Neverland To Springfield To Nowhere
March 8th, 2019 – The Simpsons creators are the latest group forced to answer the question of how you separate the art from the artist. Following further revelations of sexual abuse from the controversial Michael Jackson documentary Leaving Neverland, executive producer James L. Brooks said the Simpsons team has made the decision to pull a classic episode featuring Jackson’s voice.
The episode, “Stark Raving Dad,” originally aired in 1991 during the show’s third season. With a catalogue of over 600 episodes, the one that welcomed the King of Pop has maintained its status as a fan favorite. Jackson voiced a character named Leon Kompowsky, a patient Homer befriends in a mental institution who claims to be the singer despite being an overweigh white man.
The familiar, soft voice gave viewers reason to believe that Jackson himself starred in the episode, but credits listed the talent as “John Jay Smith.” Series creator Matt Groenig finally confirmed, years later, that Smith was simply a pseudonym. Michael Jackson had brought Leon Kompowsky to life, and he turned out to actually be a bricklayer from Paterson, New Jersey.
While some people see a lot of gray area when it comes to separating celebrated art from problematic artists, Brooks said the decision was pretty cut and dry for his creative team.
“It feels clearly the only choice to make,” he told The Wall Street Journal. “The guys I work with — where we spend our lives arguing over jokes — were of one mind on this.”
“Stark Raving Dad” will be pulled from all streaming platforms, networks re-running episodes, and upcoming box set DVDs.
The decision to make such a sweeping pull comes 26 years after the first sexual allegations against Jackson were made. The singer, who died in 2009, settled a 1993 case out of court and was acquitted of seven counts of child molestation in another case in 2003.
In 2019, Leaving Neverland has brought two accusers’ story to light — thought their names and previous statements have made the rounds for several years. James Safechuck and Wade Robson had previously testified that Jackson never abused them but now claim that the singer molested them for years when they were children.
The Jackson family has denied the charges and gone after the credibility of the new accusers calling them “admitted liars.” Despite family outcry and the popularity of the episode, Brooks and his team feel they have the right to let go of the Jackson attachment to their prized comedy.
“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. I’m against book burning of any kind. But this is our book, and we’re allowed to take out a chapter.”
Do you think The Simpsons team should pull their Michael Jackson-voiced episode?