HBO’s “Leaving Neverland” finally airs to fierce debate about sexual abuse, celebrity & race
In light of the #MeToo movement and the #MuteRKelly campaign, Wade Robson and James Safechuck are finally telling their full stories about how late pop icon Michael Jackson molested them as children in HBO’s controversial new documentary Leaving Neverland. The documentary is igniting fiery reactions and conversations on reconciling sexual allegations with an entertainer’s legacy, and about its omission of racial dynamics.
Robson and Safechuck state that they met Jackson through show business. Throughout the documentary, both men share graphic details of Jackson introducing them to hardcore porn, masturbation, and other sexual content. As Jackson focused their attention on them, the boys’ lifestyles became richer and exclusive to their families’ content.
However, Safechuck and Robson detail that Jackson would molest them and teach them to dress quickly in hotel rooms as to not get caught. Robson recalls Jackson would brainwash him by saying, “You and I were brought together by God. We were meant to be together and this is us showing each other that we love each other.”
Vulture listed all of the child sexual abuse allegations made in the documentary. Currently, the Jackson estate is suing HBO for a $100 million in damages, claiming the film violates a 1992 non-disparagement clause that was agreed upon in order to air a previous Michael Jackson concert.
However, HBO said in a statement, “Despite the desperate lengths taken to undermine the film, our plans remain unchanged, HBO will move forward with the airing of ‘Leaving Neverland.’ This will allow everyone the opportunity to assess the film and the claims in it for themselves.”
While the documentary was disparaged by many, it also received praise. Actress Amber Tamblyn tweeted, “As a former child actress, I can’t help but watch this documentary and think about how wrong it is for children to be put in the position of performing for the soul (sic) purpose of pleasing adults. It’s such a slippery, dangerous, often abusive slope. #LeavingNeverland.”
One major criticism is that while Jackson’s celebrity was influenced by race, the documentary makes no mention of these particular dimensions. Instead, it makes race negligible to the broader conversations of sexual abuse.