Will The Simpsons Axing The Michael Jackson Episode Actually Help?
It kind of feels like a nothing move.
The producers of The Simpsons announced on Thursday that they will be pulling the 1991 episode, ‘Stark Raving Dad’, from all streaming services, as well as future broadcasts, because the episode features the voice of Michael Jackson.
The move comes less than a week after the wide release of the new documentaryLeaving Neverland, and 28 years after the episode first aired. But will it actually help?
Executive producer James L Brooks said it was the “only choice to make”, and went on to say:
“This was a treasured episode. There are a lot of great memories we have wrapped up in that one, and this certainly doesn’t allow them to remain. I’m against book-burning of any kind. But this is our book, and we’re allowed to take out a chapter.”
I’m all for holding celebrities accountable for their actions, and I understand the desire the show’s producers have to distance themselves from Michael Jackson.
But everyone knows the episode exists. We’ve all seen it at least once; some of us have seen it dozens of times, depending on how much of the 90s and 2000s you spent in front of the TV.
Clips of the episode will most likely still be available to watch on YouTube. If people want to watch the episode in its entirety, they’ll watch it on DVD or download it illegally.
This kind of feels like an empty gesture. What does removing the episode from circulation actually do for victims of abuse? And why only respond to the allegations against Michael Jackson?
Aerosmith’s lead singer, Steve Tyler, once pressured his teenage girlfriend into getting an abortion, and Ted Nugent, amongst other things, wrote a song called ‘Jailbait’ about how hot a 13-year-old girl was. Both have appeared in different Simpsons episodes over the years. It’s worth noting that Nugent’s appearance took place in 2012, 31 years after the release of ‘Jailbait’.
The allegations against Jackson are undoubtedly huge, but cherry-picking which survivors’ stories we value enough to actually respond to is pretty much the opposite of what movements like #MeToo are about.
This move feels like a knee-jerk reaction to the documentary, born from a desire to distance themselves from Jackson. But frankly, in 2019, nobody was thinking about his episode of The Simpsons until the producers themselves brought it up. Michael Jackson undoubtedly appeared in millions of things throughout his lifetime – scrubbing his presence from everything would take an eternity, and also be pretty pointless.
People can choose to avoid the episode if watching it makes them uncomfortable – that’s what I’ll be doing. Or, as one writer for Vulture argues, they can rewatch it in light of the recent allegations, and consider how Jackson was perceived then compared to now.
Supporting victims requires a lot more than trying to remove an 18-year-old episode from existence. If the producers were consistently interested in supporting victims, maybe this gesture wouldn’t feel so hollow.
The Official Guide To The Best Christmas Episodes Of Your Favourite TV Shows
Or, more accurately, my favourite TV shows.
Everybody loves a good Christmas special. The British are really into Christmas ‘pantos‘, much to the confusion of the rest of the world, and the majority of shows that air in the second-half of the year include a special episode aired in the lead-up to Christmas.
If you ask Bojack Horseman they’re a cynical cash grab on the part of corporations. But if you ask me they’re a fun way to get into the festive spirit.
Dwight Christmas – The Office (US)
It’s the last Christmas episode of the show, but also one of the best. It teaches us about Dwight’s Pennsylvania Dutch family traditions, like Belsnickel, and his game of ‘impish or admirable’.
This culminates in Dwight whipping Jim out of the building but, in the spirit of the holiday, they eventually make up.
Meanwhile, Pete is trying to quote all of Die Hard in an effort to impress Erin, which is pretty clearly an homage to every guy you’ve met at a holiday party who thinks he’s unique by citing Die Hard as his favourite Christmas movie.
It’s one of the best episodes of the show post-Steve Carrell’s departure, and it’s my favourite Christmas episode by far.
The One With The Holiday Armadillo – Friends
This needs no explanation. Ross as the Holiday Armadillo, Chandler as Santa, and Joey as… Superman, all working together to teach Ben about Hanukkah. Beautiful.
Afternoon Delight – Arrested Development
The sixth episode of the show is also its first Christmas-themed episode, and it’s a doozy.
