20 votes

The Simpsons Pulled an Episode Featuring Michael Jackson. That Was a Mistake.

24 comments

  1. [15]
    Comment deleted by author
    Link
    1. Diet_Coke Link Parent
      I don't think you're located in Southeast US, but this is kind of a discussion we're having. There are tons of statues of confederates that were put up during Jim Crow, schools named after them,...

      While we're at it, it's kind of a black eye on the United States that our country was built on slavery. Can't we just erase that from the history books and forget it ever happened?

      I don't think you're located in Southeast US, but this is kind of a discussion we're having. There are tons of statues of confederates that were put up during Jim Crow, schools named after them, and monuments to the Confederacy. Now that we are in a more enlightened time and can see these men for what they were, people are clamoring to take them down. Some have your reaction and call it erasing history, to which I might respond that we are not erasing history, we are choosing what we memorialize. It's not rewriting history so much as it is maintaining a relationship with history, reexamining it through modern morality, and choosing what stories to tell and how we tell them.

      5 votes
    2. [4]
      Pilgrim Link Parent
      I love the show and the executive producers. They are in a tougher spot than we might realize. My initial reaction was similar to yours. I thought they should probably do something to acknowledge...

      I love the show and the executive producers. They are in a tougher spot than we might realize.

      My initial reaction was similar to yours. I thought they should probably do something to acknowledge the issue but retain the episode - like what Warner Bros did with some of the old racist Looney Tune cartoons (you can read about that here).

      However, adding a warning about Jackson and the allegations at the top of the episode would ruin the episode... the episode only works because we're not really sure if that's Michael Jackson or not. It's a really brilliant episode and was big success when it came out, largely because of that question of "is that really Michael?" So taking the Looney Tunes approach would have ruined the fun of the episode.

      After mulling it over some, I think the right move would have been to do nothing. People could still wonder "oh is that really Michael?" and the Simpsons could play loosey-goosey with whether or not it really was...

      3 votes
      1. [2]
        Comment deleted by author
        Link Parent
        1. Pilgrim Link Parent
          Well we do now...

          we don't even know for sure it's him

          Well we do now...

          1 vote
      2. [2]
        zaarn Link Parent
        The warning could be simply "This episode may or may not contain Michael Jackson, who maybe has done things we super don't like."

        The warning could be simply "This episode may or may not contain Michael Jackson, who maybe has done things we super don't like."

        1 vote
        1. alyaza Link Parent
          if there was not a south park skit or episode in this vein (or one in the cards) i would be positively shocked because it sure sounds like an idea from south park

          if there was not a south park skit or episode in this vein (or one in the cards) i would be positively shocked because it sure sounds like an idea from south park

    3. [8]
      Catt Link Parent
      As someone who loves this episode, I disagree with your comparison. Simpsons isn't a history book, it's entertainment. Taking this episode out is nothing like erasing the rape of Nanking from...

      While we're at it, it's kind of a black eye on the United States that our country was built on slavery. Can't we just erase that from the history books and forget it ever happened?

      As someone who loves this episode, I disagree with your comparison. Simpsons isn't a history book, it's entertainment. Taking this episode out is nothing like erasing the rape of Nanking from texts. Let's not pretend it is.

      Pulling this episode has not suddenly pulled it from my mind and in truth cannot be logistically pulled everywhere. So it's not the lost of this art that people are upset about.

      2 votes
      1. [3]
        welly Link Parent
        The Simpsons is very much part of history. It may be "just" entertainment but it's a strong part of popular culture and has an incredible amount of influence beyond entertainment.

        The Simpsons is very much part of history. It may be "just" entertainment but it's a strong part of popular culture and has an incredible amount of influence beyond entertainment.

        5 votes
        1. [2]
          Catt Link Parent
          Yeah...I don't mean to say it's just entertainment, just that it's not the same type of history as slavery...If that makes sense.

          Yeah...I don't mean to say it's just entertainment, just that it's not the same type of history as slavery...If that makes sense.

          1 vote
      2. [5]
        Comment deleted by author
        Link Parent
        1. [4]
          Catt Link Parent
          My issue with your comment is specifically the hyperbole, and honestly I don't read your sarcasm. I am also confused with your follow up. I probably am being a bit pedantic here, but choosing to...

