He was ours. And because it was ours, I told myself that I would not look at it. I told myself that there was a room somewhere deep inside, somewhere beyond the reason and logic that Michael Jackson lived. That I wanted to protect that place, that altar. That I needed to protect it. For me. Why is not that what we do with the people we love? We are next to them, we defend them, we promise to protect them.
When I sent a message to a friend in the moments I had seen Leaving Neverland, expressing that it was undoubtedly the most obscure and perhaps most disturbing portrayal of Jackson's personal life that we could ever testify, he interrupted me. "He is not interested," she replied. "Leave Michael alone, he's dead in the end." He was doing what many of us did – like when the child molestation allegations were unleashed in 1993 and again in 2005 – and they will probably continue to do in the wreck that the documentary is sure to leave behind. She, like thousands of people in line while the doctor was on the air, was protecting the altar where he had put it. And who could blame her? I certainly was not going to do it.
This is the power of our former King of Pop. At the height of fame, Jackson was a magnetic figure. And in death, it remains an even more hypnotic, even if mystifying force. It is not enough, even now, to simply say that people wanted to be around Jackson or to be he; it was pure gravity. To surrender to his music, surrendering to the silk of his voice in "Rock with You" or "Billie Jean", to yield to his love message, was simply what it meant to be a fan. He was absolutely cool, personified and desired. Unrestrained with talent of the past in the generation, he was an unparalleled entertainer: a confused and intoxicating elixir of musical genius and generosity. For Wade Robson and James Safechuck, however, the strength of Jackson's grip has taken on a much more pernicious plot. As they recount it, something darker bubbled under Jackson's facade.
Robson and Safechuck are at the center of the HBO documentary in two parts and four hours Leaving Neverland, in which they claim that Jackson sexually abused them for the better part of a decade. Starting from 7 and 11 years, respectively, Robson and Safechuck explain how they approached Jackson and how the singer subsequently exploited that link. With its release, the film joins a recent series of documentaries, including the six-part series of Lifetime Survive R. Kelly and the Oscar award Minding the Gap-Which examines the thorns of domestic and sexual abuse.
Leaving Neverland opened at the end of the 80s at the height of Jackson's fame, just as he embarked on his Bad World Tour. At the time, Robson was an aspiring Australian dancer who considered Jackson "my idol" , my mentor, my god ". After winning a local dance competition, Robson and his family found themselves entangled in Jackson's fairy tale life. Safechuck met the singer during the same period, during the filming of a Pepsi commercial. Although he was an exuberant entertainer, Jackson made Safechuck feel important, desired. "That creative genius thinks you're special," recalls Jackson in the film. "What's wrong?" Soon, both boys and their families spent hours with the pop star and made frequent visits to Neverland Ranch, Jackson's home in Santa Barbara County, his dream oasis that included an arcade, an amusement park, a zoo and a theater. The ranch, they both claim, was also the zero point for Jackson's elaborate sexual predation.
In response, fans sought their own form of counter-programming because the hashtag #MJInnocent became a protection against Leaving NeverlandThe perceived defamation campaign.
Over time, men argue, Jackson's close friendship with both boys has slowly evolved into one in which sexual favors were regularly exchanged, including oral sex and masturbation. In Robson's story, sexual contact had become so "intertwined with what our relationship was, our love" that did not understand it as abuse. "I did not feel scared, it did not seem strange," he says. "I liked the feeling that I was making it happy." As time goes by, Jackson gathers a band of preadolescents, who are kept apart from each other (during the Dangerous Tour, Robson is sidelined for another kid and starts to feel jealous) . Robson's mother speaks of a "pattern" that begins to notice: "Every 12 months there was a new boy in his life," he says. (The Jackson family condemned the film when it debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January, calling Robson and Safechuck "admitted liars", and Jackson's estate sued HBO, claiming that the airing of the document violates a non-conditional agreement broadcast a Jackson concert in 1992.)
Perhaps the most overwhelming is the portrait Leaving Neverland he paints Jackson as a tireless manipulator. "He would have performed exercises with me where you would be in the hotel room and he would have pretended to come in someone and you had to get dressed as quickly as possible without making any noise," recalls Safechuck. "Not being discovered was essential, it was a real secret." Directed and produced by Dan Reed, the documentary becomes not only an accusation to Jackson but a defeat of psychological abuse: see how the seed of the trauma is rooted not only in the lives of Robson and Safechuck but also in the life of their family members , many of which appear in the film.
Leaving Neverland it is not the first damaging glance at Jackson's alleged harassment of minors, but is the most detailed to date. (Martin Bashir's 2003 documentary, Live with Michael Jackson, he also presented a disorienting look in Jackson's intimate life; in it, the popstar is allowed to share her bed with the children.) Sunday night, as part of the film starring HBO (second part of the arias tonight), Twitter has become a heated battlefield for the soul of Jackson.
In response, fans sought their own form of counter-programming as the #MJInnocent hashtag became a safeguard against Reed's perceived defamation campaign. Elsewhere, Truther's website @ NeverlandFacts released a video of Jackson's past praises of Jackson, tweeting: "When Michael Jackson fans say that Wade Robson has changed his story over the years, [they] It means. "Jackson's estate fans directed to YouTube, where they could watch films just published by two of his concerts. At the beginning of the week, the fan account @JJJLegion pleaded his 80,000 followers of "Flood the #LeavingNeverland hashtag with rational tweets including FACTS on the charges! "during his transmission, and so they did." Michael Jackson was under surveillance of the FBI for over a decade, "one tweeted Last night. "They found NOTHING to support claims of child abuse."
Many of the answers reflected the feeling of my friend's text. Watching all of this was a reminder of how wild fandom can become. How to celebrate online. But I understand that it was also about protecting the altar where Michael Jackson had positioned. It is impossible to deny its artistic splendor – the sweat and beat of his music and the sheer force of life that ensued have occupied our most sacred community arenas – but my fandom now seems less certain in the wake of the documentary.
Robson and Safechuck (and, by extension, their families) trusted Jackson for his fame and power. They believed there was goodness in him. His fans continue to do so for the same reasons. But does this dominate the trust we have in the word of the survivors? Regardless of where your faith lies, I am choosing to believe in both men, Reed's film adds to a necessary and growing dialogue on victims of sexual abuse. "I want to be able to tell the truth as loud as I had to tell lies for so long," Robson says he is finally ahead. Leaving Neverland it will probably register as one of the central documents of this era, because at its core it forces us to come to terms with the obscure activity of influence. How it infects. How to blind. How it bleeds. Perhaps more than anything else, it requires us to ask ourselves: who should we trust?
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