I have never been a Michael Jackson fan. Of course I know many of his songs. He was such a ubiquitous public figure it was almost impossible not to know who he was. I remember when the first child abuse allegations came out and it being a massive media sensation. Although none of the allegations ever actually stuck, I think a lot of people remained deeply suspicious of Michael Jackson and I am not sure his image ever recovered.
This new documentary currently streaming on All4 in the UK gives a voice to two of his alleged victims along with their families. There has been an outcry from Michael Jackson superfans for various reasons. They claim the documentary is one-sided, that the victims are money hungry, that they have sour grapes from lost work opportunities and that they insisted in the past that there was no basis in the allegations.
I guess it is hard to imagine that someone you have idolised could be capable of doing terrible things. Celebrities have become the godlike icons that we hold up to a kind of super human status and accepting that they are able to use their status to take advantage of others means we might have to stop enjoying the art they created… and that is hard for some.
Listening to Wade Robson and Jimmy Safechuck describe how Michael Jackson worked his way into their family’s and into the deepest level of their trust before using this unique position to molest them is harrowing. Their descriptions are sickeningly graphic and the devastation this has wrecked on their families is heartbreaking.
Although some might believe they have something to gain from this frank examination of their trauma other than an unburdening, I have my doubts. No one comes out of this well, particularly the mothers of the two boys. I did not find it difficult to understand why the boys lied for Michael Jackson even into their adults lives. He had an incredible hold over their lives and psyches and created a situation where they were in his thrall and reliant on him. He was the biggest star in the world and they were overwhelmed with shame. It is not uncommon for abuse victims to protect their abusers, I am not sure why people expect a different outcome for a celebrity.
Watching the documentary I struggled with some of the behaviour of the boys’ mothers and how much access they allowed Michael to their children. I feel like they neglected their duty of care and allowed his status to completely cloud their judgement. It is hard not to feel angry toward them and easy to see why their sons have trouble connecting with them.
I can’t say I recommend Finding Neverland because it is very unpleasant to watch but it is important for victims to have a voice. It is also a cautionary tale about allowing human beings to be treated like gods against our better judgement.