Leaving Neverland: Michael Jackson's Accusers Speak Out 🎤

Taylor Jewell / Invision / AP / REX / Shutterstock

Taylor Jewell / Invision / AP / REX / Shutterstock

Past: the accusations

Back in 1993, Michael Jackson was accused by dentist Evan Chandler of sexually abusing his 13-year-old son, Jordan Chandler. At the time, two boys, Wade Robson and Jimmy Safechuck, testified in defense of Jackson. The matter was settled out of court for $23 million.

Present: documentaries & the revival of accusations

A 2003 documentary, "Living with Michael Jackson," revived accusations against Jackson. Then in 2013 and 2014, after Jackson’s death, Robson and Safechuck both accused Jackson of sexual abuse. Their allegations are dealt with in the 2-part HBO documentary, “Leaving Neverland,” released this January, sparking huge backlash and controversy.


AGAINST JACKSON:

Quartzy: “Leaving Neverland” leaves no room for doubt about Michael Jackson

New York Times: Michael Jackson Cast a Spell. ‘Leaving Neverland’ Breaks It.

Sources arguing against Jackson highlight the similarities between the two different accusers' accounts, as well as the details that point toward premeditated abuse (as opposed to abuse unwittingly prompted by a skewed vision of right and wrong). These details include the purchase of a ring. They also assert that Jackson’s super-stardom made it possible for him to avoid major scrutiny.

FOR JACKSON:

Variety: Michael Jackson 'never touched me inappropriately,' Cory Feldman insists

Washington Examiner: I don’t believe Michael Jackson’s accusers in ‘Leaving Neverland’


Sources arguing for Jackson generally pick apart Robson and Safechuck's motives and analyze details (such as the ring, arguing that the trauma should have prompted Safechuck to dispose of it). Sources also highlight a huge fandom reaction to the documentary. Criticism unpacks various ulterior motives (for example, highlightingRobson’s rejection from directing Jackson’s tribute show as a reason for retaliation) and calls the documentary one-sided.


Future: How will this affect Jackson's legacy?

The release of the documentary has prompted a revival of accusations against Jackson, and for a new generation of listeners. Anticipating the documentary's release, the Michael Jackson estate cancelled the Chicago debut of a new musical about Jackson's early years. It is unclear whether this was an effect of the revived accusation narrative, and it is yet to be seen whether a broader trend of cancellations and denouncements will follow.

Jackson's reputation might have a hard time moonwalking out of this one.

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