Last week it was announced that The Simpsons episode featuring Michael Jackson would be removed from circulation in the wake of HBO’s Leaving Neverland. The harrowing documentary takes a close, graphic look at the late music icon’s alleged relationships with two underage boys.
“I’m against book burning of any kind. But this is our book, and we’re allowed to take out a chapter,” the show’s producer James L. Brooks said of the decision.
Now, The Simpsons longtime showrunner Al Jean has come forward with more details on why he and Brooks opted to pull Jackson’s episode, titled “Stark Raving Dad”. According to Jean, it’s believed that Jackson used the 1991 season three episode to “groom” boys.
“What saddens me is, if you watch [Leaving Neverland] — 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,” Jean explained to The Daily Beast. “It wasn’t just a comedy to him, it was something that was used as a tool.”
When asked to define Jackson’s purpose for this “tool”, Jean continued:
“I think it was part of what he used to groom boys. I really don’t know, and I should be very careful because this is not something I know personally, but as far as what I think, that’s what I think. And that makes me very, very sad.”
In “Stark Raving Dad”, Jackson provided the voice for a psychiatric patient character who believes he is actually the real King of Pop. Jackson also wrote an original song for the episode, titled “Happy Birthday Lisa”, in which he attempts to cheer up the eldest Simpson daughter. The tune itself was sung by a soundalike due to Jackson’s contractual obligations at the time, but the lyrics, now placed within the context of Leaving Neverland, seem more than just a little off-putting:
I wish you love and goodwill
I wish you praise and joy
I wish you better than your heart desires
And your first kiss from a boy
Jean wrote “Stark Raving Dad”, and the episode marked his first as showrunner, making it an especially momentous one in his career. Despite this, he told the Daily Beast that “removing it is appropriate.” “I lose a little bit of money financially, it’s not something that’s great personally to lose one of the most successful things I ever did, but I totally think it’s the right move,” he further remarked.
The Simpsons’ episode removal is just one of the many ways mainstream media and society has dealt with the Jackson fallout since HBO aired Leaving Neverland earlier this month. Radio stations have also ceased playing Jackson’s music, while artists like Drake have decided to axe their Jackson collaborations from their setlists.
Below, watch the “Stark Raving Dad” scene featuring the Jackson-penned song “Happy Birthday Lisa”, followed by more clips from the episode.
Revisit a trailer for Leaving Neverland: