‘Leaving Neverland’: Why You Wanna Trip on Me?

Willa: Hi Lisha. It’s so great to talk with you again! Though I wish it were under happier circumstances. I’m just heartsick about this Leaving Neverland documentary.

Lisha: Hey Willa! Great to chat with you again too, but I think we’re all heartsick about this film.

Willa: You’re probably right, though I have to say, a part of me also feels some small stirrings of hope. I’m trying not to be overly optimistic, but I wonder if this might actually be the turning point when the mainstream media finally begins to look at the evidence surrounding the allegations. I mean, there was such an outcry following the release of this film, and now it appears that some key statements in it simply aren’t true. So I wonder if that might lead to some sort of public reckoning.

Lisha: I really hope so. Not the “MJ Reckoning” that Slate magazine proposed, with an overkill of largely uncritical, unskeptical articles, but a more careful response to how sexual allegations are mediated in general. Accusations are not proof of a crime, so we need to be cautious about assuming guilt based solely on salacious claims. Especially when huge sums of money are involved, as is the case with the lawsuits that Wade Robson and James Safechuck filed against the Michael Jackson Estate.

Willa: Yes, and the new evidence that’s just come out really raises some questions about their lawsuit filings as well as their testimony in the film. For example, in his lawsuit, James Safechuck claims that Jackson began abusing him in 1988, when he was 10, and began to taper off when he “started puberty at age 12.” He describes this as a confusing “transition period” that “spanned several months” and then the abuse ended. In the documentary, he says this abuse often occurred in the train station at Neverland:

At the train station, there’s a room upstairs. And we would have sex up there too. It would happen every day. It sounds sick, but it’s kinda like when you’re first dating somebody, right?, and you do a lot of it. So it was very much like that.

However, Mike Smallcombe, the author of Making Michael: Inside the Career of Michael Jackson, investigated this and discovered that the train station didn’t exist at that time. According to county records, the building permit was issued in the fall of 1993.

Here’s a tweet from Smallcombe about this, and it includes an image of the construction permit, with a date stamp of September 2, 1993.

Lisha: Excellent work by Mike Smallcombe!

Willa: I agree! Major kudus for some crucial investigative journalism.

Lisha: It’s amazing how one piece of information can cast doubt on the entire story.

Willa: Or at least make you wonder why Safechuck isn’t being truthful about this. And it appears this part of his story can’t be true, even if you try to force the pieces together to make them fit.

Construction of the train station was completed in 1994, when Michael Jackson was away from Neverland and had a lot going on – the Chandler accusations had become public, he spent quite a bit of time in rehab, he married Lisa Marie Presley, and he was living in New York. He didn’t move back to Neverland until 1995. Here’s an article with additional information, and it includes a brief video clip of the train station segment of Leaving Neverland.

So putting all this together, the earliest any episodes of alleged daily abuse could have occurred in the train station would have been in 1995, when Safechuck was 17. In a response to Smallcombe’s tweet, Dan Reed, the director of Leaving Neverland, replied that the abuse must have gone on for more years than Safechuck originally stated. Here’s a screen capture of Reed’s response.

Dan Reed tweet

So Dan Reed is trying to make the pieces fit. And so is a recent Cosmopolitan article which says that “it’s not uncommon for traumatic experiences to muddle memories, including dates and details, for victims.” I imagine that’s true, especially when the victim is a child.

However, extending the period of abuse by several years, so that it continued into 1995 rather than ending in 1990 or so, isn’t just confusing dates. It’s changing the entire arc of Dan Reed’s narrative, which is that Michael Jackson preyed on young boys and then abandoned them as they entered puberty. Safechuck claims that when he was 12 and starting to show signs of puberty, Michael Jackson began to distance himself from him and turn his attention to younger boys. And he says that by the time he was 14, Michael Jackson had painfully rejected him. Daily sexual abuse of a 17-year-old doesn’t fit this narrative at all.

In addition, Safechuck implies in the film that the train station was one of the first places where abuse occurred: “it’s kinda like when you’re first dating somebody, right?, and you do a lot of it.” So that suggests the late 1980s, when Safechuck was 10 or so. But the train station didn’t exist then. There just doesn’t seem to be any way that all of Safechuck’s claims can be true.

Lisha: Yes, and don’t forget both Safechuck and Robson say they were not traumatized at the time of the alleged abuse. They claim the trauma they experienced came much later – after imagining their own children being abused. So I don’t see how this explanation makes sense. Besides, doesn’t trauma enhance memory rather than distort it? I recall Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony last summer, when she explained that traumatic memories are actually much more vivid than normal memory function.

Willa: Well, it’s complicated. People can be traumatized without realizing it – what I mean is, without realizing what an effect the trauma has had on them. For example, a lot of times soldiers with PTSD don’t realize they have it until they are diagnosed.

And as I understand it, sensory memories from traumatic events can be very vivid, while things like dates or, in Christine Blasey Ford’s case, the location of the house where the abuse occurred or the memory of how she got home that evening, can be confused or forgotten.

Lisha: That’s exactly why the police routinely record interviews with victims, witnesses, and suspects. If you ask someone to go on the record and tell what happened, you can nail down their story and try to corroborate it. It’s often the first thing police do – separate all the known parties and ask them to recall what happened. We know that child sexual abuse cases are very difficult to prove because physical evidence of the crime itself is rarely available. So it’s the other elements of the story that need to be corroborated.

Willa: If possible, but sometimes there isn’t much corroborating evidence, especially if victims aren’t able to come forward until years later, after they’ve had a chance to process what happened to them as children. That’s what makes these cases so challenging.

I’ve been doing some research on the Start By Believing campaign, and I understand and support their goals: to prevent victims of sexual assault or abuse from experiencing additional trauma when they tell their stories, encourage other victims to come forward, and tear down the cloak of silence and shame that surrounds sexual abuse. I think those goals are admirable, and I support them.

But when a prosecutor Starts By Believing the victims, as Tom Sneddon did in 1993 and 2003, or much of the media did when Leaving Neverland came out, that presumption of guilt can lead to injustice.

Lisha: I think this is where the Michael Jackson case can contribute to a broader conversation about how we discriminate between false accusations and valid claims of sexual abuse. We cannot simply assume that all accusers give accurate or truthful information.

Willa: Unfortunately, that’s true. And it isn’t just Safechuck. Smallcombe has uncovered contradictory evidence about Wade Robson’s story as well. In the documentary, Robson says the first time he was abused was in 1990, when he was 7 years old and his family left him alone at Neverland while they went to the Grand Canyon. However, Smallcombe unearthed a 1993 deposition where Wade’s mother, Joy, says the entire family went to the Grand Canyon. She also says that the first time she left Wade alone at Neverland was three years later, in 1993 – just a few months before she gave her deposition, so at a time when her memories about these events would have been fresh.

Again, here’s a tweet from Smallcombe:

And here’s an article with additional information, including corroboration by Wade Robson himself while under oath.

