GRAPHIC BY CAROL LI
By CAROL LI
When the word “Neverland” comes to mind, it is usually seen in a positive light, perhaps even accompanied by a vision of a supernatural place without the problems of reality.
However, well-known singer Michael Jackson’s interpretation of “Neverland” is a blatant contrast, with his true identity revealed in Daniel Reed’s new documentary Leaving Neverland, which aired on Home Box Office (HBO) on March 3.
The documentary highlights individuals Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who has accused Jackson of sexual abuse. According to allegations, abuse towards Robson and Safechuck began when they were ages seven and ten, respectively, and lasted for about a decade. The abuse took place on Jackson’s pristine estate known as Neverland Ranch, which was filled with fun attractions such as zoos and amusement parks, hence the name “Neverland.” Soon after meeting the boys and their families, Jackson already had them wrapped around his finger, indicating how well he was able to hide his true self. Throughout the documentary, graphic details and explicit evidence suggest to the audience that Jackson had many skeletons in his closet that are only beginning to reveal themselves after his death.
In today’s era of the #MeToo movement, it is important to realize that the stories of victims need to be brought into the spotlight. While Jackson created many pieces of music that are an integral part of the music industry, his unexplainable actions towards the victims outshine his achievements.
Furthermore, it is essential to note that Jackson had numerous sexual allegations at the time that he was alive. In his lifetime, he blatantly denied any claims, but in Feb. 2003, the singer was charged with child molestatation, conspiracy and kidnapping, facing up to 20 years in prison. Despite this, Jackson left the court scot-free, and his fan base only continued to grow. Many proceeded to be awed by his buoyant outfits, enthusiastic concerts and loud fame.
Nonetheless, Jackson’s reputation is shattered in one of the most horrific examples that victim Safechuck explains. As the sexual abuse between Jackson and Safechuck developed, the singer decided to establish a “fake marriage” between him and Safechuck. In the documentary, Safechuck shows a ring too small for his adult finger to the screen. At the jewelry store, Jackson informed the employee that the ring was for a woman, whose fingers were similar to the size of Safechuck. Safechuck additionally recalls that vows had been said between the two.
This event symbolizes the extremity that the relationship had become. At this point, Safechuck had already suffered through sexual abuse and from his narration, Jackson’s actions are haunting him to this day. No individual, especially a young child, should be subjected the behavior as immoral as what Jackson allegedly inflicted.
More importantly, because he did not disclose the fact to the jewelry employee that the ring was for the boy, Jackson must have known that his actions were wrong. His awareness makes the situation worse, due to the fact that Jackson knew what he was inflicting on an innocent child. With this scene and many more, Leaving Neverland strips away Jackson’s dignity and portrays the celebrity as who he really is: a horrendous pedophile.
Another factor in the documentary that catches the viewer’s eyes is an image of Robson and Jackson. Robson and standing straight and staring at a camera to their right, and Jackson is leaning behind Robson, with his hand on Robson’s shoulder. Initially, it seems like any other picture. A fan is happy to proud to be recognized by someone so admired and talented. After learning of all the abuse that Jackson had given to Robson, it is agonizing to glance back at these pictures because of the false perception it seems to convey. This is not an ordinary relationship, a child is being sexually abused, and does not comprehend what he is truly experiencing.
With this documentary, that is extremely against someone admired for decades, it is only expected for Leaving Neverland to receive backlash and disagreement. While some individuals are believing the stories of Safechuck and Robson, others, especially devoted fans of the singer, are skeptical about whether to see Jackson as a “bad guy.” Jackson’s family stated that the singer would never have done these actions, and the Jackson estate is suing HBO for 100 million dollars.
Nonetheless, director Reed claims that the Robson and Safechuck were not paid for the production of the film, and the documentary was made simply for the purposes of exposing Jackson’s situation to the public. HBO’s decision to release the documentary with the lawsuit represents a time where the #MeToo movement is being acknowledged for its importance. Michael Jackson’s case is not the first of sexual abuse, and it also not be the last. When production companies such as HBO are persistent to display an alternate view of a famous individual despite the backlash it may receive, it reveals to the audience that the production’s message is worth taking into consideration.
With climatic confessions and compelling evidence, the documentary tells a story on the multiple layers of a widely known celebrity and leaves the audience with an everlasting impact to understand that sometimes people are not what they seem.