So the Simpsons does have a social conscience it seems. Simpsons Executive Producer James L. Brooks told the Wall Street Journal this week that after watching Leaving Neverland, the documentary that exposes evidence that the King of Pop abused children, that they will scrub an episode of The Simpsons that featured Michael Jackson. The episode titled “Stark Raving Dad” is a classic, and features Jackson voicing a gentle mental hospital patient named Leon Kompowsky who claimed he was Michael Jackson despite bearing no resemblance to the super star. At the time the episode aired Jackson was not credited as the voice, and there was great debate over whether it was really his voice. Kompowsky teaches Homer to moonwalk and sings “Billie Jean” in the episode. He also befriends Lisa and sings Happy Birthday Lisa to her. It’s considered a classic.
Brooks told the WSJ that the team was of one mind on the decision. “It feels clearly the only choice to make,” he said. “I’m against book burning of any kind. But this is our book, and we’re allowed to take out a chapter.”
Although this decision seemed to be a no-brainer for Team Simpson, the show has repeated refused to walk back or even address episodes centered around another controversial character- beloved Quick E Mart owner Apu. Debate continues on about whether Apu’s character is too offensive to stand after comedian Hari Kondabolu produced a documentary for truTV in which he asserts that stereotypes inherent in the character caused a troubling childhood experience. Other comedians of Indian American descent confirm Kondabolu’s concerns about the character. Despite many voices speaking out against the character, the Simpsons creators have held strong that they will not disrupt the legacy of Apu, although the character has not appeared in any new episodes since the debate went public.
The Simpson’s decision to stay out of any debate about Apu would pack a lot more punch if the show simply decided to keep their hands off their own history. But once you start saying you’re going to erase the uncomfortable ugly past, you may find yourself needing to do a lot more looking at your long long history.