'Leaving Neverland': The Truth or Character Assassination? Mar 9, 2019 11:53:01 GMT -5
Post by Joanna on Mar 9, 2019 11:53:01 GMT -5
Leaving Neverland: Portrait of a Pedophile or Character Assassination?
There’s been no end to public outcry since HBO’s Leaving Neverland premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January. The painful two-part documentary alleging Jackson sexually-abused two young boys has resulted in diverse responses. Many have condemned Jackson’s actions and taken steps to disassociate themselves from the King of Pop, while others have chosen not to believe the singer’s accusers and denounced the film.
In the two-part, 236-minute-long film, Wade Robson (above), 36, and James Safechuck, 42, – along with their “grief-stricken” families – detail how they individually befriended Michael Jackson around the “Bad” period of his career in the mid-to-late 1980s. Before long, they allege, Jackson sexually abused them during separate sleepovers at his palatial Neverland Ranch. They claim the abuse continued for several years and they were sworn to secrecy. And though Jackson was accused in 1993 and stood trial a decade later for assaulting a minor, he convinced both men to testify on his behalf. Jackson settled the first case in 1994 and was found not guilty in the 2005 trial.
Robson, a famed choreographer who once worked with the likes of Britney Spears and ‘NSync; and Safechuck, a former musician, were greeted with a standing ovation at the end of the premiere. “I understand why it’s so hard for [fans] to believe it,” a soft-spoken Robson said during the post-screening Q&A. “We can only accept and understand something when we’re ready.”
Among the revelations in Leaving Neverland, following are five of the most shocking:
1. Abuse began at an early age. Robson was a child dancer and Michael Jackson impersonator in his native Australia when he and his family met the singer backstage at a concert in Brisbane. In 1990, the Robson family reconnected with the King of Pop during a Los Angeles vacation. He and Robson, then just 7, formed an instant bond and he convinced Robson’s mother to allow the boy to stay with at Neverland while the rest of the family visited the Grand Canyon. That night, according to Robson, Jackson performed oral sex on him and put his tongue into his mouth. “He said ‘This is how we show our love,’” Robson recalled.
Safechuck met Jackson when he filmed a Pepsi commercial with him in 1986. An enamored Jackson soon took Safechuck and his family on tour with him. Sleepovers at Neverland allegedly turned into graphic sexual encounters. Safechuck, then 10, said Jackson initially showed him how to masturbate and the abuse escalated thereafter.
2. Jackson gave Safechuck a wedding ring and said they were married. Speaking matter-of-factly, Safechuck claimed he and Jackson once had a mock wedding ceremony in which they exchanged vows and Jackson even gave him a ring with a row of encrusted diamonds. During this segment of Leaving Neverland, Safechuck’s hands shake as he removed the ring from a jewelry box and related how the star often rewarded him with jewelry in exchange for sexual acts. “It’s still hard for me to not blame myself,” he admitted. Safechuck also alleged that after Jackson settled the 1993 case, he told his friend he was going to be involved in public relationships with women but “they wouldn’t mean anything.” He married Lisa Marie Presley in 1994 and Debbie Rowe in 1996.
3. Macaulay Culkin came between Jackson and Robson. Wade Robson and his family said Jackson persuaded them to move from Australia to Los Angeles in 1991 and offered to pay their expenses, but as soon as they uprooted, he [Jackson] began to give them the cold shoulder. When Robson arrived on the set of the video Black and White, he realized why: Macaulay Culkin – then hot from the success of Home Alone – had captured MJ’s attention. “Now I was on the sidelines,” Robson recalled. “It was very confusing.” But when Jackson was mired in the lawsuit in 1993, he refocused on Robson to ensure the boy would testify on his behalf and deny all charges. Robson complied. Following the settlement, Robson claimed Jackson anally penetrated him for the first time. He was 14 at that time and it would be their last sexual encounter.
4. Jackson coerced them into lying. Even as a 10-year-old, Safechuck said Jackson had them do “emergency drills” and get dressed in case someone approached the bedroom while they were in a compromising position. At Neverland, they allegedly had sex in closed-off areas such as a toy-strewn attic, tee-pees on the lawn and a game room. If he told anyone of the acts, Jackson allegedly told him “his life would be over and my life would over.” Safechuck would go on to deny any wrongdoing for more than a decade, until he opened up to his wife and mother. Jackson allegedly used the same threats with Robson, telling him if he revealed anything defamatory, he would go to jail for the rest of his life. Robson cited this as one of the reasons why he testified in Jackson’s defense, noting he never repressed his sexual activities with the star.
