Last night, many of us closed our eyes, exhaled and tackled our biggest fear like a bill we put off for too long: Leaving Neverland, the indictment of pop legend Michael Jackson for his allegedly predatory sexual behavior toward his very young male fans. The documentary, whose second part will air on HBO this evening, covers in (sometimes mundane, always sickening) detail the stories of Wade Robson and Jimmy Safechuck as they recount their time with Jackson some three decades ago.
It’s the second documentary of this still-nascent year to focus on the troubling personal legacy of an extremely popular pop artist, forcing us to consider how we will consume their music going forward. But two significant factors separate Leaving Neverland from Surviving R. Kelly: Jackson is no longer alive and still terrorizing young women, and the record of the alleged victims appears a bit more specious (more on that below). Here are some big details from the first part of the documentary that the Jackson family filed a $100 million lawsuit against HBO in an attempt to shelve.
The documentary features interviews from Robson, Safechuck and the family of both men. Everyone says that Jackson’s grooming process involved, in part, sleeping in the same bed with the boys. But the parents signed off on allowing this grown-ass man to sleep in a bed with their children. Robson’s mom admitted to arguing with Jackson for hours when he asked to keep her child for a year. Who the f— is spending two minutes arguing that? All these years later, the parents still sound star struck when talking about Jackson and the Neverland Ranch. With parents like that, the boys never had a chance.
2.Very graphic details of sexual abuse
Regardless of whether you choose to believe the alleged victims, their graphic details of the sexual assaults are stomach churning. If you, like me, were a bit grossed out watching Jackson with his shirt open make out with Lisa Marie Presley in the “You Are Not Alone” video, you won’t be ready for this. Both men admitted that Jackson liked his nipples played with, and that’s by far the most PG-13 detail I can recount in this space.
3.Mike Jack allegedly had a rotating roster of young boys
Apparently Jackson coerced Robson’s broken family to move from Australia to the states, only to drop Robson not long after because Jackson became interested in other boys. His accusers suggest that Jackson would only be into boys for about a year before turnover; part 1 concludes with Robson admitting that he was jealous that Jackson moved on to another Australian kid. Consistent turnover with some overlap is ground-level f—boy behavior, and it would be no surprise if the biggest star in the world was guilty of it.
4.The unavoidable controversy
Part of the reason that the documentary is so divisive in comparison to the nigh-collective outrage behind Surviving R. Kelly has a lot to do with the controversy behind the alleged victims, especially Robson. We don’t challenge victims around here, but there’s a lot of funny business contributing to the skepticism. If adjudication is all you require to absolve Jackson of wrongdoing, then you can sleep at night because he was never convicted. But then, Kells was in an actual video committing a crime and he got off, so…
5. Folks are responding emotionally
The #LeavingNeverland Twitter hashtag is an absolute clusterf— of divided opinions. However, many of those opinions have far less to do with the details regarding Jackson’s alleged behavior and more with a need to defend arguably the biggest global music entertainer of all time. We can’t ignore how woven Jackson’s music is into the texture of…well…everything when considering what to do about him, and I get the feeling that part 2 of the documentary won’t help further sway the opinions of people who have decided where they stand after part 1.
Dustin J. Seibert is a native Detroiter living in Chicago. Miraculously, people have paid him to be aggressively light-skinned via a computer keyboard for nearly two decades. He loves his own mama slightly more than he loves music and exercises every day only so his French fry intake doesn’t catch up to him. Find him at his own site, wafflecolored.com.