Neverland is Hard to Leave: Why Cancelling Michael Jackson Isn’t a Viable Option
The words “Michael Jackson” and “idol” are synonymous. Without a doubt, Jackson is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, musician of all time. For nearly 40 years, he dominated airwaves around the world, redefining pop culture. By the time of his death, it was clear to all the indelible mark he left on our society. With a carefully crafted image of a soft-spoken, shy, and generous humanitarian, Jackson was able to transform, seemingly overnight, into something of a mythical status. But the newest documentary has seemingly shattered that status, lifting the curtain on the Michael we thought we knew, revealing a much more morbid and haunted figure.
The documentary Leaving Neverland debuted January 25th at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, stunning the audience. The documentary centers around the testimony of Wade Robson and James Safechuck, two of Jackson’s biggest accusers. With four hours of extremely morbid details regarding Jackson’s interactions with them, the documentary manages to effectively destroy whatever was left of Jackson’s already troubled legacy. Despite the documentary following closely behind the even more damning Surviving R-Kelly documentary, it wasn’t received the same. Jackson’s seemingly mythical status is once again acting as his shield, absolving him of any blame sent his way. But it’s time we understood that our beloved Peter Pan is not the person he thought he was. Jackson may have been a genius but he was extremely troubled.
In 1993 and then again in 2003, Jackson was hit with damning accusations of child molestation. The charges themselves were no joke and the allegations were career-ending if they proved to be true. 2003 proved to be his darkest moment when allegations resulted in an arrest and a full-blown trial. The entire world watched as America’s beloved icon was put on trial. In the end, Jackson was declared innocent and the entire world clapped, rejoicing in the idea that the star was innocent. But as the newest documentary proves, we were all wrong to cheer for Jackson and his apparent innocence.
The ugly reality is that Michael Jackson did not get off because he was innocent. Chances are, he was guilty of every single one of the charges and actually did deserve to pay for the damages he caused. The real reason Michael Jackson got off was because he was Michael Jackson, an icon who somehow attained a larger than life status that absolved him of any wrongdoing. And that is exactly why he can never be “canceled.”
As one of the most photographed and talked about entertainers, Jackson redefined what it meant to be a celebrity in the 1980s. With the help of his devoted, and at times overzealous, fan base, Jackson became larger than life, which played to his advantage big time as he found himself in court. Every single day outside the Santa Barbara courthouse, legions of his devoted fans stood outside chanting his name. Jackson used this to his advantage, playing up his stardom by waving, throwing peace signs, and even getting on top of a car and giving a “performance.” Using his innate charm and warm personality, Jackson proved to those inside and outside the courthouse that he couldn’t possibly be guilty of the charges being brought against him. His performances ultimately proved to be successful, as he was acquitted of all charges and sent home. Jackson once again proved to the world the true power of his stardom- he got away once again.
And nearly a decade after his tragic passing, Jackson has still been able to cling to his mythical status. The reception of the documentary proves this single-handedly. Those who have watched the documentary report the horrors it reveals, claiming no one will ever look or listen to Jackson the same way again. Some have even gone as far as to say that listening to Jackson may not even be possible after this. But the reality is that’s just simply untrue. The details in the recent documentary may be more in-depth and might be harder to ignore, but they aren’t new. We as a society have been able to ignore the allegations he faced in life and listen to his music, so why would a new documentary suddenly force us to change? Had these allegations be thrown at anyone else, the singer would be in jail and his musical career would be tarnished. But because we are dealing with Michael Jackson, the rulebook is different.
The reality is that no one wants to cancel Jackson because he is one of the few entertainers that belongs to us all. Everyone can remember the first song we heard from him, the first video he saw of him. But we are so caught up in his extreme stardom that he can’t separate Michael the person from Michael the singer. He may have been the greatest entertainer of all time, but he was still a morbid human being with a sick and twisted mentality. It’s time we as a society stop dividing him in half in an attempt to divert the blame. The man in the mirror is not at all who he thought he was and it’s time we finally understood that.
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