by Brotha Wolf
First off, I want to say that I am NOT writing this from a liberal or conservative point-of-view, nor am I writing this as an ardent fan of Michael Jackson. I’m not a journalist or author. I’m just a concerned citizen.
I will also say that I have not nor will I plan to watch the “documentary” Leaving Neverland. (I’ll explain why I use that word in quotes later.) I know that this admission alone will render the rest of this essay irrelevant as watching the film is a requirement for critiquing it. This entire essay may not get to be published at all. However, I WON’T critique the film, but I WILL express my thoughts and feelings of the mainstream media and society’s overall positive reaction to it.
Michael Jackson’s legacy as arguably the greatest entertainer the world is well-earned and has remained strong, especially ever after his death. The pedophilic accusations that have dogged him for the latter half of his life seemed like a distant memory for years or at least an insignificant thought. Then, in 2019, the accusations resurfaced in a “documentary” that has caught the world’s – the West at least – attention. Leaving Neverland is a two-part, four hour-long film directed by British filmmaker Dan Reed. It features testimony by two of Jackson’s accusers, Wade Robson and James Safechuck. The general news media’s responses to the film included words like “harrowing” and “disturbing”. As such, they concluded that the film is the final nail in the coffin. Even Oprah Winfrey decided to air a special featuring Reed, Robson and Safechuck, and it seemed like the special further cemented Jackson as a disgusting pedophile apparently without question or objections.
In almost no time later, cancel or mute culture emerged in the form of removing Jackson’s songs from the playlists of a few radio stations around the world. Statues of him were removed from public places. One way or another, Michael Jackson was erased despite the same media’s sharp advisories against such moves.
Still, with ONE film with apparently nothing other than testimonies from two men, the mainly “liberal” media and those who turn to them for news and information have collectively indicted Michael Jackson as a smooth criminal and believed the testimonies of Robson and Safechuck instantaneously.
And I would’ve too if I didn’t stop and think about a few things.
Ordinarily, I would’ve jumped on and sided with the accusers, even though I never saw nor plan to see the film. But I asked myself, why would, or rather why SHOULD I believe a film that’s considered a “documentary”, especially if the media says so?” It seemed suspicious, especially when the director claimed that the film isn’t about Michael Jackson. Pardon me, but how could it not be when it’s about two men who claim to be victims of the late superstar? Also, why would I watch a film meant to shed light on a terrible crime when the director describes it as more of a “love story”? And due to me being a black man in America, why Michael Jackson, another black man, of all people? It was then I CHOSE to see the massive elephant in the room: race.
As a member of “the other” and given the history and treatment towards non-mainstream populations, I can’t help but suspect and observe how Jackson’s legacy is treated as opposed to other luminaries accused of similar or worse crimes who have a lighter skin hue than mine. Granted, in his later years, Jackson’s skin was brightened, but he was still a black man in America.
Of course, people will vehemently object that the Neverland backlash has any hint of racism, and to suggest otherwise is to – at worst – blame the “victims”. I will most likely be called a ‘stan’ or worse, a rape apologist. But I couldn’t help but feel that the media backlash had something to do with the fact that Jackson was black and his accusers and the director are all white. So, I wonder if the “believing the victim” plea in this case is more like the case of “believing white victims”, a plea that has led to the oppression and murder of black people for ages. A simple rape accusation from a white woman would lead to the death and destruction of African-Americans and even whole black communities whether it happened or not. And even though that’s not likely to happen from this case – this time, it’s white men – there’s an aura of terminating Jackson’s history and legacy by word alone that conjures immediate fears and the notion that white people claiming victimhood status and where the suspect is black are to be believed no questions asked.
Yes, Michael Jackson was wealthy during his time and as the liberal way of thinking suggests, he’s part of the corrupt power structure within the music industry by association. With these allegations levied against him – again – even after his death through a motion picture, he’s considered the “enemy”. We decide that he used his star power to lure little (white) boys to his home to engage in intercourse with them.
Jackson was a black man, and in this country, it doesn’t matter how much money or power you have, you’re still seen as “different” or “less-than” in the eyes of white society. In most cases, you’re guilty of…something. In Jackson’s case, it was pedophilia, and no proof to exonerate him will be admissible.
Believe the victims. Believe the white men. Believe the white-owned media who believe the white men.