Lisha: So we know that the information presented in the film cannot be taken at face value. In fact, how do we know anything in the film is accurate?

Willa: That’s a good question, Lisha. Maybe as more evidence emerges, we’ll be able to figure that out. Just as importantly, I hope that information like this may finally force the mainstream media to look back and reevaluate all of the allegations, and actually look at the evidence this time.

Lisha: I do, too.

Willa: Unfortunately, I’m afraid it’s a slim hope. I was talking to a friend a couple weeks ago who was editor-in-chief of the local newspaper for many years, and now teaches journalism classes at the local college. He’s a really nice guy and I respect him a lot, but he told me that, to be honest, he’d written Michael Jackson off as a freak a long time ago, regardless of whether he was a child molester or not. He said that evidence about this or that particular point didn’t matter to him. His general feeling about Michael Jackson was already set and not likely to change.

I’m worried a lot of people feel that way, including other journalists. For example, I get the sense from the national media that they don’t care much about the evidence either. Instead, there has been almost universal condemnation of Michael Jackson, as well as public shaming of anyone who dares to defend him.

Lisha: I think this is why we need to step back and think about the cultural response to the film, apart from trying to evaluate every scrap of evidence.

Willa: Hmmm… I still think looking at the evidence is crucial, but that’s a good point, Lisha. I think you’re right – the two have to happen in tandem.

Lisha: Yes, I agree. Uncovering the facts is critical. But what does it say about the culture when a film of this nature – four hours of imagining graphic pedophilic acts – generates so much buzz? It’s worth thinking about why an entertainment product like this has so much appeal.

For me, the worst part of Leaving Neverland has been the relentless, sensationalized media coverage. I really didn’t see that coming. So often it feels like it is coming from one uncritical voice, despite all we’ve learned about these cases over the last six years. The Robson/Safechuck lawsuits have already been dismissed twice, with prejudice. Major outlets reported the claims back in 2013. Plus, Michael Jackson died in 2009! So why did this suddenly explode into public consciousness and generate such a massive response?

Looking back at some earlier media analysis, I see a familiar story. For example, back in 1998 media scholar John Erni described the coverage of the Chandler allegations as both “arduously simplistic and blatantly homophophic,” and I think that still applies. Too many journalists are simply accepting these claims at face value. And in a culture that “tirelessly recycles the myth of gay people as child molesters,” once again we see a homophobic containment of Michael Jackson and difference.

Willa: Absolutely.

Lisha: But I’m struggling to understand why this narrative has come roaring back with a vengeance. Why now?

Willa: That’s a really good question, Lisha. I think maybe it’s because the allegations were presented in a film, like a story, with people that viewers could see and connect with – what psychologists call the “identifiable victim effect.” There was an article about this in Salon recently.

Lisha: Great article! I’m sure that this a big piece of the puzzle.

Willa: Well, you’re probably right, Lisha, that this is only one of several reasons for why Leaving Neverland caused such an outcry. But I think it’s an important one. It seems that we as humans are hard-wired to respond emotionally to stories. I think that’s one reason Freud turned to Greek mythology so often when he was mapping out and naming human psychology. (There’s Eros and Narcissus, Oedipus and Electra, … ) It’s like we as humans create stories, but our stories have also created us. Over the millennia our stories have shaped our minds, our cultures, and our understanding of what it means to be human. As a result, our stories are able to move us emotionally in ways that can be hard to fully understand.

So seeing a film like Leaving Neverland, and watching a fellow human tell a horrific story – even one that has been circulating for several years, as Robson and Safechuck’s allegations have – rouses our emotions and affects us very differently than reading a news report about a court case, even if both convey the same information.

Lisha: It’s true that this film relies entirely on affective and emotional capture, which is a totally different way of taking in information than say, reading legal documents. Even if the information is the same, film allows the viewer to evaluate non-verbal information, which can be very powerful.

Willa: That’s true.

Lisha: I noticed that Untouchable, the new documentary about Harvey Weinstein, follows the same approach. It premiered alongside Leaving Neverland at Sundance, and similarly focused on the accuser’s allegations. One reviewer explained it this way:

Newspaper and magazine stories can tell us the details, but cinema, an image- and time-based medium, can do what print cannot. It can make us sit with victims and serve as witnesses while they recount their experiences.

Willa: Yes, that’s a good way to describe it. And putting us in that uncomfortable position can be powerful: it can force us to confront harsh realities, unleash strong emotions, and possibly bring about important social changes. But the sheer force of those emotions can also get us into trouble.

Lisha: That’s for sure. I’ve noticed this is where the #MeToo movement has gotten a little wobbly – encouraging us to “believe the victims” while inadvertently cuing us to leave our critical thinking skills behind. Some have even tried to explain the sudden interest in Leaving Neverland as a part of the #MeToo movement. But I tend to think if this were the case, we would have seen a much bigger response to Untouchable and the upcoming trial of Harvey Weinstein – a living, breathing human being.

Willa: The differing reactions to Untouchable and Leaving Neverland are pretty striking when you put them side by side like that, Lisha. I think you’re right that there’s more going on – something that generates a much stronger emotional response for Michael Jackson’s accusers than for Weinstein’s.

And again, we need to be wary of judging the truth of a story based on our emotional reactions. Just because a story is compelling doesn’t mean it’s true. Some of our most emotionally wrenching stories are fiction. But because they move us so deeply, they feel true on some level.

Lisha: Yes, that’s right. On a psychological level, I’ve often thought many fictional stories are true! Maybe even more than mere presentation of fact

Willa: I know what you mean. Fiction can convey important psychological truths, even when the storyline is a complete fabrication. In fact, sometimes fiction can express something more profound and move us more deeply than a strict adherence to actual events. I recently saw Never Look Away, an amazing film about art’s ability to express truths that even the artist may not understand. In a recent article, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, the director of Never Look Away, said that “Sticking to every fact and chronology tends to weaken something. Citizen Kane would be a lesser film if it were called Citizen Hearst.”

Lisha: Interesting!

Willa: I think so too. That comment really struck me. So directors try to convey stories in a way that stirs emotions – they work hard to move our emotions. And those emotions may spark important insights, but they can also lead us astray.

For example, emotions can generate a kind of mob mentality that sweeps people along. I think that’s one reason Michael Jackson watched To Kill a Mockingbird over and over during his trial – to understand how that mob mentality works, especially when a white person accuses a black man of a sex crime. It can be nearly impossible in those situations, when emotions are running so high, to get the general public to pause a moment and not rush to judgment before they’ve considered the evidence.

Lisha: History is littered with these kinds of events and cultural products – Birth of a Nation comes to mind – showing how easily we get trapped by cultural narratives and knee-jerk reactions. Leaving Neverland was crafted to evoke an intense emotional response and that has turned into an effort to modulate Michael Jackson into some kind of cultural folk devil, to use sociologist Stanley Cohen’s term. Because this trial-by-media demonization of Michael Jackson includes calls to ban his music, I think we need to be vigilant in dealing with this cultural moment. Banning music and art is a very dark impulse.