5. Jackson’s behavior changed dramatically before his death. Despite the allegations of abuse, Robson said he and Jackson remained good friends until the singer’s death in 2009. But at their last get-together in late 2008 in Las Vegas – where Robson was working as a choreographer – he realized Jackson was in decline. According to Robson, Jackson stopped by his house with his three children, Prince Michael, Paris and “Blanket,” and MJ immediately filled a red plastic cup to the brim with red wine. This was odd because he had never seen Jackson, a Jehovah’s Witness, drink alcohol, but on this occasion, he drank the wine and refilled the cup. Then he [Jackson] announced he was going upstairs for a bit and didn’t come down the remainder of the night. This was perplexing because the star’s three kids seemed nonplused by their father’s actions. Robson never saw him again. Jackson died of acute propofol and benzodiazepine intoxication June 25, 2009. As for Safechuck (shown above with Jackson), he refused to testify for the singer in the 2005 trial. Still, he admitted Jackson called and promised to assist in getting his budding career as a director off the ground. Safechuck rejected the offer and the two never spoke again.
These and other details unearthed in Leaving Neverland have permanently tainted the powerful Pop King’s legacy: Radio stations have commenced removing Jackson’s music from their sets and the one-time earning power of the Jackson estate is now in limbo. Following is a list of some of what has transpired, thus far, since release of the widely-discussed film:
Michael Jackson’s music sales and streaming declines. In the shadow of the Neverland premiere, Jackson’s music, including his work with the Jackson 5 and The Jacksons, has dipped noticeably in popularity. From March 3-5 – the documentary premiered March 3 – the singer’s album sales declined by 39 percent and his combined song and album sales faced a drop of 8,000, according to Billboard.
The Simpsons removes episode. The 1991 episode “Stark Raving Dad” featured Michael Jackson’s voice, which was initially uncredited, but confirmed by the singer several years later, has been removed. The Simpsons producers pulled the episode from rotation this week. Jackson voiced Leon Kompowsky, a large white man who claimed to be the singer, who met Homer in a mental institution.
Even Corey Feldman changed his mind. After watching the film, one of Jackson’s longtime defenders, former child star Corey Feldman, said, “I can no longer defend him.”
Radio stations are pulling Michael Jackson’s music. Radio stations in New Zealand and Canada have announced they will cease playing Michael Jackson’s music in what is assumed to be a response to Leaving Neverland. Leon Wratt, the group content director for MediaWorks, a radio station in New Zealand, said in an interview that “…with something as controversial as what this Leaving Neverland was going to be, we’re certainly going to err on the side of caution here.” Other DJs also are talking about dropping his music from their rotation.
London buses run ‘MJ Innocent’ ads. An organization of Michael Jackson defenders ran two separate ads on the sides of buses in London. One ad features a photo of Jackson with the word “Innocent” superimposed over his mouth and includes the text, “Facts Don’t Lie. People Do.” The other shows a photo of the top half of the pop star’s face with the text, “#MJINNOCENT.”
Estate releases concert film on YouTube. Twenty minutes after the first part of Leaving Neverland premiered on HBO, Jackson’s estate released a concert video on YouTube that was the same exact length as the documentary. Live in Bucharest (The Dangerous Tour) appears to be an attempt to distract and confuse those who watch the scathing HBO documentary.
A Michael Jackson musical canceled its test run. Jukebox musical “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” canceled its Chicago trial run, but claimed the reason was scheduling issues, not the documentary.
The Jackson estate sued HBO to block the airing of the documentary. Citing a 1992 non-disparagement agreement, the Jackson estate threatened HBO if it aired Leaving Neverland, but HBO quickly countered, indicating it had no plans to back down.
Leaving Neverland IMDb page hacked. The film’s IMDb page was hacked for several hours with details proclaiming the singer’s innocence. The hack appeared to be tied to an organized campaign to discredit the film.
Sources: Anna Tingley, Daniel Nissen and Jordan Moreau, Variety, March 8, 2019; Mara Reinstein, US Weekly, March 3, 2019; and Jen Chaney, The Washington Post, June 14, 2016.