HBO’s 'Leaving Neverland' Sparks Controversy

In the two-part HBO documentary Leaving Neverland, James Safechuck and Wade Robson accuse the late singer Michael Jackson of sexual abuse. The men allege that when they went to visit “Neverland,” Jackson’s massive, private estate filled with fun and “fairy-tale moments," they were taken to various secluded rooms and assaulted by Jackson. 

As a young boy, Robson idolized Jackson. After winning a dance contest, he was given the opportunity to meet Jackson and invited to dance on stage with him at his concert the next night. Safechuck on the other hand modeled as a child and appeared in a Pepsi commercial with Jackson where they met and grew close. Jackson took an interest in both boys, along with their families, and invited them to stay at his Neverland estate. When Jackson asked if the boys could stay in his bedroom overnight, Safechuck and Robson’s parents both hesitated, but allowed it under the assumption that they were doing “just kid things.” However, the boys recall memories of Jackson touching them inappropriately at night time. They say that he taught them to masturbate, showed them porn and performed oral sex on them. Meanwhile, Jackson developed close relationships with the boys and attempted to push them away from their families.

Courtesy: Vox

 

These accusations featured in the documentary have sparked reactions on both sides. Radio stations in New Zealand and Canada have boycotted Jackson’s music and Britain’s National Football Museum has recently taken down a statue of the singer. 

Supporting the efforts and the message of the documentary, Oprah Winfrey interviewed the two survivors and discussed the confusing nature of sexual abuse as a child. 

Courtesy: Rolling Stone

 

"I know people all over the world are going to be in an uproar and debating whether or not Michael Jackson did these things and whether these two men are lying or not lying. But for me, this moment transcends Michael Jackson. It is much bigger than any one person. This is a moment in time that allows us to see this societal corruption, it's like a scourge on humanity... if it gets you, our audience, to see how it happens, then some good would have come of it," Winfrey said.

Although a large portion of the world took the side of Safechuck and Robson, those who were close to Jackson slammed the documentary and the men who shared their stories. The artist’s daughter, Paris, and his former nanny, Grace Rwaramba, both shared their disbelief in the allegations. 

The most extreme backlash has come from Jackson’s estate itself. Co-executors of the estate are suing HBO for $100 million, claiming that the film “will violate a non-disparagement clause.” They released a statement bashing the documentary and Jackson’s accusers. 

Courtesy: Slate

 

"Leaving Neverland isn’t a documentary. It is the kind of tabloid character assassination Michael Jackson endured in life, and now in death. Michael Jackson is innocent. Period. This is yet another lurid production in an outrageous and pathetic attempt to exploit and cash in on Michael Jackson. Safechuck and Robson, the latter a self-proclaimed ‘master of deception’, filed lawsuits against Michael’s Estate, asking for millions of dollars. Both lawsuits were dismissed. This so-called ‘documentary’ is just another rehash of dated and discredited allegations. It’s baffling why any credible filmmaker would involve himself with this project,” the statement read. 

The controversy continues as the lawsuit proceeds and more people watch the documentary. Part one and two are available for viewing on HBO.