This past week, I watched parts 1 and 2 of the Leaving Neverland documentary on HBO, as well as the after special – Oprah Winfrey Presents: After Neverland.
The documentary explores the multiple counts of sexual abuse throughout Michael Jackson’s life, specifically exploring the cases of two accusers: Wade Robson and James Safechuck. Both men candidly describe, in tremendous detail, the years of abuse they suffered at the hands of the ‘King of Pop’. The stories both include very similar elements: idolization of Michael Jackson, isolating the boys from the families, and convincing them that the abuse was love.
While Wade and James are the two stories featured in these documentaries, the behavior is presented to the audience as a pattern – not just two incidents.
Equally as importantly, the film serves as an education for all of us into the prescriptive of abuse survivors. Regardless of your views on the Michael situation (we’ll get into that in a moment), for this reason alone – it’s worth the watch.
The backlash from this documentary came when people started pointing out all of the good Michael Jackson did for charities, the community, and the music industry during his life. Memes upon memes have been circulating social media since HBO released the film, stating how nothing will change the way people view Michael. Some posts even accuse the boys of outright lying about all of the allegations.
What’s important to remember, and I can’t state this enough, is that someone’s talent does not override their terrible actions (cc: R. Kelly – I promise y’all, we can live without Ignition Remix). The argument that we should excuse allegations of abusing young boys because he has done enough good things to cancel that out is absurd. We, as a society, need to be able to separate someone’s celebrity status in the face of horrific wrongdoing.
For the sake of what I’m about to say, let’s operate under the assumption for a moment that the stories told by Wade and James are true:
You can admit someone is talented while still holding them accountable for their actions.
‘Leaving Neverland’ is heartbreaking, raw, and shocking. Go watch it.