The Corner

Film & TV

What Should We Do about Michael Jackson?

James L. Brooks, co-creator of The Simpsons, says that the 1991 episode guest-starring Michael Jackson is being yanked, permanently.“It feels clearly the only choice to make,” Brooks told the Wall Street Journal. “The guys I work with—where we spend our lives arguing over jokes—were of one mind on this,” he added.

I believe this is the first instance of a Jackson product being pulled in response to the broadcast this week of the HBO documentary Leaving Neverland, whose chilling revelations I wrote about here. In retrospect, I think we were all blinding ourselves to something that was perfectly obvious. Jackson was not just a strange boy-man, he was a pedophile. He serially sexually abused young boys. At least two of the boys, James Safechuck and Wade Robson, the subjects of the documentary, have suffered severe emotional trauma that continues to this day. Brooks said he approached the documentary wanting to “believe the thing that we believe,” which was that Jackson was innocent. Brooks doesn’t believe that anymore.

Ramesh says he can no longer listen to Michael Jackson’s music. I certainly am not going to encourage my children to listen to his songs and I can’t hear them the same way again, but I don’t want them banned or removed from the major streaming services. The records were and remain great. Separating the man from the music is pretty difficult, but to the extent that some will still be able to find pleasure in Jackson’s work, I don’t think corporations should block them from doing so. I don’t think the idea of a Michael Jackson Broadway musical (planned for 2020, with a book by the Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Lynn Nottage) is in great taste, though, and I suspect its producers will drop it.

Brooks says the episode in question will be removed from all platforms including DVD sets and streaming services. “I’m against book burning of any kind. But this is our book, and we’re allowed to take out a chapter,” he told the Journal.

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