Before the film was aired for the first time at Utah’s Sundance Festival, the Jackson estate made an attempt to prevent it from hitting screens, arguing the production companies’ only goal is to cash in on the music icon’s heritage and personal life, despite the fact he had been ruled absolutely innocent by a court in 2005.
Twitter virtually exploded Sunday night after HBO released a new Michael Jackson documentary called “Leaving Neverland,” first premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January. The production features two men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck contending that the late pop icon had abused them when they were children.
Reactions came in abundance, ranging from distrust to total admiration, with many showing their unconditional support for those who had the courage to come forward.
Yet, a lion’s share of netizens couldn’t help but draw attention to the way the children’s “money-thirsty” parents behaved, “allowing them to sleep in a grown man’s room lurking around outside”. “That’s your child!” one exclaimed.
“All of the parents should be indicted for selling their kids for gain”, a different user asserted, with others agreeing that although it was common knowledge that “Jackson was a predator”, it is hugely disturbing how mothers reacted to “star Jackson’s” proposals.
Many expressed their disgust over the matter, picking up on the kids’ parents’ strong desire to scoop a profit out of their children’s communication with the star, as well as reminding others of the fact that Jackson was fully acquitted in 2005.
Even a respective hashtag, #MJInnocent, is recurrent in users’ tweets:
Many asserted the film is full of inconsistencies and assumptions contradicting common sense:
Safechuck and Robson allege that Jackson began molesting them when they were little boys, although during Jackson’s 2005 sexual abuse trial, both denied the fact, with Robson even appearing as a witness for the musician’s defence. The King of Pop was acquitted of all charges at the time.
Safechuck met Jackson when he was cast in the singer’s 1986 Pepsi commercial. He said the pop star took him and his family on tour, where Jackson taught the little boy to masturbate, claiming “everybody does it” and that he “will enjoy it”.
“It felt like you were bonding, in a way. The tour was the start of this sexual, like, couple relationship”, Safechuck shared.
Robson meanwhile claimed the relationship with the singer turned sexual when they met for the second time, during a family holiday in Los Angeles. According to the man, Jackson convinced Robson’s mother to let her son stay with him while the rest of the family went to see the Grand Canyon. He went on to depict the oral sex he allegedly performed on him, saying he and the boy “were brought together by God”. “We were meant to be together. This is how we show love” – this is what, as Robson claimed, Jackson uttered at the time.
Both accusers alleged the singer specially taught them how to cover up their tracks, “not to go to jail for the rest of [their] lives”. Robson claimed Jackson told him if anyone “ever found out what we were doing about the sexual stuff, that he and I would be pulled apart and we would never be able to see each other again”, while Safechuck alleged the pop icon would run drills with him, as “he would pretend like somebody was coming in and you had to get dressed as fast as possible without making noise”.
The documentary naturally hit a nerve with the Jackson estate, which had its say even before the Sundance premiere:
“This is yet another lurid production in an outrageous and pathetic attempt to exploit and cash in on Michael Jackson”, the Jackson estate’s January statement read.
Further on, two co-executors of Jackson’s estate and Optimum Productions sued HBO and its parent company, Time Warner, for $100 million over their documentary allegedly violating a non-disparagement clause, People reported citing court documents that univocally pronounce Michael Jackson innocent.
A member of the Jackson family also recently weighed in on the debate, coming to the singer’s defence against the new and likewise old molestation allegations. Speaking in a CBS This Morning interview on Wednesday, Jackson’s brother Jackie, although admitting that he hadn’t seen the documentary, said the singer stood for “bringing the world together, making kids happy”. In the same sit-down, another brother, Marlon, acknowledged that Jackson never behaved “inappropriately” with children.
HBO, meanwhile, confirmed that “despite the desperate lengths taken to undermine the film, our plans remain unchanged”, and they will go ahead with production, leaving it to viewers to assess it.