The one white sequin glove. The slanted fedora. The moonwalk. Everyone knows the man and the legend that is the King of Pop. With over millions of albums sold as of 2020, there is no denying that Michael Jackson was an incredible artist and performer who continues to entertain the masses, even posthumously. He not only had flare for infusing different genres and breaking music boundaries and creating mini films for his videos, he was known for his extravagant lifestyle too. From Bubbles the chimpanzee to the purchase of his now infamous Neverland ranch, Jackson lived a life of extravagance. However, this act of indulgence led to many alleged questionable practices that lead to a shadow being cased on the entertainer.
In recent years with the #MeTooMovement gaining mass momentum and media coverage, the music industry has come under scrutiny for many alleged abuse scandals. From R. Kelly, Pierce The Veil‘s Mike Fuentes to Tekashi 6ix9ine; Jackson is among those who’s past has been brought to the surface to be re-examined.
Throughout his life, Jackson had been plagued with child molestation and abuse accusations which started in August 1993. In the following month, Jackson was sued by the same family who made said accusations. Additionally, his estranged sister LaToya Jackson claimed that the allegations were true later that same year.
In September 1994, prosecutors announced that they were filing charges against Jackson’s alleged involvement with three underaged boys. Said charges were later dropped.
In February 2003, the Living with Michael Jackson documentary aired in the US and UK, re-igniting the alleged child molestation claims and ignited criminal investigations. As the title suggests, the documentary followed Jackson’s life for around a year in the early 2000s and in particular, highlighted his friendships and interactions with children. Once the documentary aired, Jackson had issued a statement to defend himself and claimed that he was betrayed by journalist Martin Bishmir for the negative portrayal of him. However, Jackson was arrested in November 2003 and eventually indited by Santa Barbra police on 10 criminal accounts pertaining to his interactions with young boys.
Following his arrest in 2003, Jackson was put on trial for allegations brought against him in early 2005. Later that year, Jackson is acquitted on all charges.
Posthumously, Wade Robson and James Safechuck had pursued suits against the Jackson estate in 2013-14 and were subsequently dismissed in 2015 for Robson and 2017 for Safechuch by L.A. County Superior Court on the grounds of the victims waiting too long to file their claims.
Then in 2019, HBO released a 2 part documentary titled Leaving Neverland (directed by Dan Reed) that focused on Robson and Safechuck when they were underage boys. Throughout the 2 part series, Robson and Safechuck describe in detail the ordeal they were subjected to as well as accounts from their family. Following the allegations highlighted in the documentary, fashion house Louis Vuitton decided to discontinue their Jackson-inspired designs.
However, it must be highlighted that documentaries are constructed to tell a story that the director wishes for viewers to see. It has been noted that the Jackson family estate released a statement in response to the largely critically well received documentary Leaving Neverland, stating: ‘the creators of this film were not interested in the truth. They never interviewed a single solitary soul who knew Michael except the two perjurers and their families.’
Since Leaving Neverland aired, Michael Jackson: Chasing the Truth (directed by Jordon Hill) was created and aired to counter-act the claims made in Reed’s documentary. Unlike R.Kelly, Jackson has been dead for over 10 years and cannot speak to defend himself. So, in Hill’s documentary, audiences got to hear from those close to Jackson and examine evidence from both sides of the story.
According to The Guardian, Jackson’s father, Joe Jackson, allegedly used to beat his children and caused Jackson to remain in a child-like state known as ‘Peter Pan Syndrome’. Jackson addresses his own fascination with children, stating that he wished to live vicariously through them because he wanted to give them ‘the childhood [he]missed [himself].’ In 2003 Jackson repeatedly denied these allegations, stating in the Living with Michael Jackson documentary that the allegations against him were false as his special friendship with underage boys were ‘not sexual.’
Furthermore, as recent as Feb 2020, former child star, Macaulay Culkin came out to defend his friend to state that ‘he [Jackson] never did anything to me […] I’d have no reason to hold anything back.’ Culkin has previously defended Jackson on multiple occasions.
Since the #MeTooMovement movement prolifically ignited calls for the re-examination of artists such as those already mentioned, many radio stations across the world started to drop air play of Jackson. In contrast, streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music did not remove him from suggested playlists (like they did for R.Kelly) or remove his music altogether. Whether or not audiences believe the allegations or not, these services wanted to offer those who use their platform a choice.
If you or anyone you know have been affected by this story, the following services are able to help:
- National Domestic Abuse Helpline – www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk
- NSPCC – www.nspcc.org.uk
- Supportline – www.supportline.org.uk
- The Survivors Trust – www.thesurvivorstrust.org