Willa: Well, it’s a complicated subject. I agree we must be vigilant, as you say, anytime we see signs of that sort of mob mentality. Mobs are scary things, especially in person but even online. And it’s troubling that there’s been so little discussion of actual evidence, or the presentation of multiple points of view. For a while there, it seemed like Joe Vogel’s article in Forbes was the only one out there pushing back against Leaving Neverland and the all-too-familiar narrative of Michael Jackson as a sexual predator of young white boys.

But to be perfectly honest, I can understand why most viewers of Leaving Neverland are outraged and feel sympathy for Wade Robson and James Safechuck. I have a dear friend who was sexually abused more than 40 years ago, and it still affects almost every aspect of her life. It was such a deep betrayal. It’s almost impossible to convey in words the effect it has had on her. I have another friend who discovered one day that her husband had been sexually abusing their two children. She told me she went to work that morning thinking she had a strong marriage and a happy family, and by the end of the day everything she thought she knew was turned inside out.

Lisha: That’s heartbreaking, Willa.

Willa: It is. It’s heartbreaking and devastating and completely disorienting. She told me she kept asking herself, How could I have missed this? How could I have misread my husband as a fun, happy extrovert when he had such darkness inside him? How could I have misread his relationship with our children? She really lost confidence in her ability to read people, and I’m not sure she’ll ever fully recover from that.

Lisha: That’s incredibly sad because people who commit these crimes are not proud of their behavior and go to great lengths to hide it. No doubt this was carefully hidden – especially from her. But unfortunately, mothers often take the blame for failing to protect the children – another cultural narrative that deserves more scrutiny.

Willa: That’s true. We see that in Leaving Neverland also.

Lisha: Painfully so.

Willa: Anyway, my point is that I’ve seen how sexual abuse can rip people apart, not just victims but their families too, and I’ve seen the long-term effects it can have on the deepest reaches of a victim’s psyche. So I can understand why most people watching Leaving Neverland would feel shock and anger and disgust.

Lisha: I can certainly understand empathizing with someone who is suffering and wanting to help those who have been victimized. It seems only natural to want to offer as much support and comfort as possible.

Willa: Yes, I think so too.

Lisha: But I also want to think about the victims of false accusations, too. What is missing from the Leaving Neverland conversation for me is an acknowledgement that there has been a heightened cultural awareness of child sexual abuse for decades now, since the 1980s as I recall it. This is not a social problem that we’ve swept under the rug or pretended doesn’t exist. We have been inundated with all kinds of information on child sexual abuse. Oprah alone claims to have made 217 television programs on the topic. At times, the intense interest in this topic has risen to full-blown panic and hysteria. In the words of Mike Lew, author of Victims No Longer (a book that Wade Robson recommends on his website): “One would have to have been living in a cave to be unaware of the reality of sexual child abuse.…”

Along with this heightened awareness of abuse comes the knowledge of how destructive false accusations can be. Just as we see in cases of abuse, false accusations can ruin people’s lives and tear families apart, too. So these claims have to be evaluated very carefully.

Willa: Yes, especially when the accusers are white and the accused is not.

Lisha: Excellent point! Race complicates this discussion exponentially, especially with accusations of black-on-white sexual violence.

Willa: It really does. You know, I grew up in the South, so I’m very aware that those powerful feelings of anger and outrage can be manipulated, especially against men of color. Repeatedly throughout American history, white men have accused non-white or racially ambiguous men of sexually abusing white women and children, and then used the intense fear and anger that resulted for political and financial gain.

For example, this strategy was repeatedly used against American Indians during colonialism to justify the violation of treaties and forfeiture of Indian land. What I mean is, white settlers would spread stories of Indians abducting and abusing white women and children, and then use those stories as justification for driving Indians from land that was rightfully theirs. This strategy had an interesting effect: it allowed white settlers to paint themselves as victims, even as they were committing violence against indigenous peoples and taking their land.

A similar strategy was used against Chinese immigrants in the 1880s and against Mexican immigrants in the 1930s (as well as the 2016 presidential elections) to effect changes in immigration policy. And it has been turned against black men for generations. Thousands of freed black men were lynched in the decades following Reconstruction, and a false accusation of sexual assault was often the justification used to stir up mob violence, destroy successful black businesses and communities, and confiscate black property.

In a 1892 pamphlet, Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases, journalist Ida Wells suggests these vicious lynchings also had an over-arching political purpose: to suppress freed black people, especially black men, following the abolition of slavery. Wells went on to warn her readers that using a false allegation of rape to justify white-on-black violence had become so prevalent that “it is in a fair way to stamp us a race of rapists.” (By the way, thank you to Eleanor Bowman for sharing Wells’ pamphlet with me. I’ve learned a lot from it. If anyone else would like to read it, the complete text is available here.)

Unfortunately, I think Wells’ prediction came true to some extent – over the decades this narrative did “stamp” African Americans as “a race of rapists” in the minds of many people. So now, a lot of white Americans especially are predisposed to see black men and other men of color as sexual predators. This history has a powerful influence on how whites perceive and respond to black men accused of sexually abusing white women and children. But I think a lot of white Americans either don’t realize this, or don’t want to admit it.

Lisha: Cultural narratives are so much a part of our daily lives that we’re rarely even aware of them – that is, until they get challenged. It’s important to point out that the culture industry (e.g., music and film) is a site where these myths and cultural blind spots are continually reinforced (and sometimes contested). It is one of the ways that the dominant culture holds onto their social advantage.

Willa: That’s true.

Lisha: This reminds me of a recent article on Leaving Neverland that deals with these issues in terms of cognitive bias, including racial bias, and explains how this impacts viewer response to the film. It is titled “How Your Judgment Can Be Skewed About the Michael Jackson Documentary” and was written by a psychiatrist, Dr. Srini Pillay. Pillay said he had trouble finding a publisher for this piece because it was not in step with dominant media narratives about the film. He of course points out this is also strong evidence of cognitive bias!

Willa: It really is, especially since this is an insightful article from a trustworthy source: a Harvard psychiatrist and brain researcher. It says a lot that he wasn’t able to find someone to publish it.

Lisha: I think that any time we observe the media speaking in one voice, it’s a signal that we’re in a danger zone, culturally speaking. It makes me want to look around and see if I can detect what is hiding just beyond our peripheral vision.

Pillay shows how bias operates in both overt and subtle ways. For example in the documentary, the white accusers are “the only people with a voice or perspective,” while “the alleged black perpetrator not only has no voice, but is dead.” That strikes me as an example of overt racial bias.

But there are more subtle manipulations going on as well. What surprised me most was a study he cited on the “posthumous demonization and criminalization” of black men, showing that “black men are at increased risk of racial bias against them, especially after they die.”

