“Simpsons” showrunner Al Jean made the decision to pull the show's Michael Jackson episode because he feared that the pop icon may have used his appearance on the popular animated series to “groom boys,” Jean revealed during a recent interview.
Jean and other "Simpsons" producers decided earlier this month that they’d be removing the episode - “Stark Raving Dad,” the first episode of the series' third season - from syndication, and said that it was HBO’s recently released documentary, “Leaving Neverland,” that inspired them to do so. The two-part, four-hour documentary tells the stories of Wade Robson and James Safechuck, two men who claim Jackson molested them throughout their childhoods.
During an interview with The Daily Beast this week, Jean explained the decision in more detail:
“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,” said Jean, who began writing for the show at its start in 1989, rising to showrunner for seasons three and four before departing the series for several years, only to return in season 10 and resume showrunning duties in season 13.
The episode in question first aired in 1991 and featured Jackson as the voice of a character in a mental institution who believes that he is, in fact, the King of Pop. At one point in the episode, Jackson’s character helps Bart write a birthday song for his sister Lisa; Jackson, who Jean says wrote the song himself, later joins Bart in singing the song, which contains the lyric, “I wish you better than your heart desires and your first kiss from a boy.”
Jackson’s episode had a “false purpose,” Jean told The Daily Beast.
“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,” he explained.
Grooming is the process predators use to gain their intended victim’s trust before the sexual abuse begins, and it’s something that Robson and Safechuck claim that Jackson did to them by buying them lavish gifts and allowing them to do whatever they wanted at Neverland Ranch, as he allegedly sexually abuse them for years behind closed doors.
Jean said that, although he expects to lose "a little bit of money financially," the decision to pull the episode was “something I agree with completely.”
“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.
Jackson, who died in 2009, maintained during his life that he never abused children, and he was acquitted of child molestation charges in 2005. The claims in “Leaving Neverland” have reignited public interest in the accusations, and have drawn commentary from others celebs who have spent time with Jackson, like former child star Aaron Carter, who recently said that he’d like to punch Robson in the face for "stomping" on Jackson's grave.
Jackson’s family has blasted the film repeatedly, and the singer’s estate filed a lawsuit against HBO last month, accusing the network of violating a decades-old contract by airing a film that they say disparages Jackson.
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