Pictured Above: Wade Robson, aged 7, with Michael Jackson
This article first appeared in Malta Today
The documentary about Michael Jackson ‘Leaving Neverland’ was a hard watch – and not just because it was four hours long.
It is always difficult to see icons which you would have once admired being shown in an unflattering light – the same happened to many of us when Bill Cosby was first accused of sexual assault. Your brain doesn’t want to accept it or believe it at first, but then when one woman after another echoed that the same thing had happening to her, it could no longer be ignored.
With Michael Jackson, the allegations being made in this documentary have the ring of truth not so much because of the number of people who have come forward (two men in this documentary and two boys in previous years in two separate lawsuits) but because Wade Robson and James Safechuck who were interviewed at length were very, very credible. They were aged 7 and 10 respectively at the time the alleged abuse started to take place and the documentary carefully builds up the way the relationship with the King of Pop changed and morphed in what is commonly known as ‘grooming’.
Of course, the documentary has had its share of criticism, and I have read and listened to a lot of it as I tried to weigh in my mind what the truth could possibly be. The
But he was not a boy, he was a man in his mid-30s.
What swayed me the most, however, were the graphic, detailed descriptions of what went on as recounted by Wade and James. Many have torn Wade’s version apart because he had testified twice in Jackson’s defence: when the first allegations made by Jordy Chandler (13) came out in 1993, followed by another court case involving a different boy, Gavin Arvizio (13) in 2004. Wade’s first testimony was at the age of 11 and the second testimony was at the age of 23. So how, the detractors are claiming, can he be believed now if he lied twice on the stand?
James, on the other hand, while he never testified, had always denied to his mother that there was anything inappropriate in his relationship with Jackson.
In the interviews, however, both men give a very credible explanation of why they defended Michael Jackson for so long and the answer is quite simple: for a long time, they did not view the
Another key factor in all this which is a crucial part of what happened
That’s when it clicked: The mothers, too, were just as thrilled and excited, flattered and overwhelmed by becoming part of Michael’s inner clique. Wade’s mother left her husband and oldest son in Australia to travel with Wade and Michael all around the world on tour. James’ mother eventually admitted that Michael had paid for their house. Were they hopelessly naive or ruthless golddiggers ready to close an eye to possible abuse because they did not wish to give up this lifestyle? Many discussing the documentary find it preposterous to believe that the mothers did not know, but on the other hand, to this day his legion of fans also simply refuse to believe that someone as famous, gentle and kind-hearted as Michael Jackson could have such another, darker side to him.
As op-ed writer Margaret Dowd eloquently described it “celebrity supersedes criminality…how can you look clearly when you are looking into the sun? How can an icon be a con?”
James spoke about the confusion and mixed feelings, especially the overwhelming feeling of shame, and the feeling that even now that he has spoken up after his death, a part of him still feels that he has let Michael down.
As they got older, both men suffered mental breakdowns, and found they had to finally confront what had happened to them when they became fathers to boys; looking at the innocence of their own sons, the full impact of their bizarre relationship with Michael hit them.
I found the Oprah Winfrey discussion in front of an audience of child abuse survivors to be very significant because (even if one leaves the seduction of fame out of the equation) it sheds
One man in the audience, who had been sexually abused between the age of 13 – 18 by a friendly neighbourhood policeman whom everyone respected summed it all up: “This type of abuse is usually the child’s first sexual experience and that is why it’s so cruel, you are killing that child’s spirit.”