The Simpsons showrunner Al Jean made the decision to pull the episode “
“It wasn’t something that makes me happy. It’s something I agree with completely,” Jean shared during a panel at South by Southwest [H/T Slash Film]. “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. It wasn’t just a comedy to him, it was something that was used as a tool. And I strongly believe that.”
More than just attempting to distance themselves from the musician, Jean noted that the entire episode will take on a new meaning after the reports of Jackson’s alleged actions.
“I think it was part of what he used to groom boys,” Jean explained. “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 the Season Three episode, Homer is admitted into a mental facility where he meets a man who believes himself to be the performer, voiced by Jackson himself. Upon their release, Homer takes the man home, after which the character forms a bond with Bart and Lisa Simpson.
The decision to pull the episode was made days after the documentary aired.
“It feels clearly the only choice to make,” producer James L. Brooks shared with the Wall Street Journal, confirming that executive producers Al Jean and Matt Groening agreed. “The guys I work with — where we spend our lives arguing over jokes — were of one mind on this.”
Not only did Jackson’s involvement in the episode help validate the burgeoning popularity of the series, but also became a beloved episode by many of the series’ fans.
“This was a treasured episode. There are a lot of great memories we have wrapped up in that one, and this certainly doesn’t allow them to remain,” Brooks added. “I’m against book burning of any kind. But this is our book, and we’re allowed to take out a chapter.”
Leaving Neverland is currently available on HBO Go and, while “Stark Raving Dad” is no longer available to stream, it is available on the Season Three DVD release of The Simpsons.
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