The news media believed the words of Robson and Safechuck and praised Reed for his film. There were NO questions asked as to the validity of the two men’s stories, two men with questionable backgrounds. There was no search to how accurate their testimonies are. No evidence to strengthen their stories, according to those who’ve seen the film. No interviews with other people aside from the men and, according to writer Stereo Williams, “…Someone reacting to what they’ve been told by Robson and Safechuck.” Not even the director is scrutinized. He was mostly placed on a pedestal as a man supposedly exposing a dirty secret. Simultaneously, most opinion writers chastised Jackson’s fans, supporters and critics of Neverland as “stans, truthers, cultists, conspiracy theorists” and even “rape apologists” for thinking that their idol was innocent and that Robson and Safechuck are liars without any investigations or interviews. While some may be, it’s a broad and damaging statement to dish out to all who have questions and doubts about the film and the accusations it presented.
The verdict was clear.
Detractors often cite the Me Too and Time’s Up movements as the reasons why the news media seems largely supportive of the film. The narrative has been about giving victims of sex-based crimes a voice and more credibility. Though, I think it’s unfair to blame the movements for the media’s appreciative response to the film, I think it shows that journalism has fallen off their mission of fact-finding for the sake of agenda pushing. The current atmosphere has largely been anti-Jackson with conversations surrounding the age old mystery of separating the art from the artist, the possibility of rewriting Jackson’s history and the side-effects of hero worship. All the while, the news continues to bury Jackson without much contemplation about the validity of the accusers and the director and how race was possibly a key component in not only the film’s creation but how the media saw it.
The news media grasped reactionary politics as the film’s emotional intensity seems to conclude that it’s true and that it’s a final nail in the coffin for his legacy.
It also seems that the media seems more invested and harsher when crime suspects are black, and black celebrities seem more insatiable to them. Extensive coverage of O.J. Simpson’s ordeal, Bill Cosby’s rape accusations and R. Kelly’s abuse to women seems to garner more attention than Harvey Weinstein, Louis C. K, Kevin Spacey and even Donald Trump. And now, we’re back on Michael Jackson yet again, and more than usual, it seems.
I know I’ll catch flack for some of my points. But I stress that I’m not against any movement against sex-based crimes or any crime for that matter. I also do not think that the aforementioned men are innocent of their crimes. And yes, there are rapists who happen to be black men, but black men are not rapists by design. So, it shouldn’t come to a surprise why I’m wary about this and other cases given this country’s history grappling with the dangerous and destructive myth of the black male rapist. It’s so strong that mere accusations alone are causes for severe punishment not just for the suspect but entire communities, whether there’s evidence or not. And it should surprise NO ONE that black skin is continuously condemned as this country’s undeniable proof of deviance.
As a citizen of the black community, I want to know when the documentary about Weinstein’s accusations will come to network television. I want to know if there will be damning films about David Bowie, John Lennon or even Charles Dickens. Will we remove their works or anything associated with them from our public institutions? Will we defame them even though they’re no longer here to defend themselves, or are there exceptions to the rule we won’t divulge? Well there be documentaries concerning accusations against them? Will we have to rewrite books based on their lives? Will Oprah do a talk show special with the victims of director Bryan Singer or better yet, Harvey Weinstein?
Do the underlying answers to these questions as well as the whole Neverland fiasco have anything to do with this nation’s eternal mission of protecting whiteness?
A friend of mine from high school said that “it’s” not wrong, unless black people do it. “It” could mean literally anything. In this case, It’s apparently “not as bad”, unless black people do it. “It”, in this case is any form of lawbreaking or contemptible sin. So, it should be understandable why it looks like the media is wrapped heavily about Neverland as opposed to the Weinstein trial.
As someone who felt slighted by a media I thought was more progressive than it is, I wonder why are they so convinced about a movie that has been described as “one-sided” and decided to outright believe it even though it’s deemed problematic from various angles, two of which come from two men, one with a history of changing his stories, and discovered inaccuracies of their testimonies.
Yes, trauma victims can get confused, and their memories can be fractured. But it’s unwise to not consider any suspicion in any case and that there are indeed some people who would stoop low enough to hijack a movement for personal gain. Are Robson and Safechuck such people? That would require investigative journalism and not a drone-like assumption that all who claim victimhood are actual victims.
I know this will spark outrage. I know this isn’t a popular opinion. But if this is what “journalism” and “news” has come down to, I want NO part of it. And this isn’t coming from a “fan” or a “stan”, but someone who expected more from a media I thought was more progressive than this. Michael Jackson, to me, is innocent until proven guilty. Leaving Neverland hasn’t really proved anything and it won’t likely spell the end of Jackson’s legacy, and it’s messed up that some people see it their mission to do so if he was truly innocent. All in all, I greatly doubt such a film or kind of treatment would’ve been made or even supported as much as it is had Jackson been born racially white.
Prove me wrong.
-BrothaWolf is a blogger from a small town.
Note: The author of this blog has graciously granted us permission to repost it in full – MJJJP