I was never a fan of Michael Jackson, or the Jackson Five out of which he emerged as the superstar. I wouldn’t have bothered to watch Leaving Neverland, the HBO documentary, except for all the buzz. I did watch the first two hour segment on Sunday night, and it was stomach churning.
Two things struck me. One is that normal parental caution seems to evaporate when celebrity is involved. If you take out the name “Michael Jackson”, what sane parent would let a seven year old boy sleep overnight in the same bed as a 30+ year old man who wanted to be the boy’s “friend”? What parent would willingly be in a different bedroom in another part of the house or even in another building? I suppose it isn’t just celebrity, but also power or status. I imagine the boys that were abused by pedophile priests came from families who were initially proud that their child was the one drawing the favor of “Father So-and-So”.
The second observation is that Michael Jackson’s classic predatory behavior took place in full view of the children’s parents, Jackson’s extensive entourage and his house staff, the entertainment media and the public. On what planet is it normal for a grown man to be constantly trailed by a young boy, holding hands with the boy, dressing the boy in the star’s childhood clothing or a facsimile of the star’s glittering adult outfits, hugging and kissing the boy? Didn’t anyone wonder why these children weren’t in school, playing with other children, going home at night with their families? What in the world did those who watched Michael Jackson think was going on?
Michael Jackson was born in 1958, and died of an overdose in 2009. The two boys profiled in Leaving Neverland were under Jackson’s spell in the 1980’s, and there apparently was a new boy just about every year thereafter. I don’t think it’s enough to say we saw things — or failed to see them — with different eyes back then. I think this story is horrifying.
I suppose I’ll watch Monday night’s segment too, even though the Ick Factor is off the charts. Shame on Michael Jackson, and shame on everyone who covered and is still covering for him. All the talent in the world doesn’t excuse years of sexually assaulting little boys.