A year ago on this day, the whole world would honor the memory of Michael Jackson. At all radio stations, his hits would sound, the gloss would analyze his contribution to fashion, and celebrities would write one after another on instagram about how the king of pop music influenced their work. After the child molestation scandal, pop culture seems to have struck out Michael's name. On the musician’s birthday, we’ll find out how to deal with the legacy of your favorite performers who turned out to be criminals.
First, let's recall what happened. On March 4, 2019, HBO released a four-hour documentary, “Leaving Neverland,” investigating Michael Jackson's sexual crimes. This was not a surprise. For the first time, the musician was accused in 1993 – then the family of the teenager Jordan Chandler sued him for child molestation. The singer pleaded not guilty, but agreed to pay $ 22 million in damage. At the trial, the heroes of the new HBO film, then still 10-year-old Wade Robson and 14-year-old James Seyfchak, were also questioned as witnesses. Both denied any sexual relations with the musician. And so, after 25 years, they decided to speak – and not with the help of a lawsuit in court, but with the help of a scandalous film that forever changed the attitude towards the musician.
In the first week alone, 3.6 million viewers watched it, making it the third most popular documentary in the last decade. Radio stations in Canada stopped broadcasting Jackson’s songs, Broadway canceled his musical, and Drake removed the track from the album, inspired by the musician’s legacy. 2 months before the release of the film, Virgil Abloo dedicated the Louis Vuitton men's collection to Michael Jackson, but because of the scandal, things did not even go on sale. This leads to questions: can we admire the work of a person who does unacceptable things? Is it possible to hang pictures of Hitler at home or admire the films of Woody Allen, knowing that he was a rapist?
Today, in the era of #MeToo and inclusiveness at all costs, even a randomly dropped phrase is worth a career. Remember at least the fate of John Galliano after his anti-Semitic statements – the designer was immediately dismissed from Dior, and the 2011 scandal is still remembered at any opportunity. Something worse was waiting for photographers Bruce Weber and Mario Testino: after accusations of sexual harassment, they left the industry because no one wanted to work with them. In the case of Jackson, things are more serious. Firstly, we cannot deny that he was the king of the pop scene, and secondly, we are talking about pedophilia.
“Michael Jackson was one of the kindest and most loving people I knew. He really helped me with my career and creativity, ”Robson said. “But I have also been sexually abused by him for seven years.” In the film, Robson and Seyfchak talk about the violence experienced at a young age (they were 7 and 10 years old) and how this influenced their future life. Now Robson is 36, Seyfchak is 41. Both raise sons, fight depression and try not to blame anyone for what happened. “It didn’t seem strange to us, because he was like God,” they said in an interview.
Jackson's family, like the musician himself a decade earlier, denies all the allegations: “Facts do not lie, unlike people. "Michael Jackson was and will always be 100% innocent of these false accusations."
Indeed, the facts do not lie. Michael Jackson played a fictitious wedding with a 7-year-old boy and had pajama parties with the children while their parents enjoyed the first-class holiday presented by the musician. If you believe the testimonies of the victims, the singer forced 7-year-old Robson to oral sex, and with Seyfchak was in a relationship almost until he came of age.
The death of the singer in 2009 overshadowed all doubts about his innocence, which were already obvious then. Jackson received lawsuits in 1993, 2003 and 2005, and according to a survey, most Americans believed that the allegations were true. In an interview, the singer said that he did not see anything strange in the fact that a 44-year-old man slept in the same bed with underage boys. He made the Neverland Ranch a paradise for all children: after all, why does an adult need an amusement park, a sightseeing wheel and a Disney-style tram depot? Jackson created a place where something happened that, judging by the name of the ranch, never happened. Accident or evil irony?
After the death of the singer, everyone suddenly forgot about his ambiguous statements and obvious facts, and the court always found the musician innocent. Nevertheless, the answer to the question was before our eyes. The director of the film, Dan Reed, only pointed out to us the obvious.
To listen or not to listen is a personal matter. Some of Jackson's fans staged protests like The Michael Jackson Innocent Project, while others do not admit that they are still listening to his songs. And although only a court proves guilt or innocence, society has already reached its verdict, having deleted Jackson from the list of idols. But we cannot deny his contribution to music and pop culture: millions of fans around the world, 13 Grammys and the status of the richest of the deceased musicians speak for themselves.
We must not forget that pop culture is driven by society. Therefore, it is “popular”, because it is quoted and recognized by the majority. From the “king of the priest,” Jackson became a marginal, having crossed his legacy with immoral acts. After all, no matter how we try to separate the author’s personality from his work, listening to Billy Jean without recalling the scandal is no longer possible.
See also: “Weinstein Effect”: How one deceitful producer changed the whole of Hollywood