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Leaving Neverland: A broken legacy?

It is undeniable that after his death in 2009 Michael Jackson was hailed as the ‘King of Pop’ and left behind a legacy that would inspire generations…

However, after Channel 4 aired a controversial and eye-opening documentary depicting the darker side of the star, many are beginning to question whether he was all he lived up to be.

The documentary, entitled ‘Leaving Neverland’ with a run time of almost four hours, was originally shown at this year’s Sundance Festival in January and focuses on the sexual abuse allegations made against Michael by two young boys, now both in their 30s. The first, Wade Robson, 36, was only five years old when he first met Michael when he was touring in Australia. Robson originally denied claims that he had been molested by Jackson, and even testified in defense of the star when he appeared in court in 2005, which resulted in Jackson being acquitted of the molestation charges. However, Robson has since revoked this stance, and in 2013 admitted he had indeed been molested.

James Safechuck, the second child to accuse Jackson of child molestation was 10 years old when he starred in a Pepsi commercial alongside Jackson, and states that this abuse lasted until he turned 14 or 15 years old.

The pair filed a lawsuit in 2014 against the star, but were ultimately unsuccessful, with the judge stating that Hobson waited too long to file the case.

In the documentary, as both Robson and Safechuck describe their experiences with the star and how they received expensive gifts and experiences “in exchange” for favours. They were threatened by Jackson, saying they could go to prison if anyone found out about the molestation, it is easy to watch Jackson’s legacy transform from superstardom to that of a predator and molester. There is no denying that these allegations could very well be fabricated, but with Jackson himself having admitted to sleeping in the same bed as young boys and facing sexual assault allegations before his death, it begs us to question the authenticity.

Jackson was often seen as a real-life Peter Pan figure, after missing out on childhood to perform in The Jackson 5 when he was just six years old, which extended to him constantly keeping the company of young children, commonly boys, which to some extent trapped him in a child-like mentality. (For instance, Jackson’s home, named Neverland, was a 2700 acre private theme park).

The documentary’s authenticity uncovers a slight grey area when you consider the fact that both Safechuck and Robson denied molestation allegations whilst Jackson was alive, but neither deny the “love” and admiration they felt for the star, and describe him as “like a God”. Their accounts of the abuse are undeniably similar to that of an abuse survivor and are juxtaposed with videos and photos of Jackson with the boys, making their stories all the more compelling.

Many viewers of the documentary are conflicted as to whether they believe the allegations of Hobson and Safechuck, or whether the two are merely seeking attention and a payout from the Jackson estate.

Whatever the truth, it cannot be denied that the polarizing documentary is an eye-opener, and causes even the most die-hard of Michael Jackson fans to question the figure they looked up to, and whether, in the wake of the #MeToo movement, that this is another star that has been discredited and fallen victim to allegations, fabricated or not.

By Faith Pring

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