'The Simpsons' Showrunner Explains Why The Michael Jackson Episode Was Taken Down

The Simpsons made headlines at the end of last week when the show's creative team, including co-creator James L. Brooks, decided to pull the third season episode "Stark Raving Dad" featuring guest star Michael Jackson off the air. The decision came after many people on The Simpsons staff saw the HBO documentary Leaving Neverland, which brings to light many more disturbing details about alleged sexual abuse of young boys by the late international pop superstar.

Now, showrunner Al Jean has explained a little more about their decision to have The Simpsons Michael Jackson episode pulled from circulation, and it comes with an unsettling perspective.

Al Jean appeared down at South by Southwest with his wife and fellow Simpsons writer Stephanie Gillis. While the two answered many questions about their collaborative creative process on the show, conversation inevitably turned to The Simpsons Michael Jackson episode. Here's what Jean had to say about the motivation behind the decision (via The Daily Beast):

"It wasn't something that makes me happy. 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. It wasn't just a comedy to him, it was something that was used as a tool. And I strongly believe that."

Exactly what purpose does he think the episode served for Michael Jackson? Jean laid it out specifically:

"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."

Keep in mind that this is all speculation on Jean's part. But it's easy to see how Michael Jackson appearing on The Simpsons during the height of its popularity would make him less intimidating and more trustworthy, especially to young boys. Bart Simpson was an icon to children of the 90s, so much that they bought Butterfingers simply because he was the candy bar's mascot. So it's not a great leap in logic to understand why Jean sees how a cartoon like The Simpsons could be used to "groom boys."

This decision by Jean doesn't benefit him in any way either. The episode was written by him, which means he received royalties every time it airs. "Stark Raving Dad" was also one of the more famous and beloved episodes of the series. But now it's tainted, and it's noble of Jean to take this kind of action following the revelations in Leaving Neverland, even if it's based on allegations and speculation.

If you haven't seen Leaving Neverland yet, the two-part, four-hour documentary is available on HBO now. And if you'd like to revisit The Simpsons Michael Jackson episode "Stark Raving Dad," you'll have to pick up the third season of the show on DVD (now at elevated prices), because you won't find it on TV or download services anymore.