Willa: That surprised me as well.

Lisha: I think that’s incredibly significant here, considering that Michael Jackson has been dead for almost ten years.

Willa: Yes. I’d never thought about the “increased risk of racial bias” black men face after death. They face so much during life! But it does bring to mind Martin Luther King Jr, for example, and everything that was done to tear done his legacy after he died – like all the stories of affairs and one-night stands. Why was that made public, and why then?

Lisha: That’s a perfect example! The struggle for Dr. King’s legacy triggered an old (and still active) cultural myth about black male hypersexuality, and that theme repeats itself in the struggle for Michael Jackson’s legacy.

Willa: I agree completely.

Lisha: Pillay also describes the bias against successful people, which we can think about in relation to Dr. King as well. Rev. Jesse Jackson spoke about this in a 2005 interview with Bill Maher, in reference to Michael Jackson: “whether you are Jack Johnson or Paul Robeson or Martin King or Mandela, seemingly when blacks hit very high spots, they’re in the line of fire. Michael perceives himself to be in that line.”

Willa: Yes, that’s a good point. It’s like the Star is Born effect, where we repeatedly tell the story of a talented person making it big, achieving incredible success, and then crashing and burning. We tell that story over and over again. And it’s especially true of successful black men. As Michael Jackson himself said in a 2005 interview with Jesse Jackson, “there has been kind of a pattern among black luminaries in this country.”

Lisha: It’s practically a national pastime at this point: the “swift and sudden fall from grace.”

Willa: Exactly. In that clip you shared, Lisha, Jesse Jackson describes another phenomenon that’s relevant here too, I think: that Jack Johnson, Muhammad Ali, and Nelson Mandela were reviled when they were alive, and then their image was sanitized and celebrated after they died.

So I think we saw a number of different phenomena with Michael Jackson, at different phases. He was scorned the last decade or so of his life, then celebrated immediately after he died – like Jack Johnson, Muhammad Ali, and Nelson Mandela were. But now there seems to be a kind of backlash setting in. Once again he’s becoming “the beast you visualized,” to quote another of his lyrics. It’s like we need him to fulfill that cultural role.

Lisha: Yes, you’re right. It’s that mob mentality again and the impulse to manufacture a cultural folk devil. Now add to that the creativity bias …

Willa: Right, I thought that was a really interesting part of Dr. Pillay’s article too. I mean, just think of the popular image of the famous composer or painter who’s half mad, or think of all the songs or folk tales where an artist makes some sort of pact with the devil to gain success or creativity. There really does seem to be contradictory perceptions of creative people – that they should be celebrated for their talents, but also that there’s something not quite right with them. Michael Jackson explicitly addresses that bias in Ghosts. After all, the main character is a “maestro,” and the village people feel threatened by his creativity as much as anything.

Lisha:  There are many cultural narratives about artists – Ghosts rehearses a lot of them. And I think we could even create a subset for popular music. I mean, fill in the blank: Musicians are ________ (sexually promiscuous, drug addicted, reckless, irresponsible…) There’s even a cultural short-hand for it: “Sex, Drugs and Rock-n-Roll.”

Willa: I see what you mean!

Lisha: So there is a lot of complexity driving viewer response to this film, including one more significant factor, which is the final element that Pillay identifies: memory bias. As it turns out, memory isn’t nearly as stable and reliable as we like to believe.

Elizabeth Loftus is a leading memory researcher who flagged the Wade Robson accusations early on as being suspect, especially when initial reports characterized his claims as a repressed memory case. Although Robson walked this back and publicly said that his memories were never repressed, on his website he recommends a popular psychology book, Courage to Heal, that has been widely criticized for promoting the theory of repressed memory. Dr. Loftus addresses this specifically in her own book, but perhaps this is a longer discussion for another time!

Willa: I think so. It sounds like there’s a lot to learn and a lot to unpack about that topic! And I look forward to another discussion. It’s always so great to talk with you, Lisha!


About Dancing with the Elephant contributors

Joie Collins is a founding member of the Michael Jackson Fan Club (MJFC). She has written extensively for MJFC, helping to create the original website back in 1999 and overseeing both the News and History sections of the website. Over the years she conducted numerous interviews on behalf of MJFC and also directed correspondence for the club. She also had the great fortune to be a guest at Neverland. She has been a Michael Jackson fan since she was three years old. Lisha McDuff is a classically trained professional musician who for 30 years made her living as a flutist, performing in orchestras and for major theatrical touring productions. Her passion for popular musicology led her to temporarily leave the orchestra pit and in June 2013 she received a Master’s degree in Popular Music Studies from the University of Liverpool. She’s continuing her studies at McMaster University, where she is working on a major research project about Michael Jackson, with Susan Fast as her director. Willa Stillwater is the author of M Poetica: Michael Jackson's Art of Connection and Defiance and "Rereading Michael Jackson," an article that summarizes some of the central ideas of M Poetica. She has a Ph.D. in English literature, and her doctoral research focused on the ways in which cultural narratives (such as racism) are made real for us by being "written" on our bodies. She sees this concept as an important element of Michael Jackson's work, part of what he called social conditioning. She has been a Michael Jackson fan since she was nine years old.

Posted on April 4, 2019, in Michael Jackson and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 37 Comments.

  1. Hello you both, it is appalling what is happening here. Now I am deep into the work of Dr Joe Dispenza and neurological research has proved that trauma occurs when something happens and the emotion is so strong it becomes s memory. Yes you can suppress memories but there is also something as epiginetics that mean that your genes alter because of the environment. In their cases this horrible thing must have had an impact and when talking about it so explicitly and seeing the pictures the environment they should have had a relaps and emotions of that specific moment should have come back full force when Robson was back on Neverland in 2005. And for Safechuck by only recalling this you should see pain and emotion. But there is nothing of the sort, you see Safechuck kind of nervous and Robson over the top confident, and playing his role. There is no real emotion. Than when you look at images from the 2005 trial, where Robson forced himself into defending MJ, you see no compassion whatsoever, you see someone flirting with the camera, in it for himself. There is no emotion and if what he tells is true, no doubt that being in this trial he somehow should have broken, but he didn’t, he was the first and most important witness for MJ.
    Study the books of Dispenza, analyse how emotions are coupled to the thoughts we think, and a massive abuse they describe can never be without that emotion that is stored in the body, be kept down for so long while even visiting the place where that had happened. No Way, not possible.

    • Hi Karin. I haven’t heard about Dr. Dispenza. Does he say that memory can be repressed? I thought that idea had been challenged. In fact, I believe US courts no longer accept that idea. Some people think that’s why Robson’s story changed. (Initially Robson’s laywer said he had repressed the memories of abuse, but later Robson said that wasn’t true. He always had those memories – he just hadn’t recognized his experiences as abuse.) I’m curious to hear what you find out.

