Leaving Neverland - Michael Jackson abuse doc


#1

In “Leaving Neverland,” the testimony of Robson and Safechuck is overwhelmingly powerful and convincing. And one reason it’s more powerful than anything we’ve previously encountered on the subject — though plenty has been reported about it, beginning with an in-depth Vanity Fair article in 1993 — is that the two don’t just describe the sexual activities that Jackson subjected them to. They describe, in abundantly articulate and deeply emotional detail, how the abuse took place within the context of what appeared (to them) to be a relationship of hypnotic warmth and trust.

How could any sane parent have gone along with this? That’s an obvious question, and one’s initial response is to say: It’s enraging, and unforgivable, that the parents allowed any of this to happen. They are certainly to blame. But without letting them off the hook (and I don’t), “Leaving Neverland” captures how the parents found themselves under the spell, and the Mob-like pushiness, of Michael’s celebrity. They thought he was creating opportunities for their children that might otherwise be taken away. And once inside their homes, he seemed the soul of gentleness. So they pulled the wool over their own eyes and enabled him.

What happened behind those closed bedroom doors was hideous and criminal. But Robson and Safechuck describe, with great intimacy, the way it happened, and their feelings about it as kids, and that’s part of the the revelation of “Leaving Neverland.” These children felt close to Michael Jackson, and to use their own words they felt a kind of love for him; they wanted to do what it took to please him. The movie captures one of the towering evils of child sexual abuse: that the victims may not experience it, at the time, as “wrong.” They are children who’ve been raised to please adults — and Michael Jackson wasn’t just any adult. The movie captures how he began to crowd out the boys’ parents, and to effectively replace them. That’s how devious he was.

Premiered at Sundance. UK TV in March. Coming to HBO layer this year.


#2

A four-hour documentary? Ugh. It’s not bad enough that Michael Jackson raped children. Now it takes four hours to watch a documentary about it!

-Tom


#3

It’s one of those stories that fascinates me. We’ve all known about Michael Jackson for decades, but society just kept giving him passes.


#4

Yeah, that’s the really terrible thing about the whole business.


#5

Hasn’t it been known that he was probably innocent for awhile, now that we’re safely out of the hysterical 90s? Basically, he was regressing into childhood because he was messed up and wanted to spend time with kids, but he was so weird and rich that people went after him to get settlements.


#6

Yeah, I don’t think I can do four hours. I’ll wait to read a summary of it.


#7

It’s been known that a court of law didn’t find him guilty, so you’re technically right. But that isn’t mutually exclusive with the reality that he was most likely a serial pedophile who used his wealth and status to prey on children and keep it secret.

-Tom


#8

Not to defend Michael Jackson or the appalling things that he may or may not have done, but shouldn’t we have more faith in the legal system than a documentary maker who can so easily manipulate emotions, use unreliable actors, and cherry-pick facts to support their thesis? If not don’t we risk elevating potential propaganda over due process? I’m not naive enough to believe the legal system is not flawed, but we have to start somewhere.


#9

I don’t think Tom (or most of the people in this thread) are basing their opinion on this documentary that isn’t out yet.


#10

No, I wasn’t implying that, more of a general statement perhaps about the power of these documentaries to change opinion, yet they can be quite biased.


#11

I think that’s a useful thing to keep in mind, but it’s also true that the legal system routinely gets things wrong, sometimes obscenely so, and particularly when either the defendant or the plaintiff or both have a lot of money and expensive lawyers.


#12

Indeed, hence my final statement, but lesser evils and all that.


#13

Yeah, I don’t pretend to know with certainty but Jackson did settle and pay millions to some of the accusers. That’s suspicious. It’s also suspicious that he slept in the same bed with them at times. A grown man, having someone else’s children stay in his home and sleeping in the same bed? It may not be proof but it’s major red flags, and then there have been accusations and, apparently in this documentary, further accusations from the people molested. It’s not easy to build a case for innocence.


#14

I think if the situation were pretty equally in favor of either scenario I’d be more inclined to trust the legal outcome but it sure is hard to buy that there was nothing untoward about what Michael Jackson was doing. Much like, sure, I’d like to trust that O.J. Simpson didn’t kill his wife, but when he does shit like write a book called “If I Did It”…


#15

Yeah, I mean it’s very easy to believe that Jackson was doing some of that awful shit, but it’s also very easy to believe that people are trying to profit from it as well. It’s a fascinating, complex story no doubt and I’d hope the documentary would do it justice. It sounds more suited to a multi-part TV series though. Four hours in a movie theater with such a heavy subject doesn’t sound like fun.


#16

It was a four-hour movie at Sundance, but it will be a two-part miniseries on HBO and UK’s Channel 4.


#17

You mean, like lawyers routinely do?


#18

Yes, which a judge and/or jury then consider. There are far more checks and balances to ensure that justice is served than a documentary directed by an individual with an agenda, but of course it’s not perfect, just the best system we’ve been able to come up with to date. Also, the examples you hear about where things fail tend to be the exceptions rather than the rule. Generally it works pretty well.


#19

Depends on how much money you have to spend on a crack legal team compared to the kids’ parents or state prosecutors.


#20

That is highly debatable. Is it consistently wrong, no, probably not. But there’s a whole bunch of deep, structural problems with it and there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that it’s routinely producing flawed or failed outcomes.