Jack Williams is a junior journalism major and writes “Sharp Around the Edges” for The Ball State Daily News. His views do not necessarily agree with those of the newspaper. Write to Jack at email@example.com.
Editor’s note: This article contains information about sexual assault or violence which may be triggering to survivors.
When I was eight, people called me weird for liking Michael Jackson. I would dance around the house to songs like “Beat It,” “Bad,” “Billie Jean” and “Smooth Criminal” blasting through the earphones on my iPod Shuffle.
When I was 11, I went with my friends to see “This Is It,” a behind-the-scenes documentary on Jackson’s upcoming tour. I sat there with my 3D glasses on and popcorn in hand wondering what could’ve been if he hadn’t died. It was amazing to see the evolution of Jackson from '80s pop icon to a modern day king of pop.
Now, at 21, watching the HBO documentary "Leaving Neverland," I am left speechless and in shock by the gruesome detail from his alleged victims. I knew what he had been accused of before watching the documentary, but now I can't even look at him without thinking about what he allegedly did to those two children, and maybe even more. The manipulation he was said to have used on those children is inexcusable and he is undeserving of respect from anyone.
The four-hour documentary tells the story of two boys, Wade Robinson and James Safechuck. Both came from middle-class families, with Robinson from Australia and Safechuck from the United States. Both were Jackson fans who caught the attention of the singer and were befriended by him.
When Safechuck was 10 and Robinson was seven, Jackson alledegly began to sexaully abuse the two boys.
Jackson allegedly used his power and stance to manipulate these kids into thinking what he was doing was normal and OK. Their parents were so starstruck that their children were friends with Jackson and by how innocent he came off as, they didn’t worry about their sons sleeping in the same bed as a grown man.
Some might think that his alleged sexual interactions with young boys over the course of 20 years has nothing to do with his music, and that his music and being accused of molestation are separate occurrences. This is not the case at all; because of who he was, he was able to target these young boys.
While all of this is sick and disgusting, there is one aspect that stands out as the most appalling: he allegedly told them that if whatever they did got out they would both go to jail and never see each other again. I struggle to put into words how wrong and disgusting that is. It gives me the chills.
They couldn’t consent. They were young and didn’t know what was happening, but Jackson did. Safechuck and Robinson said in the documentary that he preyed on them by being their friends, manipulating them into a loving relationship with him and taking advantage of them numerous times.
Even when they had the chance to speak up in 2005 when Jackson was put on trial, what he is believed to have engraved into their minds forced them to stay silent and lie. While Safechuck refused to speak in court, Robinson, from what he stated in the documentary, stood trial for Jackson and lied.
This is a man who allegedly used his position in society to get what he wanted: to molest little boys. It may look as if this situation is held in the same regards as what Kevin Spacey or Harvey Weinstein did, but it’s not even close. While Spacey, who took advantage of younger boys, and Weinstein, who targeted his female co-workers, used their power in society to target, Jackson allegedly groomed his victims to make them think what he did was OK. Jackson knew that these kids loved him and that their families knew who he was and he played up on that.
If the allegations are true, the why should we respect someone who used his fame to do unthinkable things to innocent children? They wanted to be his friend and, if the allegations are true, he knew what he was doing to them. Why should we continue to listen to “The Way You Make Me Feel” or watch the “Thriller” music video when we know what he is accused of?
What Jackson allegedly did and what he may have gotten away with for so many years should leave a permanent gash in his overall reputation.
“Bad” and “Dangerous” were two of my favorite albums when I was younger. Now, I cannot even look at the cover knowing that’s when Robinson and Safechuck were allegedly targeted. That frizzy, black hair that Jackson was known for in the late '80s and early '90s, was described by Robinson in gruesome detail when Jackson allegedly asked him to pull it when Jackson was performing oral sex on a young Robinson.
A person's work reflects who they are and their success. These works allowed Jackson to climb to where he was in society and seemingly get away with everything he’s alleged to have done to those boys. His success built his power and silenced his alleged victims for years. We not only need to leave Jackson’s Neverland of music and alleged sexual abuse, but we need to decry it.