          My issue with your comment is specifically the hyperbole, and honestly I don't read your sarcasm.

          While it can't be pulled from everywhere, it is being pulled from the viewership of the masses. It's a corporation censoring art.

          I am also confused with your follow up. I probably am being a bit pedantic here, but choosing to use the word censor is painting a pretty dire picture "corporation censoring art" - really? How about "nostalgia silencing victims"?

          My question, and not to you specifically, but for this topic in general is: how can society in one breath be so moved by a cometic TV show being pulled and almost completely silent about actual historical erasure?

          2 votes
          1. [2]
            Comment deleted by author
            Link Parent
            1. Catt Link Parent
              This made me smile a bit, because I was trying to point out that your phrasing is the strawperson (to me)... My bad, it wasn't clear. It's a bit hard to really accurately express my tone, but I...

              You are setting up a straw-man argument here.

              This made me smile a bit, because I was trying to point out that your phrasing is the strawperson (to me)... My bad, it wasn't clear.

              It's a bit hard to really accurately express my tone, but I honestly don't feel particularly strongly about this issue at all. I think keeping/pulling the episode doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things. What I don't like is how big a deal people are making of this.

              My intention is not to trivialize your arguments, but to point out that I disagree. I appreciate you actively participating in its discussion.

              1 vote
          2. [2]
            Algernon_Asimov Link Parent
            Just FYI: I got @koan's sarcasm on my first reading. That opening paragraph is clearly sarcastic to me: The hint to me that this is sarcastic is its obvious impossibility. We can't just erase...

            honestly I don't read your sarcasm.

            Just FYI: I got @koan's sarcasm on my first reading. That opening paragraph is clearly sarcastic to me:

            While we're at it, it's kind of a black eye on the United States that our country was built on slavery. Can't we just erase that from the history books and forget it ever happened?

            The hint to me that this is sarcastic is its obvious impossibility. We can't just erase slavery from the history of the USA. Therefore, this isn't a literal request. It must be a non-literal request. It's sarcasm.

            2 votes
            1. Catt Link Parent
              Rereading it today, I have to admit it is pretty obviously sarcastic. @koan, my bad. Not sure why I didn't see it yesterday.

              Rereading it today, I have to admit it is pretty obviously sarcastic. @koan, my bad. Not sure why I didn't see it yesterday.

              1 vote
    4. Hypersapien Link Parent
      There are southern states trying to do exactly that

      While we're at it, it's kind of a black eye on the United States that our country was built on slavery. Can't we just erase that from the history books and forget it ever happened?

      There are southern states trying to do exactly that

      1 vote
  2. ThatFanficGuy Link
    That's the JK Rowling approach: "it's my thing, I can do what I want with it". At some point, you lose authority over the piece of art you've created. It's not an authoritative declaration: it's...

    “This is our book,” he told the Wall Street Journal, “and we’re allowed to take out a chapter.”

    That's the JK Rowling approach: "it's my thing, I can do what I want with it".

    At some point, you lose authority over the piece of art you've created. It's not an authoritative declaration: it's an observation. You have things that start out as a series of books, or a series of cartoon episodes, or a series of films, and you end up with a cultural phenomenon because people like to so much and care so deeply about it. It becomes something bigger than just a piece of art: it becomes a piece of the collective consciousness that people experience and contribute to. It becomes ingrained into the consensus.

    There's a lot of cases of this, not limited to art. "GIF" - the animated-picture format - is pronounced "jiff" by the author of the codec. Many people pronounce it "giff" now, no matter the amount of protest from the nerds and the geeks. When you need to scan and/or photocopy a document, you xerox it. When you need to find something online, you google it. And so on.

    The protest is there because some people disagree with the current consensus on the basis of accuracy, or history, or authoritative statements by the author, but - by the time the consensus has formed, you're already fighting an uphill battle. It's already in the annals of history. It's already a part of the culture. You can't stop it. I'd argue you wouldn't want to.

    I imagine it would be painful to lose control over something you'd created in that way. We experience similar things during our lifetimes: when your parents no longer abide by your every wish; when your crush doesn't want to do all the same things you do; when your message on an online platform takes a life of its own, and you find yourself fending off allegations, misinformation, rumors, and even death threats. It's a complex experience, with facets and shades and grey areas and details of importance. It's a lot.

