The classic season 3 Simpsons episode "Stark Raving Dad" is being pulled from circulation, due to featuring the voice of Michael Jackson. Unquestionably one of the most iconic musicians of all time, Jackson has been a controversial figure ever since the 1990s, when he was first accused of child molestation. Jackson would go on to be accused in the 2000s as well, although as his fans are often quick to point out, the singer was never actually convicted of any crimes during these legal battles, nor did he publicly admit guilt.
Whether one believes Jackson to be guilty of crimes against children or not though, there's of course no requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt for someone to be convicted in the court of public opinion. On one side, defenders of the "King of Pop" feel he's been unfairly maligned for crimes he didn't commit, and that he deserves to be remembered as a giant of pop culture. On the other are those who believe Jackson escaped justice, and that the magnitude of his musical accomplishments shouldn't outweigh his alleged heinous acts. There are also those unsure of his guilt or innocence, but who are willing to separate the artist from his art.
Jackson has been dead since 2009, so he obviously can't defend himself either way. While the accusations against Jackson are certainly not a new revelation, the new HBO documentary Leaving Neverland - which includes harrowing first hand accounts by two Jackson accusers - has served to reignite the debate about his standing in history. Now, The Wall Street Journal reports that the producers of The Simpsons have made the decision to remove "Stark Raving Dad - an episode in which Jackson guest starred - from circulation going forward.
The decision to pull "Stark Raving Dad" from circulation was jointly made by Simpsons executive producer James L. Brooks, creator Matt Groening, and showrunner Al Jean. The episode won't disappear overnight, but the plan is to remove it from TV re-runs, streaming services, and even future Blu-Ray and DVD box sets. Brooks is well aware of the backlash this move could receive from hardcore Simpsons fans, but stands by the decision regardless, believing it to be the right thing to do after viewing Leaving Neverland.
"Stark Raving Dad" being pulled comes just days after some radio stations announced that they would no longer play Jackson's music. While the impulse to no longer want to celebrate or promote content featuring Jackson if he's in fact guilty of child molestation is understandable, one wonders just how far this seeming effort to remove Jackson from pop culture history will go. Will any movie or TV show in which Jackson cameos be pulled from home video and streaming? Will his albums no longer be available for purchase? That could set a disturbing precedent when it comes to artistic preservation, and the freedom to buy the things one wishes to buy.
The Simpsons season 30 airs Sundays on FOX.
Source: The Wall Street Journal