The Michael Jackson documentary in which two men allege in detail how the pop icon molested them as boys has begun airing on HBO, prompting a storm of reaction to and assessments of Leaving Neverland. Here's a sample:
- Corey Feldman: The former child star is out with a fierce, all-caps defense of Jackson on Twitter. A (de-capitalized) snippet: "MJ never once swore in my presence, never touched me inappropriately, & never ever suggested we should be lovers in any way!" Feldman writes that he's skeptical Jackson could have exercised that kind of self-control toward him if he were truly a pedophile. The full statement can be read in one take at allhiphop.
- From an accuser: Billboard highlights this quote from accuser Wade Robson early in the documentary: "He was one of the kindest, most gentle, loving, caring people I knew. And he also sexually abused me, for seven years."
- Director's view: Director Dan Reed talks with Mike Pesca at Slate and explains, among other things, why the film is so explicit about the sex acts. "Jackson represented himself as someone who had an innocent interest in children but was intimate with them, and close to them, and physically affectionate and all that," he says. "We had to make very clear that this was sex." As for all the places that accuser James Safechuck recounts they had sex, Reed says, "I mean, my jaw hit the floor." Reed thinks Jackson created Neverland as a "children's paradise" to lure kids. The full interview, here, touches on a range of subjects about the film.
- Super fans: The New York Times reports that Jackson has an army of devotees that is perhaps more "emphatic, organized, and passionate" than that of any other celeb, and those fans are now engaged in a battle to defend his name. This goes beyond hashtags (though that's a big part; see these marching orders) into the realm of ads on buses (at least in London) digital billboards, podcasts, and YouTube videos. Director Ava DuVernay, for one, has felt the wrath of these "super fans."
- The details: The Hollywood Reporter has seven of the disturbing allegations raised by the film, from Jackson's purported sexual preferences to how Neverland had multiple places where he could take the boys for sexual encounters. "The hallway leading to the singer's bedroom had a series of bells that sounded if someone was approaching."
- 10 facts: Vanity Fair reporter Maureen Orth covered the Jackson scandal for more than a decade. She provides 10 "undeniable" facts that viewers of the documentary should know for context. Among them: "So far, five boys Michael Jackson shared beds with have accused him of abuse: Jordie Chandler, Jason Francia, Gavin Arvizo, Wade Robson, and Jimmy Safechuck."
- A debunking: One theory in wide circulation is Jackson became an abuser because of the physical abuse he suffered at the hands of his father. It's nonsense, writes Daniel Engber at Slate. Somehow, the idea that the abused grow up to be abusers has become accepted wisdom, despite evidence to the contrary. "The absolute risk that any given victim of sexual abuse will go on to become a sexual offender is very, very low."
- Jackson's denial: The film prompts the Washington Post to look back on Jackson's extraordinary public denial of molestation accusations in 1993, after police photographed his naked body. This pre-dated social media, of course, and CNN aired his statement live. Watch it here.
- Reaction: CNN rounds up some of the reaction to the film on Twitter, which boils down to those who think Jackson is a monster vs. those who think the film is just flat-out wrong. Among those watching was Amber Tamblyn. "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," she wrote. "It’s such a slippery, dangerous, often abusive slope."
(Jackson's estate is airing alternative programming
to the HBO documentary.)