    I'm not to tell anyone to suck it up just because, as a regular media-consumer, I feel like it's out of their hands. I don't have the authority, or the experience, to imply something like that. I would, however, suggest that it's a complicated issue that can't simply be resolved by pulling the plug on something. There's a lot of people who still remember Bill Cosby as the man from TV. He used to be a big part of some people's lives - people all over the country, people he wouldn't even know about existing. Wayne Brady mentions the Cosby Show in one of his songs, Back in the Day, when the character reminisces about his long-time friend and lover and how they used to spend their time together:

    Everyday after school
    I'd pop, you'd lock, we'd act a fool
    I was at your house, you was at mine
    Cosby Show at 8, Different World at 9

    Which isn't in any way denying the allegations Bill Cosby has faced since: it's just that he's not just a rapist, or a date-drugger. He's a person, and his story has multiple facets to it, all of which are equally real, even if some of them are painful or abhorrent. I feel like it would be better for everyone of this was acknowledged and understood: that good people can make terrible choices, and that terrible people can make good ones.

    There's also the issue of Michael Jackson no longer being alive. I can't quite wrap my head around how's this supposed to affect the image of the person - it's a complicated issue, again - but the easy thing I can say is: he longer cares. The problem a lot of people face is that Michael Jackson as they know him is being attacked, not Michael Jackson as he really was. It's his image of the pop idol, the producer, the philanthropist that people care about. It's reductive, of course, but this part of the issue has to be kept in mind. Child abuse by far outweighs all the good the person had done, but it doesn't erase it.

    It's the Wagner dilemma: can you, as a Jew, enjoy Richard Wagner's music - an excellent composer, whose Ride of the Valkyries is a piece of culture in itself - after you learn that he had openly and loudly expressed racist and antisemitic views, and that Adolf Hitler saw Wagner's music as the perfect soundtrack for the ideal Third Reich? Stephen Fry has wrestled with this question, for one.

    Can you separate the art from the artist? It's a tough question to answer readily. It's not just whether the artist has committed atrocious deeds: it's about the essence of art, the connection between the creation and the creator, the mental image that appears whenever you touch something made by a terrible person, your own vision of their art... It's a lot to consider. It's a serious moral question.

    I used to love watching Kevin Spacey act. He's an excellent actor, with deep, engaging performances every time. Now, I can't, because I know what he did. Whenever I see him, all I see is a molester. Molesting children is bad enough. For some reason, the "molesting boys" part is what makes it extra-heavy for me. Boys don't get the same recognition as girls, but they suffer just as much, no matter how the hypermasculine image forces them to hide it. It's... deeply, unbelievably horrible. I'm at a loss for words as to describe it.

    I want to still love him as an actor. I want to watch his work, 'cause he's brilliant.

    At this stage, I can't.

    With Jackson, oddly enough, I don't feel the same way. I never liked him to begin with. Maybe that's why? Maybe I needed to care about the person to feel that strongly about them in the first place? I know his crimes; I can put faces to the names - but it's not the same revolting experience for me.

    Not that it should matter to anyone. Maybe I don't care all that much about seeing Jackson in an episode of The Simpsons - but what about others, those who feel as strongly about him as I do about Spacey? Is theirs not a worthy consideration? Is mine?

    The reason it's important is because people are people. When your father goes to prison for killing a man, do you disown him, despite the history and the familial bond and the love you have for him? When your sister is shamed because she's gay in a community that resents homosexuality, do you distance yourself from her, despite all the same? People are people. Do we dismantle all the good work Jackson did because of his atrocious crime? Do we burn all the films Spacey starred in? Cosby starred in? Do we forget about the great music Wagner wrote because of his abysmal views on race and being Jewish? Do we ever forget - after they died, or long after that - or do we keep track? And so on, and so on, and so on.

    I wonder what answers the execs would give to those questions.

    8 votes
  3. [4]
    alexandria Link
    Obviously the creators of The Simpsons do not think that one specific episode is worth all that much fuss. Given their attitude to Apu being composed of (harmful) Indian stereotypes -- which was...

    Obviously the creators of The Simpsons do not think that one specific episode is worth all that much fuss. Given their attitude to Apu being composed of (harmful) Indian stereotypes -- which was essentially "we don't care", I doubt that this is done out of worry about 'moral outrage'.

