He's Bad

Oh wait, he's worse


Rosie Benny | Thu, 21 Mar 2019


Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Before I even sat down to watching Leaving Neverland, I knew what was coming. This documentary has had a huge amount of buzz surrounding it since Sundance. I have never been one to believe the hype, so I thought I would actually sit down and watch it, all four hours of it, see what all the fuss was about. 
 
The first thing that hits you about Leaving Neverland is how quiet it is. It’s these two guys – James Safechuck and Wade Robson – and a couple of their family members talking. They go through how they, as ordinary kids, met the demi-god Michael Jackson and became his friends. They didn’t just dream about moonwalking with him, they actually did it. They go through how he slowly drove a wedge between the kids and their parents, slowly drew them so close to him that of course they would sleep with him in his bed and isolated them from the rest of the world.  
 
There is a moment in the documentary, where Safechuck is showing the camera the rings that Jackson bought him. They had a mock wedding ceremony, adult and child, and they exchanged vows. When they were shopping, Michael Jackson tells the salesperson that the rings were for women and Safechuck just has small enough hands.  In this moment, I realised, Michael Jackson knows the difference between right and wrong.  He lied. He lied because he knew that if anyone, even this lowly salesperson, knew what was happening, they would put a stop to it. 
 
Since this documentary came out, there have been two major debates. The first, are these allegations even true? The second, if they are, can we keep listening to his music?
 
As far as the authenticity of these allegations goes, I don’t see why they are any less worthy than those against Jimmy Saville, Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Brett Ratner or Kevin Spacey. I understand that Michael Jackson is iconic. I understand that he was musical god in the way that we just don’t have now. But what I don’t understand is why we can’t believe Safechuck and Robson.
Yewtree investigations and the Time’s Up movement have proven that you can be an great artist, but a shitty person.
 
It should also be said that many who don’t believe these accusations haven’t even seen the documentary. Watch it, if you haven’t, then make up your own mind.  
 
As for his music, well, that’s complicated. The Jackson Five made some of the best disco music ever made. And as for his solo work, well, there isn’t a person alive who hasn’t tried to teach themselves how to moonwalk. His music is iconic, and therein lies the problem. 
 
It’s easy to stop listening to the Ignition Remix, but to stop listening to Michael Jackson is so much harder.
To stop listening to the King of Pop isn’t like becoming a vegetarian. It would be more like avoiding flour, oil and salt in your cooking. It would be close to impossible. People have built entire careers on emulating his work. People like Justin Timberlake, the Weekend, Jason Derulo, Peter Andre, and Britney Spears, to name just a few. 
 
Now, I’m not going to tell you what music you can and can’t listen to. But I for one, am not going to be busting out ‘Thriller’ any time soon. I can’t hear his music without thinking of James Safechuck dancing with Jackson on stage in a mini ‘Bad’ outfit. I can’t listen to ‘Smooth Criminal’ without thinking of 7 year old Wade Robson in Jackson’s bed. He isn’t here to defend himself, so Michael Jackson’s estate have been taking chunks out of the filmmaker and accusers on his behalf. Spotify pays by the stream and honestly, that’s not an organisation that I want to give any more money to.

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