So I have been thinking about this post for a long time.
When I got married in 2010, prior to the wedding, we were discussing possible song choices for out first dance. One of my suggestions had been ‘Rock with You’ by Michael Jackson, to which my husband objected saying that he didn’t want our first dance to be sung by a paedophile. This led us to discuss the allegations and he said, “what the fuck is a grown ass man doing in bed with young boys that are not his own children?” I had no response, other than, “yeah man, that is kinda fucked up”. Until that point, I had been quite willing to listen and absorb a lot of the media wizardry about him being ‘child like’ and just ‘loving kids so much’. I don’t know why this particular conversation jolted me, but it did and I had a changed perception of Michael Jackson. I had discussions with my best friend about it, who like me had readily accepted the notion that he was a victim of his own kindness and people were out to sabotage his fame and legacy. Back then, I was admittedly a happy fan of his music, now I am a mother of two boys.
Earlier this month, I like so many millions, watched the Dan Reed documentary Leaving Netherland. It was four gruelling, harrowing and difficult hours of television. Wade Robson and James Safechuck discussed in detail, the way in which their families and they as children were seduced by Michael Jackson and how he sexually abused them. Watching this was emotionally painful; after the first episode, my husband suggested that I not watch the second one because he is aware of how deeply troubled and emotional things like this make me. But I felt compelled to watch it. For years I had been willing to accept the version of the truth that was fed to me and I felt like I owed it to these brave men to hear their truth and expose the secrets they had felt bound by.
I know that there are many people who are unclear and are not sure whether they believe the accounts, especially as they are suing the Jackson Estate for millions. I am not one of those people. I wholeheartedly believe Robson and Safechuck. Listening to them discuss the ways in which they were manipulated and abused by Michael Jackson and the stardom that surrounded him made my chest tighten with pain and anxiety. Watching Oprah Winfrey’s interview with them also helped me to understand the seductive nature of peadophiles, they are not always men in vans waiting outside school, although I know that is true, they are also people who appear as friendly, kind people who lure the entire family into a false sense of trust and security. I find this terrifying.
Mannn, I don’t know what to say. Michael Jackson and his music will not be playing in my house. It saddens me as I had so many fond memories of my youth attached to the songs. I am aware that lots of other people worked on his music and they are not all peadophiles, but I cannot shake the feeling of disgust and violation when I think about him. My protective mothering instinct wants my children as far away from that as I can and if that means avoiding him from our Spotify playlists, I’m okay with that. I haven’t spent hours researching the psychology of men like this, but I think it’s pretty well documented that Michael Jackson had a difficult and troubled childhood. I don’t want to trivialise or minimise the trauma that he may have suffered in his lifetime because I am sure there is much to be told there too. But he was an adult manipulating, molesting and abusing young boys knowingly. Making them keep it a secret, making them feel rejection once they were not the ‘favourite’ ones anymore. The resonating and lasting psychological damage of that is so fucked up I can’t even weave through the myriad of feelings and thoughts I have because they are so mixed with disgust, fear, sadness and anger.
In truth, I don’t think Michael Jackson can be deleted. Instead, for me, he has a very different context surrounding him. This context means that I can never look at him or his music with the blinkered view I allowed myself to for so many years.
Have you watched the documentary? What were your thought? Can you separate the music from the man? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.