Leaving Neverland - Michael Jackson abuse doc


I don’t know if it’s just me, but looking at this as a film, I found this to be a really boring documentary. It’s basically just a series of personal statements spliced together with some home video and stock footage material. For this to work, not only must the personal stories be compelling, but the storytellers must be as well. This was not the case for me with this film.


Even if he is guilty, he’s dead, so I don’t see an ethical problem with enjoying his music, as consumption of it cannot benefit him. I enjoy the music of Gesualdo (double murderer) and the paintings of Caravaggio (possible multiple murderer) and the novels of Dickens (tried to put his wife in an asylum) and the operas of Wagner (raving anti-Semite and colossal asshole). To name a small slice off the top of my head. Not that MJ reached the aesthetic eminence of any of those, but to me the same logic basically applies.

I suppose you could say that people who enabled him, maybe, still benefit from the money his music generates, but I wonder how far afield you have to go before it’s okay to experience good art by bad people.

As a story in its own right it is of course fascinating and, if guilty of child rape, MJ absolutely should have been prosecuted for it in his lifetime. That goes without saying.


That’s an interesting way to frame it, Gordon. I don’t care for wildly successful 80s pop music, so I have no problem dismissing Michael Jackson’s music.

But out of curiosity, since I know you’re as much a film buff as me, how does that square with Roman Polanski? He’s still alive, so he benefits from people buying and watching his movies. But I think Rosemary’s Baby is arguably one of the finest horror movies ever made, Chinatown is a perfect piece of filmmaking, Carnage was a fascinating early indicator that John C. Reilly isn’t just a clown, and Ghost Writer is a perfectly cromulent thriller. My feelings about that have nothing to do with whether Polanski is still alive, but I suppose the ethical conflict of supporting those movies goes away when he’s dead?



I am a bit torn about Polanski, as my understanding of his actions evolved from “the 70s were a wild time” to “he raped a kid.” I do have a Chinatown Blu Ray, so I guess he already got my money…

But yes, of course your feelings about the films themselves have nothing to do with whether Polanski is alive or dead; they are the same in any case.


Yeah, it’s the eternal “should one distinguish between the artist and the art” discussion. Different people will have differing reactions based on their relationship to the art and the crime committed, and IMO, that is 100% a personal choice.

I can add, btw, that the Norwegian Broadcasting corporation ended up walking back their “boycott” before it even started after some fairly massive critique. Which I think is the correct decision.

And I don’t really have strong feelings about MJ’s innocence and rarely listen to his music (although I like it). I did follow the trials fairly closely a decade ago, and my feelings then about the case itself was that it was extremely complicated. If I were to bet on whether he was guilty or not, I’d probably bet that he was; but beyond a reasonable doubt? Probably not (at least not based on what was made public). Would this new testimony have changed that verdict? I doubt it.

Because at the end of the day, this is not testimony. It’s a documentary - and like any documentary - is shot, cut, and manipulated to elicit the feeling and make the point the director wants it to make. If there was footage shot during the documentary that might have raised doubts about the credibility of the witnesses, they’re not going to put it in. If there are facts that contradict the point the filmmaker wants (such as, e.g., the two accusers still being in a legal battle with the Jackson estate) - it’s going to be omitted or toned down.

We - as private people - can watch it and think whatever we want. But for media - and especially public media companies - to react to the documentary as if it supersedes a court verdict is extremely unfortunate and a part of our modern media culture that I really don’t like.


Right, but Gordon’s take on it, which I’d never considered before, is that if the artist is dead and can’t benefit, it’s a different situation.

And for what it’s worth, I don’t need to watch this documentary to know that Michael Jackson abused his position of privilege and power to take advantage of children and then cover up his activities. I have no problem with the media treating this documentary as damning evidence that Jackson was a sexual predator.



I would mostly agree with this with the caveat that the art itself shouldn’t reflect the bad things the person did. Also, there is a matter of degree. If Hitler was a gifted artist, would I pay for his work? Eeew, I don’t think so.


Haven’t seen the doc yet. But I watched a lot of interviews with Jackson and people who knew him (e. g. Brooke Shields) over the last few days and my impression is that he was a deeply damaged person by his father and his upbringing as a whole who got emotionally stuck at level of a child. I personally doubt he was abusing those kids sexually, but not dismissing it. It is not impossible. Everything about him and this situation is heartbreaking though, whether he was an abuser or not.


Watch the doc, it will probably change your mind.


I could only stomach a short section of the documentary, but to me the “sexual abuse” wasn’t what was most damaging to the kids-- it was the creation of a primary, pair-bond pseudo-romantic relationship with them when they weren’t ready for it. That’s got to really fuck you up. And there’s no denying that he is guilty of that.


Yeah I plan to.


Depends on what you mean. Is there any question that he at a minimum showed porn to young kids? That’s sexual abuse in its own right.


If he did that (can you link source?) then I agree. That alone would be fucked up already.


I believe it was referenced upthread. Including finding the kids fingerprints on his pornstash.


Hitler is certainly on the far end of the scale.

However, if his paintings looked like this, it might present more of a dilemma.

Though I would like to think a person capable of such creations is not also capable of genocide. Whoops, there I go conflating the art and the artist. :-/