Among the previously celebrated pieces of art affected by the release of HBO's controversial Michael Jackson doc is an episode of the history-making animated sitcom The Simpsons. The episode, season 3 opener "Stark Raving Dad," is often cited as a fan favorite and includes a then-uncredited voice cameo from Jackson himself. Earlier this month, however, the show's team announced plans to scrub the 1991 episode from its rotation entirely.
During a recent SXSW panel, showrunner Al Jean—who also co-wrote the episode—gave his thoughts on the decision.
"It wasn’t something that makes me happy," Jean told The Daily Beast in an interview published Wednesday. "It's something I agree with completely. 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."
Elaborating further, Jean said he doesn't think the show was "just a comedy" to Jackson. Furthermore, Jean presented his personal belief that the singer used the show for another reason entirely, a "false purpose" he outlined as follows:
"I think it was part of what he used to groom boys. 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."
Catch Jean's full interview here, which also sees the showrunner reflecting on the show's historic three-decade run and much more.
When initially announcing the decision to scrub the episode, executive producer James L. Brooks explained that while he's "against book burning of any kind," removing the episode "feels clearly the only choice to make."
The fallout surrounding Leaving Neverland, in which Wade Robson and James Safechuck accuse Jackson of sexual abuse, has been met with some resistance from fellow artists and admirers, including Virgil Abloh and Juice WRLD.
The Jackson family has also repeatedly spoken out against the documentary, which HBO premiered in two parts earlier this month.