, which launched Tuesday, Nov. 12, the first available episode of the third season is “Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington.” (It’s labeled as episode No. 2 of the season, so the removal of “Stark Raving Dad” doesn’t throw anything off.)