The Simpsons is pulling an episode featuring Michael Jackson’s voice, co-creator James L. Brooks told the Wall Street Journal yesterday. “Stark Raving Dad,” which featured Jackson as the voice of a mental patient who believes that he is actually Michael Jackson, is, or has been, one of the show’s most beloved installments, coming in 10th in the Ringer’s 2017 ranking of its best episodes. But after the broadcast of Leaving Neverland, in which two men describe in detail how Jackson allegedly molested them when they were children, Brooks said that taking the episode out of circulation was “clearly the only choice to make.”
Brooks told the Journal that “Stark Raving Dad,” in which Homer is committed to a mental institution, was “a treasured episode” for him, but it’s already been removed from Simpsons World, the online portal that offers access to every—now every other— episode of The Simpsons, and Brooks said that “the process has been started” to remove it from syndication and future physical media editions. “I’m against book burning of any kind,” Brooks said, “but this is our book, and we’re allowed to take out a chapter.”
In “Stark Raving Dad,” Jackson was credited as “John Jay Smith,” and when the character sings Lisa a happy birthday song, it’s actually sung by a Michael Jackson impersonator, although Jackson composed the tune himself. In his 2017 ranking, Alan Siegel wrote that the episode “manages to showcase the King of Pop’s talents, poke fun of his persona, and humanize him in a way that nothing has before or since.” The Simpsons has resisted public criticism before, most recently in its bunker-mentality defense of the character of Apu, but the outcry over Leaving Neverland has evidently been too big for the show or its creators to ignore.