The recent allegations against Michael Jackson have given me a heavy heart. Michael has been a pervasive force in my family throughout my life, as he was in almost every household. Even if my Indian parents couldn’t sing along to the Disney music I had, or my brother and I couldn’t enjoy the old Bollywood tunes my parents grew up with, all four of us relished in Michael Jackson’s music together. I would observe from a very young age his powerful soul, his energy, his charisma exuded in every music video, and I knew he was no ordinary singer. Imagine, an 8-year-old girl screaming, “But the kid is not my son!!” trying to moonwalk in socks on the living room floor. I felt like a badass singing along to “Beat It” and “Smooth Criminal” wearing aviators and one winter glove. Every Halloween, I would dance to “Thriller” with my friends at FrightFest. Every beat, every lyric, every note courses through my veins, and I’m filled with joy every time I listen to his songs. My love of music started with Michael Jackson. As a child, I never knew him as the person the paparazzi portrayed him to be, all I knew was I loved MJ for his creative genius, his tremendous talent, and his ability to make me feel overwhelmed with happiness. Obviously, a man with larger-than-life music would not be a normal person or live a normal life. As I got older and discovered the darker side of my childhood idol, I did my research first before making a conclusion. I learned about his strict upbringing, his mental health issues, substance abuse, and his bizarre portrayal in the media. Still, my devotion to him never wavered.
I was in 5th grade when he passed away, and I thought to myself, I’ll never know what more Michael could have done for the world if he was alive. Now I can only wonder, if he was living today, what other great performers would he collaborate with? Would he have traversed different genres or eras of music as time went on? What groundbreaking music would he have created if he worked with Kendrick Lamar, Jay-Z, or Adele? What would he be like on social media? What would he have to say about politics and society today?
When I found out about the HBO documentary, “Leaving Neverland,” I was shocked. However, the aftermath of the documentary’s release is what left me completely devastated. The documentary features two men who have known MJ since they were young boys and claim he sexually abused them. I expected everyone to defend Michael Jackson and call out the accusers as fraud, but what really happened convinced me that many of our judgements are largely controlled by the powerful media industry. One by one, reports about “Leaving Neverland” popped up on my feeds, each one more outrageous than the next. From headlines renewing the sexual abuse trials from decades ago, to finding child pornography in Michael’s ranch, the coverage has been spreading like a wildfire. I started to notice that the more reports circulated that foster Michael Jackson’s image as a “pedophile,” the more people react agreeing to the claims. The more you see of one opinion, the more you start to believe it’s true.
Even major brands feel pressured to denounce MJ by disassociating themselves from his name. Starbucks expressed they will no longer play his music in stores, Drake removed a song featuring MJ samples from his concert tour, and The Simpsons stopped airing an episode which references MJ. They want to align with popular belief in order to keep making revenue. This shows how the impact of the corrupt media is indestructible. They will blindly publicize anything controversial to make the most profit and it is absolutely sickening. There is no money to be made if the media were praising and honoring Michael Jackson or any other popular figure. But publishing stories that go against common beliefs, make accusations, and cause dissent between people will always be entertaining and profitable. It is a shame that there exists an entity so powerful, it can cause masses of individuals to change their attitudes and it is a shame that this is all happening to the name of a wonderful human being who is no longer alive.
It is a fact that one of the accusers testified multiple times in court stating MJ never abused him. Moreover, since the first time the allegations were made, Michael Jackson has been investigated thoroughly numerous times. The FBI searched his home, photographed his body, and questioned him, and each time he was found not guilty. MJ’s lifestyle of befriending young children and inviting them to stay at Neverland Ranch was distorted to fit the idea that he was an abuser. Those same facts were well investigated and no real evidence was found proving he had malicious intent. The truth isn’t hiding anywhere; the media is able to cleverly distract viewers from seeking it out by bombarding them with information that looks credible and accurate.
It is important to question the motives of the two accusers in the documentary, and why they are seeking attention now. They obviously cannot convict Michael of any crimes or send him to jail. They will never be able to get an admission of guilt out of the accused. They will never get an apology, or palliation from the so-called “trauma” they experienced. They will never be able to affect album sales or the universal recognition Michael Jackson has. But they will receive revenue, media attention, and public backing. It is a never-ending cycle of sharks making dramatic claims, feeding off of the reactions of their prey, giving them more energy to make even wilder claims.
Unfortunately, the press has done drastic damage to our society’s beliefs. This in turn has intensified the once forgotten “abuser” image Michael had to face years ago. Hopefully, short-term headlines only produce short-term effects. Michael will always be remembered for his incredible, ingenious music. That will never change. He will always be known for his jaw-dropping dance moves that were ahead of his time. That will never change. He will always be recognized as a charitable musician who created socially conscious music, promoted unity, and sung the truth. That will never change. These 3 things will never be taken away from him. This spell the media has cast is not permanent. But the contributions Michael Jackson, The King of Pop, have made to the world and to me, will last forever.
*The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Her Campus Rutgers.*