      • Sorry for the late reply. No he doesn’t say memories can be repressed he says that the body stores the emotion that comes with the trauma. And you can’t tell me that what happened wasn’t a trauma, even at that time, and even if they did not really realise that it wasn’t good. So when that Robson guy came over to Neverland to defend MJ, his body should have immediately responded with an emotion that must have felt awful. But he claims he did not realise, which I do not believe simply because you know it is not feeling good, even if you have no real awareness of what sex is. Then his mother would have known, simply because if the things they describe so graphically really happened, she would know as a mum. Dispenza gives several examples how this works. For instance, they did research with people with beginning altzheimer who were placed in a house where they moved more, were eating healthy, were not pampered etc. They significantly changed for the better. But as soon as they came back home again, they fell back in their former state because they came in a place surrounded with health care takers, were differently treated and were reminded that they were suffering from altzheimer. So, when these men were severely abused, coming back to Neverland would have triggered the intense emotions that they must have had. It’s not possible that Robson could have come to Neverland, not feeling that, and having fun, wanting to marry there, defending MJ etc. it just doesn’t make sense at all. But read You are the Placebo, and it will make sense to what I mean.

  2. Eleanor Bowman

    Hi Willa and Lisha. So good to see Dancing with the Elephant in my mailbox this morning. And so happy you are addressing this topic — although maybe happy isn’t the right word.

    And thanks for passing along the train station and Grand Canyon information. Very interesting. But, most people don’t want to be confused by the facts.

    As you know, I have always viewed MJ as a cultural change agent in addition to being a magical artist and great man. And the cultural reaction to him, both good and bad, tells us a great deal about ourselves as a culture. The level of emotion aroused by Leaving Neverland, 10 years after his death, is indicative to me of his continuing power and influence. When all is said and done, MJ will prevail and we will continue listening to and being inspired by his art. In fact, more and more, his message and his music and the emotions he inspires offer a profound and much needed contrast to the depressing situation we find ourselves in today.

    Particularly revealing was the mainstream media’s unquestioning embrace of this film. But then, they had never believed in his innocence. Most of his obituaries assumed his guilt.

    It is so interesting to me that the #metoo movement — a movement which has enabled women’s voices to be heard and women’s perceptions of reality to be honored in a world that has for centuries only heard the voices and accepted the reality of white men — has been appropriated by two white men to vilify a black man. And, it worked — at least in the short term for some folks.

    It is also interesting to me that a charge of pedophilia — primarily of little boys — in our culture is worse than accusing someone of mass murder or mass rape or both.

    I agree with you completely that seeing and hearing someone tell a story, fiction or non-fiction, in graphic and sensational detail has a much more powerful effect that just reading about charges in the paper. Also, the role of social media is huge — instantly creating online bloodthirsty mobs. It is frightening.

    • Hi Eleanor. I’ve been thinking a lot about something you wrote:

      “It is so interesting to me that the #metoo movement — a movement which has enabled women’s voices to be heard and women’s perceptions of reality to be honored in a world that has for centuries only heard the voices and accepted the reality of white men — has been appropriated by two white men to vilify a black man.”

      The shifting power dynamics of this are complicated and difficult to parse, but it really is a reflection in miniature of what we’ve seen throughout US history. White settlers had much more power (both literally in terms of firearms, as well as figuratively in terms of political clout) than American Indians did. Yet they claimed that they were the real victims, and they used claims of kidnapping and assault of women and children as evidence.

      Southern white men made similar claims against freed black men. Overwhelmingly, false claims of black men sexually assaulting white women or children were used to suggest that whites were the real victims and justify lynchings. So again, white men used the image of white women and children as victims to cast themselves as defenders of the weak and in that way retain and consolidate power.

      We see that with the Chandler case as well, where we have a white man claiming power over a black man by holding his son up as a victim. And Chandler worked hard to cast his son in that role, even though his son repeatedly rejected it.

      What’s different this time is that we have two white men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, holding their former selves – themselves as children – up as the victims. And it still works. The horror of the black sexual predator that whites have been conditioned to feel for centuries functions just the same.

  3. Hi Eleanor!

    So great to hear from you! And I’m especially thinking about this:

    “…the cultural reaction to him, both good and bad, tells us a great deal about ourselves as a culture. The level of emotion aroused by Leaving Neverland, 10 years after his death, is indicative to me of his continuing power and influence.”

    I couldn’t agree more. Perhaps even I underestimated the cultural significance of Michael Jackson. This is a real eye-opener!

  4. Welcome back!! I’ve been missing your voices!! This is an excellent piece, and I’ll spend more time with it over the next few days. I always appreciate the depth of your thoughts. I agree that Michael has always put a mirror to culture – as a good artist will do. He has also given an alternative vision, which has been spurned as too naive and simplistic. I’m hopeful that the conversation will continue, even if it is sparked by the negative. I believe that good will triumph, and Michael’s message will continue to empower and educate and inspire.

    • Thank you, Sue. It’s good to be back! Michael does seem to have functioned like “a mirror to culture,” as you say – both through his art and his public persona. Looked at in that way, it makes you wonder what the reaction to Leaving Neverland tells us about ourselves….

  5. Glad to see DWTE discussion is back ! Great blog post, as always.

    Since it’s airing in late January we’ve all been riding a harrowing roller coaster.

    The manipulation of this film & it’s quick and stealth diistribution to the masses, of this work of Fiction has been remarkable to say the least. Some inexplicable things happened in quick succession.

    Beginning with the late entry into the Sundance Film Festival to catch us all off-guard to the announcement at the screening itself, “We have medical professionals in the lobby for those who might be triggered” to set up the expectation of something really horrendous about to be screened. The audience was packed with media, all too willing to believe every word uttered, every sigh and sniff orchestrated for full effect. The audience gave Robson and Safechuck standing ovations in both screenings. They seemed thrilled to be part of this event, the one that media has been trying to orchestrate, and failed since1993-

    A secure noose was placed around Michael’s neck.

    Nevermind, the man is already dead, we will string him up and let him sway every so gently in the breeze of our collective condemnation.

    But we keep hearing .. “it isn’t about Michael Jackson” right?

    We can’t underestimate the gravity of the Oprah Winfrey seal of approval on this fiction perpetrated upon this public With her Marathon OWN, AFTER Leaving Neverland. There was a very quick cattle call to pack her audience with CSA victims- (but without the medical professionals on hand to assist them, quite interstingly enough) – The audience was first fed, watched the film then sat thru the dog and pony show with the two actors of the film. It was quickly arranged and recorded before Oprah jetted off the Fashion Week in NY.

