An episode of The Simpsons guest starring Michael Jackson has been pulled from the library of episodes that premiered with the launch Disney’s new streaming service Disney+ on Tuesday.
The episode “Stark Raving Dad” was likely pulled due to multiple allegations that the deceased singer had molested and abused young boys during his lifetime.
In January, HBO aired the documentary Leaving Neverland, which presents two claims of sexual abuse by the pop star. The film features Wade Robson and James Safechuck, both men who had been close to Jackson as young boys and adolescents, recounting their alleged memories of being abused by Jackson.
Shortly after the film aired, the Simpsons episode featuring Jackson was pulled from syndication.
James L. Brooks, one of the show’s producers, felt that the decision was easily made by the show’s creators and production team after they watched the documentary.
“The guys I work with—where we spend our lives arguing over jokes—were of one mind on this,” said Brooks to The Wall Street Journal.
Brooks’ fellow producer Al Jean agreed, telling The Daily Beast that he believed the episode was “part of what [Jackson] used to groom boys.”
“What saddens me is, if you watch that documentary—which I did, and several of us here did—and you watch that episode, honestly, it looks like the episode was used by Michael Jackson for something other than what we’d intended it,” said Jean. “It wasn’t just a comedy to him, it was something that was used as a tool. And I strongly believe that. That, to me, is my belief, and it’s why I think removing it is appropriate.”
“Stark Raving Dad” features Jackson voicing a character confined to a mental institution named Leon Kompowsky. Homer Simpson meets the character when he is mistakenly sent to the same institution and later asks him to stay with his family after being released. The character claims to be Michael Jackson, before admitting he was only pretending to be the pop star. The episode also features the song “Happy Birthday Lisa,” which was written by Jackson but sung by an impersonator, Kipp Lennon. Jackson went uncredited in the episode for contractual reasons.
The now-controversial episode was the first of the show’s third season in 1991. That same year, Jackson was involved in the making of a song featuring Bart Simpson called “Do the Bartman,” producing and singing backup vocals on the track.
Jackson had been accused of sexual assault against minors prior to the allegations made by Robson and Safechuck. The first public allegation was made in 1993 and settled out of court. In 2005, Jackson went on trial for allegedly sexually abusing another boy, after an investigation was launched due to the content of a television documentary that had aired two years earlier. He was acquitted of the charges.
Aside from any opinions about the removal of the episode, Simpsons fans already seem to be displeased with the show’s arrival on Disney+, saying that the aspect ratio of the episodes has been changed and part of the screen has been “cropped out” as a result. Technical difficulties seem to have plagued the rollout of the streaming service, which many subscribers reporting the app to be unusable in the early hours of the launch.