When The Simpsons' executive producer James L. Brooks told The Wall Street Journal last Thursday that a 1991 episode featuring a Michael Jackson voiceover was being pulled from circulation, it seemed like another stand against the late icon in the wake of the release of Leaving Neverland. Brooks explained that after seeing the explosive documentary they wanted to stand with Jackson’s alleged victims.
But on Wednesday, The Simpsons showrunner Al Jean, who worked on the Jackson episode, took it a step further, telling The Daily Beast that he personally was on board with the decision to pull the episode because he thinks, “it was part of what [Jackson] used to groom boys.”
Although he added that he didn’t have concrete proof of this, he was steadfast in his opinion. “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,” Jean said. “It wasn’t just a comedy to him, it was something that was used as a tool. And I strongly believe that.”
In the episode, Homer Simpson gets sent to a mental hospital where he meets an older white man, Leon Kompowsky, that thinks he’s Michael Jackson and is, in fact, voiced by Jackson himself. Leon grows on Homer, is welcomed into the Simpson home, and helps Bart pen a birthday song for Lisa. At the end, the character explains that pretending to be Jackson, and speaking like him, makes life easier. “All of a sudden, everybody was smiling at me and I was only doing good on this earth,” Leon says. “To make a tired point, which one of us is truly crazy?”
The episode largely painted Jackson in a positive light, using him to challenge what it means to be labeled “crazy” and empowering uniqueness. As Vulture pointed out, the episode aired in 1991 before Jackson was facing allegations of child molestation, but he was certainly fighting off the idea that his eccentricity meant he was mentally unstable.
While many are weighing how they should engage with Jackson’s legacy, Jean is one of the few celebrities not only pulling his Jackson collaboration but discussing how the project could have aided his alleged abuses.
“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 said. “The episode itself has a false purpose, and that’s what I object to about it now.”
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