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Disney Plus censors the Michael Jackson ‘Simpsons’ episode, but the racist crows in ‘Dumbo’ stay?

An episode of ‘The Simpsons’ referencing Michael Jackson isn’t on Disney Plus, but racist scenes in films only get a warning. Welcome to the minefield of wokeness.

Disney Plus censors the Michael Jackson ‘Simpsons’ episode, but the racist crows in ‘Dumbo’ stay?
[Image: The Simpsons/FOX]

In addition to spotty service, Disney Plus seems to be a bit spotty with its censorship rules.

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The company’s brand-new streaming service is catching flak for not including an episode of The Simpsons, presumably because of its heavy references of Michael Jackson. “Stark Raving Dad” was originally the first episode of season three in 1991, but on Disney Plus, that season starts with episode two, “Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington.”

In “Stark Raving Dad,” Homer is mistakenly sent to a mental institution, where he befriends a man who claims to be Michael Jackson. It’s eventually revealed that he’s an impostor who admits to speaking like Jackson because it made people happy. “Stark Raving Dad” was actually pulled from broadcast circulation earlier this year following HBO’s documentary Leaving Neverland, which chronicles the allegations of child abuse against Jackson. That would explain why Disney chose not to include the episode on Disney Plus.

But what about Dumbo?

In the lead-up to Disney Plus’s launch, the company announced that certain films that have aged dismally would remain in Disney’s vault, among them the highly racist Song of the South. And it was reported that certain problematic scenes within otherwise fine films would be edited out. However, that turned out to be not the case.

Scenes such as Dumbo‘s Jim Crow number, “When I See an Elephant Fly,” the controversial depiction of Native Americans in Peter Pan, the offensive stereotypes of the Siamese cats in Lady and the Tramp, the pickaninny character in Fantasia, and the ape King Louie in The Jungle Book are all present and accounted for on Disney Plus. But the company did issue warnings in the films’ descriptions of “outdated cultural depictions.”

It’s presumably easier to cut a whole film or one episode from a series that has nearly 700 than to edit out scenes that are woven into the plot. But where Disney is choosing to draw its line in the sand of today’s wokeness is fuzzy at best.

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Fast Company has reached out to Disney for comment.

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About the author

KC covers entertainment and pop culture for Fast Company. Previously, KC was part of the Emmy Award-winning team at "Good Morning America," where he was the social media producer.

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