    During the interview, Oprah said “this is bigger than Michael Jackson” and then “don’t let anyone in your life, try to make this about what Michael Jackson did or did NOT do”

    “This is bigger than Michael Jackson” or “It isn’t about Michael Jackson” Both statements extremely disingeniuous. We all realize that IF these accusations were about Joe Smith down the road, this documentary would’ve never been made. Furthermore, there would NOT be a “100’s of Millions” case on APPEAL, because the cases filed by both Robson/Safechuck were thrown out by a Judge who stated “no jurists could believe their assertions” –

    Much speculation has been had about her connections with Harvey Weinstein. This attempt at pointing fingers and “looky here, we have MORE accusers of Michael Jackson” smokescreen, to cover the Harvey Weinsteing Documentary which had been on the Festivals list for some time and had been much anticipated. But yet, the Metoo Movement that actually was sparked by the alleged victims of Weinstein, quite unexpectedly dropped him like a hot potato and gloamed onto Michael Jackson.

    “….don’t let anyone.. make it about what Michael Jackson did or did NOT do” isn’t that important to the relevancy of these two men’s stories?

    While rifling through the many articles regarding Leaving Neverland, I ran across one interviewing a German ethics Professor Maria-Sibylla Lotter- She very wisely noted that this LN “doc” did not provide any new evidence against Michael Jackson, it only provided “images for the mind” – Images that once created are very difficult to remove, whether they be true or not – That is so true – https://www.dw.com/en/michael-jackson-sex-abuse-allegations-boycotts-are-ludicrous-says-ethics-professor/a-47973387

    I remember watching the original Jaws in a theatre way back when it first released in the summer of 1975 – The images of blood in the water, the foreboding music, the images of people being attacked and pulled screaming underwater were extremely intense. During the movie I remember feeling and Unrealistic sense that sharks were on the theatre floor and it made me curl my legs up on the seat. Now my rational mind clearly knew that it could NOT be possible that sharks were in the theatre, but my brain & emotions were all heightened by this pure fear that the images had elicited.

    That’s was the purpose of Leaving Neverland AND the reason why the many blue tic Twitter Media, who’d been invited to fill those seats at Sundance, all rallied with the same words in their tweets. “It was hard to watch, gut-wrenching” but you MUST “Watch the movie, it will change the way you feel about Michael Jackson” This detailed graphic description of sexual interaction between a man and little boys by these men was designed to challenge logic and fire up the emotions of the audience – and to be fair to the unsusupecting public who could blame them for believing it ?- Most of the public have no real knowledge of Michael Jackson’s life. Most of what they know they read, heard or saw on the news and we all know how slanted the media has been covering this man for decades.

    Leaving Neverland was delivered much like the Jaws movie, replete with dark shadows, haunting music, high camera angles to make the men look small and defenseless .. lots of movie director techiniques to ensnare the emotions. To elicit anger at Michael Jackson, pity for these supposed victims and wonder at how their mothers could’ve allowed such heinous crimes to go on under their very watchful noses.

    Who could fathom, that grown men would sit there and fabricate such awful recollections? Most would think “Surely, they must be telling the truth.”

    And no one seemed to consider or seem to care that perhaps they WERE NOT telling the truth .. That there are motives that have nothing to do with “healing” or “bringing an awareness” or “giving voice” to other CSA survivors, but really have financial gains as the ultimate quest.

    Follow the money — who funded the Documentary?

    Michael was beseiged most of his adult life with people who wanted to bring him down and it looks as if they are still working at it, even 10 years after he departed this earthly plane.

    While Dan Reed and Oprah try to tell us “it isn’t about Michael Jackson” — it is clear that

    its ALL ABOUT Michael Jackson, his Estate, his Brand and his Legacy.

    • Hi MJJJustice Project. Thank you for the kind words, and for all your work. That’s interesting about the “dark shadows, haunting music, high camera angles to make the men look small and defenseless … lots of movie director techniques to ensnare the emotions.” I was so focused on the words that I didn’t pay as much attention as I should to how those words were packaged. Thank you for pointing that out. I have to say, it was effective – lots of “affective and emotional capture,” as Lisha described it. It helps to identify how the filming and editing may have influenced our emotions.

  6. Hi Willa and Lisha, thanks so much for this thoughtful (and *reasoned*) post about *Leaving Neverland*! I hope to compose a response soon, but I’m afraid it may be a bit long-winded for a comment; and some of my observations may be at odds with a few things you’ve expressed here.

    Still, for the time being, here’s an article by Jason King–who’s written elsewhere, eloquently, on Michael Jackson—that speaks to the racial aspects of “Leaving Neverland.” It was one of the group of articles on the film that was put out by Slate:

    “What Leaving Neverland Leaves Out by Ignoring Race”
    “This isn’t a ‘public lynching,’ but this story’s racial dimensions shouldn’t be ignored.”

    King writes:

    “Unfortunately, however, Leaving Neverland offers up a racial spectacle—two white men trashing the reputation of a black man—and then refuses to grapple with that spectacle’s historical dimensions. Don’t get me wrong (or send me hostile letters or tweets): I’m not saying Leaving Neverland amounts to some sort of “mass media lynching”—that phrase meant to connect the public persecution of black celebrities to white mobs’ terroristic practice of hanging black people as a twisted form of entertainment, often in response to dubious allegations of rape. Conflating public accusations of black male celebrities with the ugly history of “lynching” has become a kneejerk response whenever almost any black superstar is accused of sexual crimes—and there’s no shortage of apologists and stans willing to quarantine themselves from factual evidence that those celebrities, almost always male, may have actually been responsible for the heinous acts of which they’re accused.

    “Racial opportunists ranging from Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to R. Kelly to the team behind convicted rapist Bill Cosby have exploited the term as a smokescreen. Now, in the past month, Michael Jackson’s family defended the late singer from Leaving Neverland’s torrent of allegations by labeling the film a “public lynching.”* If the allegations presented in Leaving Neverland (or any other allegations about Jackson) are true, then Jackson’s legacy should be posthumously subject to the full set of consequences we would apply to anyone who committed such reprehensible acts. Michael Jackson was one of the most brilliant, era-defining artists of the 20th century, but I’m not of the mind that he deserves any special treatment if he committed the crimes.

    “Misuse of the “lynching” metaphor, however, shouldn’t deter us from the all too real history of the unjust persecution of black people—from the Scottsboro Boys to Emmett Till to Lena Baker to the Groveland Four and far too many others to name. It is a statistical fact, not the presentation of some disingenuous “race card,” that black Americans are far more likely to be wrongfully convicted of crimes than their white peers. For a reminder of just how persistent this reality is, we need look no further than the current occupant of the White House, who took out newspaper ads calling for the execution of the Central Park Five, and still refuses to apologize for it or to admit he was wrong (even after the men were released, and another man both confessed and was connected to the scene via DNA evidence). Not to mention that the same 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. occupant went on to lead another disproven and racist smear campaign against the nation’s first black president.”

