As an icon that has defied race, gender and the boundaries of creativity, what is the truth behind Michael Jackson?
As an icon that has defied race, gender and the boundaries of creativity, as well as influencing some of today’s biggest artists, there is a hunting suspicion that our perception of stardom may shift this evening. There is no denying that for decades, Michael Jackson has been widely celebrated, and has firmly been an aspirational marker for so many people; everyone wanted to be him, near him, friends with him. So happened to the two young children who were his best friends?
In this feature-length, 2a -part documentary airing tonight (06/03) and tomorrow (07/03), director Dan Reed explores allegations made by James Safechuck and Wade Robson that Jackson had repeatedly sexually abused them at his estate, Neverland, over a number of years. Having been told by Jackson that if they ever told anyone of their experiences, they would both go to jail.
By fully integrating himself into both families lives, we see how he also won the undeniable truth of the boys’ parents. We hear accounts from their mothers, of being taken to a storybook world, and how they willingly let their children spend 1-2-1 time with Jackson, alone at his estate, travelling around the world and even sharing a bed with him.
The documentary left audiences in shock and disbelief following its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January, and has since had a ripple effect amongst fans and listeners of Jackson’s music. Many of his most hardcore fans, shouting on twitter demanding they are “poised for battle” to flood the hashtag #leavingneverland.
With such adoring fans willing to defend the pop star regardless of the allegations made, it poses three key questions: just how far can a fan go? In a world of instant sharing where everyone has the opportunity to have their voice heard, how do we sieve through the truth? And should we always be so fast to trust complete strangers, just because they are global superstars?
The documentary director, Dan Reed, has said about Leaving Neverland: “If there’s anything we’ve learned during this time in our history, it’s that sexual abuse is complicated, and survivors’ voices need to be listened to. It took great courage for these two men to tell their stories and I have no question about their validity.”
Today we learn that MJ songs have been pulled from multiple radio stations in Canada and New Zealand, whilst Manchester’s National Football Museum have taken down their Jacko statue.
Michael’s estate has criticised the documentary and denied the allegations in a 10-page letter addressed to HBO.
Leaving Neverland airs on Channel 4 on Wednesday 6th and Thursday 7th March at 9pm.