This episode includes:
Michael and Maeby, and later, George Michael and Lindsey, singing Afternoon Delight, not realising the meaning of the song until it’s too late
Gob shouting about the cost of his suit and increasing its value each time: “It’s a $6300 suit! Come on!”
Probably Buster’s best lines, when he returns from spending his first day in the army at an arcade with two plushies. After Lucille accuses him of being a coward, he brandishes the seal and says, “Would a coward have THIS?”, and goes on to explain that “These are my awards, mother, from army. The seal is for marksmanship and the gorilla is for sand-racing.”
Lucille being so high that she slowly crashes into Tobias, Gob, and the Banana Stand without realising.
It’s peak Arrested Development, and it’s perfect holiday viewing.
The Best Chrismukkah Ever – The OC
This was the OC’s first holiday episode, and it’s the one that gave us Chrismukkah, Seth Cohen’s hybrid holiday resulting from his being a child of both Judaism and Christianity, and also from his unwillingness to choose. Plus, the eight days of presents followed by one big day of presents certainly don’t hurt.
This episode also sees Anna and Summer fighting over Seth, complete with Summer in the iconic Wonder Woman costume, lassoing Seth in an effort to seduce him.
It also has Marissa being Marissa, which consists of her shoplifting and getting drunk. Her troubled ways see her sent to a mental health professional, where she meets Oliver, and… wait a second… this might actually be the worst Christmas episode ever. In case you can’t tell, I still haven’t gotten over the whole Oliver storyline.
At least Ryan is welcomed into the Cohens for his first Chrismukkah? But ugh, Oliver.
The Strike – Seinfeld
“… and now, you’re gonna hear about ‘em!”
This is the iconic episode that gave us Festivus, Frank Costanza’s response to the commercialisation of Christmas. It also features George giving his colleagues gifts of donations made in their names to ‘The Human Fund’, which doesn’t exist, and Kramer returning to work after a twelve-year strike, only to go on strike again after his boss won’t let him take Festivus off.
Festivus and Chrismukkah have both become part of our cultural consciousness, and for that, I am eternally grateful to Seth Cohen and Frank Costanza.
This episode-within-an-episode sees Todd and Bojack settle in to enjoy a Horsin’ Around Christmas special. It’s a chance to finally see a full episode of the show that made Bojack famous, and it’s a great spoof of 80s family sitcoms.
And despite dismissing Christmas specials as “cynical cash grabs from greedy corporations”, Bojack asks if they can watch the other eight Horsin’ Around Christmas specials. The Christmas spirit gets everyone eventually, even Bojack.
Simpsons Roasting On An Open Fire – The Simpsons
This is probably one of the most iconic Christmas episodes ever, because it also happens to be the first ever episode of The Simpsons.
The Simpsons hadn’t had time to become the show we all know and love at this point, but signs of that show can be found in this episode, as long as you don’t get distracted by the animation style and Homer’s voice.
The episode is very much centred on the family’s financial troubles, but Bart’s rebellious nature is there, on full display when he defies Marge’s wishes and gets a tattoo. Homer is less of a bumbling idiot than he would later become, and more of a dad trying to make ends meet. After betting the paycheque he earned from working as Santa on the greyhound races and losing, Homer adopts the dog he bet on – Santa’s Little Helper.
The fact that it’s the very first Simpsons episode and the episode that saw Santa’s Little Helper join the family is more than enough to give this episode the honour of one of the best Christmas episodes on television.
Da Kath and Kim Code
Australia can’t be left off this list, so naturally it comes down to the Kath & Kim 2005 telemovie.
Sharon gets engaged to a blog, Kim and Brett fight (obviously), Kath and Kel become backup dancers for Michael Bublé at Carols by Candlelight, and they get stalked by an albino man dressed in a robe, who they’re convinced is trying to kill them. It’s ridiculous, and terribly Australian, and it’s the perfect thing to watch on a hot Christmas Day when you don’t want to think about the fact white Christmases are impossible here.
Stan has made it even easier to binge the Christmas episodes of your favourite shows – just search ‘The Office’ or ‘Friends’, and a specially curated list of their Christmas episodes will appear! Just like magic.
So grab your relos, relax, and let your stomach recover after a massive festive feast with some of these brilliant Christmas specials.