‘The Simpsons’ Episode Banned by Disney, Viewership Outlawed in U.S.

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The Simpsons Family and Millhouse

Credit: Disney

The Simpsons has long been celebrated as a cultural phenomenon, a television show that has etched an indelible mark on society. Crafted by the creative genius of Matt Groening, this animated series has not only entertained but challenged audiences for over three decades, leaving an immeasurable impact on popular culture.

One of the most significant ways The Simpsons has influenced culture is through its sharp social commentary and satire. With its incisive humor, the show takes aim at various facets of American life, from politics and religion to consumerism and pop culture. Characters like Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie serve as vehicles for societal critique. Homer Simpson, in particular, embodies the American everyman, making him relatable to a wide spectrum of viewers.

Homer and Marge Simpsons
Credit: 20th Century Studios

Moreover, the show has gifted the world with numerous catchphrases that have seamlessly integrated into everyday language. Phrases like “D’oh!” and “Eat my shorts!” have become universally recognizable idiomatic expressions used in various contexts. The Simpsons has also introduced a plethora of unforgettable characters, such as Ned Flanders, Mr. Burns, Krusty the Clown, and Apu, who have transcended the show to become cultural icons.

Beyond catchphrases and characters, The Simpsons has pioneered a new era of adult-oriented animation. It laid the groundwork for other popular animated shows like South Park and Family Guy, pushing the boundaries of what could be shown on television and addressing controversial subjects.

Furthermore, The Simpsons has made a significant mark in the realm of merchandising. The characters and quotes from the show have graced countless products, from clothing and toys to video games and theme park attractions. The Simpson family has become ubiquitous, making appearances on everything from T-shirts to lunchboxes, contributing to the show’s enduring popularity and generating billions of dollars in merchandise sales.

the simpsons is one of the ten ten shows streamed on Disney+
Credit: 20th Century Studios

However, amid the show’s illustrious history, one episode stands out not for its humor or cultural impact but for its controversy. “Stark Raving Dad,” part of the third season of The Simpsons, first aired on September 19, 1991. It’s a memorable episode characterized by its enduring popularity and cultural references, but it is conspicuously absent from Disney’s streaming platform, Disney+.

The episode’s storyline begins with a comical mishap when Homer accidentally turns his white shirt pink and wears it to work. This seemingly innocent act leads his boss, Mr. Burns, to label him a “free-thinking anarchist,” resulting in a psychiatric evaluation. Not one to do things himself, Homer enlists Bart to fill out the evaluation, which paints a skewed picture of his mental health. This ultimately leads to Homer’s commitment to a mental institution.

The controversy surrounding “Stark Raving Dad” doesn’t stem from its portrayal of gendered stereotypes or humor about mental health. Instead, the episode’s notoriety is rooted in a guest appearance by the late Michael Jackson, who provides the voice for Homer’s asylum roommate. The character claims to be Michael Jackson, but he is a large white man who believes he’s the King of Pop. Although Michael Jackson provided his falsetto voice for the character, he remained uncredited for his role in the episode.

Star Wars Simpsons shorts
Credit: Disney+

In 1991, when the episode initially aired, Michael Jackson was a revered celebrity. It was precisely the humor in Homer’s inability to recognize him and his casual acceptance of his roommate’s claims that struck a chord with the audience. However, by 2019, Jackson’s posthumous reputation had taken a substantial hit due to allegations of pedophilia dating back to the mid-90s and early 2000s. Many of these cases were settled out of court, but they had already tainted Jackson’s image.

The turning point came with the release of the documentary Leaving Neverland in 2019. This documentary featured accusers Wade Robson and James Safechuck detailing their claims of sexual abuse by Michael Jackson when they were child actors. The film garnered critical acclaim, winning awards, but it also reignited public interest in the allegations against Jackson.

Captain EO (Michael Jackson)
Credit: Disney

As public perception shifted, The Simpsons showrunner, Al Jean, suggested that Jackson’s cameo in “Stark Raving Dad” could have been an attempt to “groom boys.” Subsequently, James L. Brooks, the co-creator of The Simpsons, announced the removal of the episode from syndicated television, FXX’s “Simpsons World” on-demand service, and future DVD sales of Season 3.

Disney, which had acquired The Simpsons for Disney+, followed suit, leading to the episode’s exclusion from the streaming platform. This decision was a reflection of the evolving cultural attitudes and historical context. Though some fans have pushed the company to release the episode on the streaming platform, Disney has remained steadfast that the episode would remain banned and canceled from public viewing.

This episode is an interesting study if you think about it. While Disney has censored and banned certain episodes in international markets, this remains one that has been outlawed everywhere, even in the U.S.

What do you think of The Simpsons on Disney+? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments!

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