    The vain, incoherent panic about this being related to "censorship" is just plain fearmongering. Are you seriously saying that the creator of a work is censoring themselves by removing something they have made from broadcast? That as far from the colloquial definition of 'censorship' as you can get. Nobody is forcing Brooks or the other staff to remove this episode.

    Indeed, it's not even like removing it from the broadcast schedule is going to suddenly remove it from history. The Season Two DVDs will still contain the episode. Full torrents of The Simpsons are still going strong, etc. If you really want to watch the episode, it will be available. It just won't be run on a regular schedule -- so that people who happen to watch the simpsons without caring what episode it is, won't randomly be exposed to it.

    And that's the key thing here. Nobody is removing these episodes from history. All they are doing is ensuring survivors of sexual assault, who have been through an event that causes immeasurable pain, do not have to be randomly confronted with sources of that pain, or randomly reminded about that pain.

    My ex was sexually assaulted, I don't think anyone without (even second-hand) experience of this sort of assault is capable of understanding how deep the scars go, even many years after the traumatic incident. If the removal of a single episode of television is enough to provide a small respite from reminders of that trauma, then that's a worthy sacrifice.

    4 votes
    1. [3]
      Pilgrim Link Parent
      I'm not sure who you're directing your anger and comment at. The title is verbatim from the article, which I did not write.

      Are you seriously saying that the creator of a work is censoring themselves by removing something they have made from broadcast? That as far from the colloquial definition of 'censorship' as you can get

      I'm not sure who you're directing your anger and comment at. The title is verbatim from the article, which I did not write.

      1. [2]
        alexandria Link Parent
        Have you read the other comments

        Have you read the other comments

        1. Pilgrim Link Parent
          Yes, but you're not responding to those comments so I was very confused who you were addressing.

          Yes, but you're not responding to those comments so I was very confused who you were addressing.

  4. Pilgrim Link
    The opening:

    The opening:

    One unexpected fallout from our cultural reckoning with the life and work of Michael Jackson is the erasure of a Simpsons episode. “Stark Raving Dad,” the premiere of the show’s third season, tells the story of Homer being committed to an insane asylum, where he meets a patient named Leon Kompowsky, who claims to be Michael Jackson. Homer, not knowing who Michael Jackson is, believes him. Antics ensue. The central joke is that Leon is actually voiced by Michael Jackson, a joke extended further by his use of a pseudonym in the end credits. Following the renewed allegations of child sexual abuse against Jackson, executive producer James L. Brooks announced last week that The Simpsons will no longer include the episode in syndication packages, streaming, or even future DVD releases of the show. It’s gone. But don’t call it a book burning, he cautions. “This is our book,” he told the Wall Street Journal, “and we’re allowed to take out a chapter.”

  5. [4]
    papasquat Link
    I don't understand why there's so much buzz about Michael Jackson all of the sudden. We've known he was most likely a pedophile and child molester for a long, long time now. He's also been dead...

    I don't understand why there's so much buzz about Michael Jackson all of the sudden. We've known he was most likely a pedophile and child molester for a long, long time now. He's also been dead for a decade at this point. Why is this suddenly relevant, and why is everyone talking about him now?

    1. [3]
      Pilgrim Link Parent
      There was a documentary that came out recently. You can read about it here: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/28/arts/television/michael-jackson-leaving-neverland.html

      There was a documentary that came out recently.

      You can read about it here:
      https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/28/arts/television/michael-jackson-leaving-neverland.html

      3 votes
      1. [2]
        papasquat Link Parent
        I see. Is there any actual new concrete evidence that came out, or is it just suddenly something that is getting a bunch of publicity because of a well marketed movie? It seems kind of strange to...

        I see. Is there any actual new concrete evidence that came out, or is it just suddenly something that is getting a bunch of publicity because of a well marketed movie?
        It seems kind of strange to me. Was there anyone before that seriously believed that Jackson wasn't molesting children?

        1. Pilgrim Link Parent
          Lot's of people still do not and point to the accusers somewhat flaky history of both denying the claims and then suing him. I haven't dived deep into it, but this stuff started when they were...

          Lot's of people still do not and point to the accusers somewhat flaky history of both denying the claims and then suing him. I haven't dived deep into it, but this stuff started when they were kids so I think a certain amount of confusion is expected of them. But that's just my totally uninformed personal opinion.