    The full article here:


    • Hi Nina. It’s great to hear from you! Thank you for bringing Jason King’s excellent article into the discussion. I’m hesitant to deny the Jackson family’s characterization of Leaving Neverland as a “public lynching.” It seems to me it fits well within that tradition. But I agree wholeheartedly that race is an essential but ignored element of Leaving Neverland. In fact, I agree with much of King’s article, and think he raises important questions when he writes this:

      Perhaps by invoking issues of race and sexuality, but refusing to address them openly, the filmmakers implicitly understood that doing so would make for more persuasive and more sensational television.

      I also agree with King (and Erni) that homophobia is an important but unstated element of the story – as King writes, “Leaving Neverland surfs on still all-too-prevalent stereotypes about queer men being pedophiles.” This is heightened by the fact that Robson and Safechuck identify as straight, making Michael Jackson’s perceived crimes appear even more monstrous.

      There’s a lot to unpack here….

  7. Thank you so much for posting. All you say is so important.
    Re racism, someone posted online that Elvis Presley once toured with under-age girls. Whether that’s true or not, can you imagine the media going on a rampage against Elvis?
    On another topic, I think the rare good press from the trial is worth showing people now, such as this one by Charles Thomson: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/one-of-the-most-shameful_b_610258. Because otherwise some might say — well the specifics might be wrong but my (deeply held prejudices) say otherwise.
    Also, do you think some of the outrage might be stirred by deals with HBO among other media outlets, maybe with the same owners? Someone posted that theory on the day of or after the film’s release, when Slate Magazine posted about one article hourly in support of the film.
    Very last pent-up thought — have you noticed the stirring up of anger and dismissal toward Michael’s fans?
    Thank you so much again. I always love getting your posts.
    P.S. I haven’t given my full name as I hope it doesn’t have to be posted, but I can give it to you personally if you’d like.

    • Hi Mindy. Thank you for the reminder about Charles’ excellent article. It’s true that many white rock stars, including Elvis, have had a reputation for spending time with underage girls, but prosecutors tend to turn a blind eye to that. However, Chuck Berry – a black pioneer of rock and roll – was sent to prison for, he says, simply giving a lift to an underage hitchhiker. So race does seem to play a role in this. Charles talked about Elvis and Chuck Berry in a post we did with him a few years ago. Here’s a link.

      I don’t know much about the financing for Leaving Neverland, or how that relates to HBO or Slate. I am curious about it though. Lisha has been looking into that a bit – if she finds anything interesting, we’ll be sure to post that information.

      And yes, I have seen the online smack-down of anyone who supports Michael Jackson, or even warns against a rush to judgment. In that sense, it does feel like a type of group hysteria, where opposing voices are either attacked or dismissed without consideration.

  8. Quote Willa: It’s like we as humans create stories, but our stories have also created us. Over the millennia our stories have shaped our minds, our cultures, and our understanding of what it means to be human. As a result, our stories are able to move us emotionally in ways that can be hard to fully understand.

    That people crave stories is in their nature and their development history. There is the book “A Short History of Mankind” by Yuval Harari. In the chapter “The Tree of Knowledge” he describes how man has evolved through telling stories. He writes e.g.

    “A second theory is also based on the assumption that our language to exchange information about the environment. However, according to this theory, people were not able to to talk about lions and buffaloes, but about their conspecifics. In other words, our language serves before all the spread of gossip and gossip. The Homo sapiens is a herd animal, and the cooperation in the group is decisive for survival and reproduction. It is not enough to know where lions and buffaloes are. It is much more important to know who in the group doesn’t like whom, who is in love with whom who sleeps, who’s honest and who steals from others. It’s quite amazing how much information you can take in and in the head to be able to cope with the constantly changing network of relationships between a few dozen people. (In a group of 50 people, there are 1225 relationships of two and a sheer unmanageable number of triangles, quadrilateral and other over-corner relationships.) All types of monkeys have great interest in social information, but none can clap as well as we do…

    … As funny as the gossip theory may sound it’s confirmed by many investigations. Let us not deceive ourselves, our E-mails, telephone conversations or newspaper reports still exist today, mostly gossip. That he could so easily that the language really does come to this I could have developed. You don’t think that historians at lunch will only talk about historical events, or that physicists are having their coffee breaks with discussing quarks? Of course not. They are talking about the professor who’s been about the dispute between the head of the department and the dean, or the rumor that a colleague the research funds of the Studienstiftung will be used to build a Mercedes I bought it. Gossip deals mainly with missteps. The first journalists were gossip ramblers, who were the rest of the group of con men, con men and scroungers. …”

    I don’t want to quote pages by pages here, but it’s incredibly interesting. According to that gossip and gossip make up a big part of being human and is the basis for the further development of the human being.

    Of course we see it differently in the present case … :-/

  9. Thank you Willa. Just think, seemingly no white celebrity in American pop music history has been publicly accused of sexually abusing a minor! Someone posted online, I’m sure ironically, that he was glad he listens to heavy metal because those guys are angels! On a different tack: by implying that sexual abuse belongs in the realm of “the different one,” the freak,” the media denies that abusers are likely to be people we see every day, maybe even people we live with. Maybe that’s part of the terribly unfortunate power of this narrative.

    • P.S. I did not mean to imply he was a “freak” — rather, someone vulnerable to being called that because of being an unusual person. Thank you Stephenson for the Raven link.

      • Hi Mindy. No worries – I understood what you meant! And I agree that casting sexual abusers as “the other” psychologically distances us and “denies that abusers are likely to be people we see every day, maybe even people we live with,” as you say. That’s an important point.

  10. Thanks so much for this blog post! I’m hoping that more and more people will see through this film and that the media will back off their outrageous attacks. Raven Woods has an excellent piece on this “cancel culture,” this rush to judge and then wipe from memory. Also Helena at vindicatemj had written some excellent debunking articles on her blog. Thanks to you and many others, such as Smallcombe and Jackson family members, I hope this film will be ‘cancelled’ rather than Michael’s legacy!

    • Hi stephenson. It’s nice to hear from you again, and thank you for bringing Raven’s article into the discussion. She and Helena have both been doing excellent work, as you say, and I encourage everyone to follow their blogs. The links are provided above, on our Blogroll.

  11. Hello Lisha, hello Willa, how pleasant to hear from you after a long interval.

    “Leaving Neverland” is deplorable, those responsible, and we all can tell who these are, are so base in trying to revive an old story that has been resolved in order to make a huge amount of money out of Michael who isn’t here to defend himself. It is outrageous to have a few subhuman beings be so depraved, they are taking absolute advantage of the fact that a lot of media readers will not take the time to do research and will take all what is offered at par value. It sounds so bitter that human nature is not doing any better and I doubt it ever will. The only silver lining is the amount of articles written by serious scholars who at least try to shed light.

  12. Here is a very interesting video about Leaving Neverland and how it got funded/produced. Apparently, according to this, David Geffen had an advance copy that he showed to Oprah on his yacht before it was shown in the Sundance Festival. Was he involved in funding it somehow? how did he get a copy to show Oprah?

