Warning: this article contains sensitive material
The King of Pop died nearly ten years ago, but Michael Jackson’s legacy lives on through his timeless music, high-pitched screams, iconic dance moves…and rumors of inappropriate acts with children.
Despite being acquitted of all allegations in a court case 25 years ago, huge questions still remain. What else did he do with the kids besides play with them on his 50-foot Ferris wheel at Neverland Ranch? Similar to the O.J. Simpson case, in the mind of the public, the verdict wasn’t clear.
While OJ eventually had the privilege of releasing his book titled “If I Did It” (c’mon man), MJ’s latest press on his scandal came in the form of a movie at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Dan Reed’s Leaving Neverland, questions his actual innocence.
The two-part, four-hour documentary (233 minutes) tells the disturbing stories of two children, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who were both first introduced to Jackson early in their childhood. Robson met the pop star at the age of five, when Michael invited him to dance on stage during his Bad tour, while Safechuck was first introduced to him on the set of a Pepsi commercial at only nine years old.
The film recounts incidents (WARNING: graphic content) of masturbation, kissing, and oral/anal sex with both children. Safechuck expressed that he once had to “caress Jackson’s nipples, bending over for him while he (MJ) pleasured himself and coaxed him into having anal sex.” After the events, Jackson manipulated and brainwashed the kids into keeping the incidents secret. This enabled MJ to spend more time with the children and build trust with their families. This type of trust often allows molestation and brainwashing to carry on for years.
Most child molestation cases involve opportunity, trust, and secrecy, so the blueprint Jackson used to get close to these children was nothing extraordinary. What makes this particular case more controversial is the fact that both Robson and Safechuck defended Michael back in 1993, when these molestation allegations first surfaced. The recent release of the film at Sundance seemingly discredits his innocence, which begs the question: what is true?
In the eyes of the Michael Jackson Estate:
“The film takes uncorroborated allegations that supposedly happened 20 years ago and treats them as fact. These claims were the basis of lawsuits filed by these two admitted liars which were ultimately dismissed by a judge. The two accusers testified under oath that these events never occurred. They have provided no independent evidence and absolutely no proof in support of their accusations, which means the entire film hinges solely on the word of two perjurers.”
In eyes of most, myself included, this film presents two detailed and well-documented stories of children who were manipulated and molested by a high-profile pop star. It is no different than a man outside of a Chuck-e-Cheese holding a bag of M&M’s to attract children – one pedophile just had more money and a bigger ferris wheel.
The documentary premiered Friday, January 25 in Park City, starting 30 minutes late due to increased police presence and security screenings. A handful of protesters stood outside of the Egyptian Theater in attempt to protect Jackson’s image. Online protestors attempted to help by posting anything to help discredit the film. During the film’s intermission, counselors were made available for viewers who needed it. The screening wrapped up with both Robson and Safechuck tearfully taking the stage, receiving a standing ovation as the credits closed.
Due to the controversy surrounding the resurfaced allegations, Director Dan Reed made the decision to limit the film’s screenings. Not wanting the subject’s stories to be overwhelmed by other noise, Leaving Neverland will be released on HBO’s streaming platform in the coming months for viewers to make their own conclusions.
Leaving Neverland isn’t a documentary, it is the kind of tabloid character assassination Michael Jackson endured in life, and now in death. The film takes uncorroborated allegations that supposedly happened 20 years ago and treats them as fact. These claims were the basis of lawsuits filed by these two admitted liars which were ultimately dismissed by a judge. The two accusers testified under oath that these events never occurred. They have provided no independent evidence and absolutely no proof in support of their accusations, which means the entire film hinges solely on the word of two perjurers.
Tellingly, the director admitted at the Sundance Film Festival that he limited his interviews only to these accusers and their families. In doing so, he intentionally avoided interviewing numerous people over the years who spent significant time with Michael Jackson and have unambiguously stated that he treated children with respect and did nothing hurtful to them. By choosing not to include any of these independent voices who might challenge the narrative that he was determined to sell, the director neglected fact checking so he could craft a narrative so blatantly one-sided that viewers never get anything close to a balanced portrait.
For 20 years Wade Robson denied in court and in numerous interviews, including after Michael passed, that he was a victim and stated he was grateful for everything Michael had done for him. His family benefitted from Michael’s kindness, generosity and career support up until Michael’s death. Conveniently left out of Leaving Neverland was the fact that when Robson was denied a role in a Michael Jackson themed Cirque du Soleil production, his assault allegations suddenly emerged.
We are extremely sympathetic to any legitimate victim of child abuse. This film, however, does those victims a disservice. Because despite all the disingenuous denials made that this is not about money, it has always been about money – millions of dollars – dating back to 2013 when both Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who share the same law firm, launched their unsuccessful claims against Michael’s Estate. Now that Michael is no longer here to defend himself, Robson, Safechuck and their lawyers continue their efforts to achieve notoriety and a payday by smearing him with the same allegations a jury found him innocent of when he was alive.