By Subhash K Jha
The two-part HBO documentary “Leaving Neverland” on the legendary Michael Jackson’s alleged misconduct with children, left me sickened in the stomach, and not only because of the unforgivable sexual nature of the contact Jackson is alleged to have made with the two men, now in their 30s and 40s, who speak about their fascination and abuse by the musical icon.
My more immediate response was, why now? Why are these men, obviously feeling some kind of cathartic pain as they relive (and relieve) their childhood trauma, sitting and telling us how Jackson abused his hospitality. And this happened when Wade Robson and James Safechuck were very young children, so young that they should’ve never been allowed out of their mother’s sight.
Out of the womb and into Jackson’s room, this is the journey that Robson and Safechuck describe, the latter decidedly more traumatised in appearance than the former. The two men sit for close to four hours describing how they idolised Jackson and accepted his sexual abuse because — well you don’t say no to God.
Or ado you? This documented smearing campaign left me unconvinced. Both these men have earlier testified under oath that Jackson, “never, repeat, never” touched them physically or violated them. What could have prompted them to do this volte face now? The explanation they give on camera is unconvincing.
You decide one day that you need to get it all out because you have children of your own? You do know that Jackson is no longer alive and that his estate is worth billions? I am not insinuating anything. You are.
“Leaving Neverland” is the worst kind of character assassination. There is no voice from the other side. No one to defend the legend from these obscene charges. Did the director think Jackson to be indefensible? He derives almost a sadistic pleasure in demolishing the icon’s image from childlike entertainer to a child molestor .
The documentary tries to wrench Jackson’s mythical reputation out of its musical context and imputes a monstrous secret life to his persona wherein he lured little boys into his luscious lair and made them do unmentionable things. It’s an incongruous image and one that challenges our very notion of defying showbiz figures.
Why must societies forever in search of caped crusader, look at musicians and actors as heroes?And when they are proven to have feet of clay, we want to punish them for being all too human.
What I saw on Robeson and Safechuck’s faces as they spoke into the camera about the dirty doings of their deity was more anxiety than true self realisation. Anxiety for them to take their relived pain seriously. They know they don’t sound very convincing. I also saw greed or maybe I just imagined it. But when I heard the mothers of the two alleged victims speak about how they turned a blind eye to their benefactor’s suspicious doings, I saw what the lure of fame and money can do to ordinary working-class folks.
Here were these two bright little boys, filled with dreams of becoming stars, patronised and mentored by the biggest pop-star ever. It’s obvious to all how much such star-power can corrupt and compromise those who come into range of activity. Wonder how the two boys’ parents didn’t see what was coming.