Leaving Neverland and Belief
Like seemingly everyone else in the world, I have been deeply immersed in the heartbreaking psychodrama of Leaving Neverland, HBO’s explosive, two-part, four hour long documentary series chronicling the unconscionable sexual abuse two young boys endured at the hands of Michael Jackson.
I can’t properly say that I am surprised by the revelations contained within Leaving Neverland. To paraphrase the title of another shocking documentary about the insidious nature of child molestation, Jackson was hiding in plain sight. But there’s a difference between suspecting that someone might be a pedophile and being confronted with extensive, seemingly incontrovertible proof that they groomed and molested children.
Before Leaving Neverland, I had convinced myself that the case against Michael Jackson was damning but inconclusive. Sure, there was ample evidence that Jackson was a prolific and remorseless child molester but I told myself there was plenty of evidence on the other side as well. After all, he’d been found innocent in a court of law and folks like Corey Feldman and Macauley Culkin had vouched for him.
When it came to Michael Jackson and child molestation I was an agonistic: maybe he did it. Maybe he did not. I could not say for sure one way or the other. Looking back, I think I tricked myself into believing Jackson’s possible innocence because on a deep, if subconscious level, I desperately wanted the charges not to be true.
As someone who is still trying to hold onto his rapidly waning faith in humanity and man’s fundamental decency, the idea that literally the greatest entertainer of the twentieth century, a man so spectacularly talented that his gifts legitimately seemed miraculous, even superhuman, would use those astonishing gifts and the unprecedented fame, money and power that came with them to rape little boys, and molest little boys, and play sadistic head games with little boys, seems too monstrous and horrifying to even contemplate, let alone acknowledge as brutal fact.
I wanted to believe that Jackson wasn’t guilty of the unthinkable transgressions he’s almost assuredly guilty of because I did not want to lose the sense of joy and happiness and nostalgia that came with listening to Jackson’s music and watching him move like no one had ever moved before.
I was not alone in that respect. When Michael Jackson shocked the world by dying young from an overdose it felt as if all of his sins instantly vanished and we got back the Michael Jackson of our dreams and our childhood, an astonishingly talented man-child who overcame incredible obstacles to become the greatest entertainer in the world and a friend to children and dreamers everywhere.
We collectively decided to forget about all of the evidence that Jackson was a pedophile. We chose instead to remember the good times, the awesome dance moves and songs that formed the soundtrack of our lives.
Leaving Neverland has made that impossible. It has robbed us of our delusions about Michael Jackson and his fundamental character. It has eliminated any element of doubt in my mind. I can’t say maybe he did it and maybe he did not because it now seems screamingly apparent that Jackson is guilty.
The incredible joy Jackson once brought us has morphed into something dark and sinister and almost too grim to even acknowledge.
Jackson preyed on innocence and vulnerability, on our love for him overriding our judgment and suspicion that he was very publicly behaving exactly like what he ultimately was: a pedophile and child molester.
It’s not easy to let go of someone who has been such a huge part of American culture for the last half-decade but it’s become absolutely necessary. I should never have given Jackson the benefit of the doubt in the first place. WE should not have given Jackson the benefit of the doubt in the first place but I will not make that mistake again because sometimes what we want to believe makes it impossible to acknowledge the ugly, brutal truth even when it’s right in front of us.
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