    • Hi stephenson. Thank you for sharing this. I haven’t had a chance to watch the video yet (I was hoping to watch it last night but things got busy…) but I have been wondering where Leaving Neverland came from, why, and why now. Specifically, who came up with the initial idea, and what was the motivation behind it? And who provided financing, as you say?

      IMDB lists nine producers – Dan Reed and eight others, mostly from HBO and Channel 4 – with no mention of David Geffen. It is curious that he had an advance copy, but I think that’s fairly common in Hollywood. I seem to remember reading that Michael Jackson would get advance copies of movies to show in his private movie theater. But to request and get it, Geffen would have to know about it, and few people did apparently before its last-minute addition to the lineup at Sundance.

      Anyway, thank you for sharing the video – I’m eager to hear what it has to say.

  13. Just tried to post a comment but it didn’t appear on the page. So I’m trying again and hope this works. So the issue is why did this film get so much support from Hollywood and the media? And one theory is that it is a deflection from the Harvey Weinstein accusations and trial, now in progress. We know the film was a late entry into the Sundance film Festival, and took the spotlight away from a film on Harvey Weinstein that was also shown there. We also know that Michael Jackson had a very strong intention and desire to be in movies and to make movies. However, in spite of this and his many efforts, it never happened. There is evidence that MJ was deeply disappointed when he was accused of anti-Semitism because of the lyrics to “they don’t care about us.” And he wanted his friends such as Steven Spielberg and David Geffen to defend him but they did not. Then we have Orr of Vanity Fair writing about Michael hiring a Voodoo chief to curse them. Also we have the failed Peter Pan Disney movie in which Michael was supposedly going to star as Peter Pan, a role he would’ve loved. This all fell apart, as was documented by the person who wrote the screenplay, Darlene Caviotto. In light of all this, the fact that David Geffen had a DVD of the Sundance film, before it came on channel 4 or HBO, and showed it to Oprah on her birthday (Jan 30) looks kind of suspicious. In any case, this Is what the video I saw and posted suggests.

    • Hi stephenson, thanks for hanging in there and getting the comment through! Not sure what happened.

      I am interested in this idea that there appears to be a behind-the-scenes film/publishing industry based on deflecting or hiding (catch and kill) sensational stories. Did you remember this 12/5/17 NYT article about Harvey Weinstein’s “complicity machine”? It suggests Weinstein was able to persuade tabloids to focus on publishing sensational stories about others, including Michael Jackson, instead of publishing about him.

      All the points your raise has me thinking about all the obstacles that seemed to appear every time Michael Jackson took a step towards the film industry. Another example is the failed purchase of Marvel, which I think about every time I see another blockbuster based on a Marvel property. Very curious because at one time, it seems Michael Jackson was welcomed in Hollywood as a potential partner, but it also seems he got frozen out at some point. I remember a old Rusty Lemorande interview that states the sensational criminal accusations are a part of that: https://youtu.be/VjPu8kMOtm8

      • Thanks, Lisha. I agree the way Michael was treated by Hollywood was strange given the rejection treatment was there even before the allegations surfaced in 93. The planned Peter Pan movie was shot down in 1990, for example. According to Helena at Vindicatemj, the script written by Craviotto in consultation with MJ was a sham because Disney did not have the rights to the play. Instead, DreamWorks had the rights and proceeded to make “Hook” with Robin Williams. So why did MJ think he would be in this Peter Pan film? this rejection happened around the time of Ryan White’s death, and MJ was suffering from exhaustion, ending up in the hospital. The idea of making movies appears in 93 too—that was Evan Chandler’s agenda when he wanted $20M from MJ to write screenplays a la Men in Tights. Did Hollywood producers have the same attitude of ridicule and contempt toward Michael and his film ambitions that Bill Maher displays in the clip above?

  14. Thank you thank you! Maybe you’ve heard too that in an interview with John Ziegler, Taj Jackson said photos show that at age 17, Safechuck was bigger than Michael Jackson. I’m sure a smaller person can rape a bigger person but that’s not what NL describes. Also, personally I feel that recovered memories are an underdog issue like MJ’s innocence. I’ve known several people who’ve had them — they didn’t forget because the memory was trivial; they blocked the memory because it overwhelmed them with trauma. These people delved into their memories for their own healing, not to go to court for money. I think LN shows that avoiding the claim of recovered memories is not enough to prove the honesty of any accuser.

  15. I’m thinking about the parallels between the way the media is treating Trump and the way they treated Michael Jackson and the way the media allegations become the basis for all kinds of lawsuits and legal actions including now impeachment. The fact that Michael and Trump were friends I think is important here. I think we have to acknowledge as Michael Jackson fans, regardless of how we feel about Trump, that he was a good friend to Michael Jackson and defended him against those horrible allegations at a time when few would stand up and make statements that Michael was innocent, including his ex-wife. In any case I just find the whole present circumstances kind of surreal in that here we have Trump saying the press is the enemy of the people or at least the fake news press is the enemy of the people and such a parallel to Michael’s attacks against what he called filthy press. Just wondering if anybody else feels the same about these parallels and surreal “fingers of fate”?

  16. MJ is the highest earning deceased celebrity still, despite the “documentary.” Forbes discusses:


  17. Nina Fonoroff

    I wasn’t sure where to post this thought, and I have a lot of reading to catch up on; notably Willa’s most recent series!

    But for now, I just want to say this. Currently, Minneapolis former police officer Derek Chauvin is on trial for the murder of George Floyd. I sincerely hope he is convicted.

    I believe that Chauvin and other people in law enforcement–who’ve engaged in similar actions—poses a vastly greater threat to Michael Jackson’s legacy than Wade Robson, James Safechuck, or anyone like them.

    • That’s so interesting Nina! I’ve actually been thinking about this too. Really curious to know more your take on this. Why does it pose a “greater threat” than the Robson/Safechuck criminal accusations? Aren’t both of these tragic events a racialized projection of the brute caricature?

  18. Lisha, it’s a mere three days after we posted. And again—just yesterday–there was another police killing of a black man, Daunte Wright, outside of Minneapolis.

    I’ll try to respond thoughtfully to your question soon. My comment was prompted by many thoughts I’ve had over the years about the role race played on Michael Jackson’s legal travails, and how to bring these realities into conversation with scores, or hundreds, of people who became famous for entirely different reasons than Michael Jackson did.

    These people—“the least of them”—warrant our calls for justice, first and foremost. I’ll try to talk about it more presently, but right now I’m so angry I don’t think I can even remain civil.

    • Be well Nina! This is getting intense and I agree we all need to step back from time to time just to protect our own sanity. Look forward to hearing from you soon. In the mean time I am sending my best.

  1. Pingback: „Leaving Neverland“: Warum wollt ihr mich fertigmachen? | all4michael

  2. Pingback: Leaving Neverland & The Real Michael Jackson | The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies | ISSN: 2452-0497

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