Justice vs. Jackson: The Leaving Neverland Documentary


Serenity Cray, Senior Editor

On January 25, 2019, a two-part documentary aired on Channel 4 about Michael Jackson’s alleged sexual abuse. The chilling documentary features two men, James Safechuck and Wade Robson, who claim that they were sexually abused by Jackson during their childhood. Each part of the documentary features two hours of disturbing details about the men’s relationships with Jackson. Jackson had always been a controversial character during his career, and it continues now even after his death. The series has caused a wave of uproar among the media and the music industry. The long debates about the documentary call on a question of morality: Why accuse a man when he cannot defend himself? I find it hard to answer this question myself due to the lack of hard evidence throughout the film.

Part 1 of the documentary, Leaving Neverland, tells the stories of Wade Robson and James Safechuck and how they came to form a close relationship with the musical icon. Robson was a superfan of Jackson, recreating his dance moves and performing in dance competitions. Jackson made contact with Wade after seeing his dance videos on T.V. From there, the two became inseparable. James Safechuck met Jackson on the set of a Pepsi commercial, and that is where Jackson’s infatuation with the boy started. The two stories play out almost identically. Jackson formed close relationships with not only the boys but with their families, offering them money, vacations, and opportunities beyond belief.

As Jackson grew close to the boys and their families, he invited them to his infamous Neverland Ranch, where, according to Robson and Safechuck’s timeline in the documentary, Jackson began abusing them. Both men go into graphic detail about their intimate moments with Michael Jackson, which I found disturbing. Though Jackson prayed on these little boys, I had a blatant frustration with the parents of James and Wade. How could parents allow their 7-year-old child to sleep in the same bed as a popstar they barely knew? The only answer I could come up with was that these parents were so blinded by the stardom of Jackson that they didn’t even notice how highly inappropriate the situation was. It shows just how idiotic people can be when money and fame start to be introduced into their life.

After the uncomfortable testimonies of sexual abuse, both Wade and James describe the ways in which Jackson made sure they did not tell anyone about the encounters. Safechuck quotes Jackson saying “that he and I would go to jail for the rest of our lives if anyone found out.” At this moment, I believed that what these two men were saying was the truth. There is an authority that pedophiles have over their victims to keep them quiet, and that appears to be the authority that Jackson had over them. Jackson made both boys believe that this is how he showed his love and affection towards them. Robson and Safechuck openly admit that they did love Jackson and felt connected to him. Part 1 of Leaving Neverland ends with their unsettling testimony of the sexual abuse.

Part 2 of the documentary delves deep into the lives of Wade Robson and James Safechuck as they grow up. Jackson invited other boys to the Neverland Ranch, including Home Alone star Macaulay Culkin. At Neverland, Jackson held mass sleepovers with all the boys, and Culkin seemed to be Jackson’s newest interest. Again, I questioned why anyone allowed multiple young boys sleep in the same bed as Michael Jackson. Jackson liked to switch between boys every so often. In 1993, one of the boys he had seen, Jordan Chandler, filed a sexual abuse lawsuit against Jackson, claiming that the star had been sexually abusing him. Out of all the boys, Chandler was the first to bring the matter before a court of law. The next part of the documentary was when things started to become unclear. Jackson bribed Wade Robson to deny any acts of sexual abuse. This is where I started to question the credibility if Robson’s testimony. Technically, Robson lied under oath, which swayed viewers to believe he is only telling his story now for monetary gain and fame. I understand both sides of whether or not the allegations are true. Why would Wade lie under oath just to later bring it to the public? At the same time, how could Robson fabricate such an intricate relationship with Jackson? Both sides of the argument present local questions. The one thing that stood out in the documentary, which leads me to believe the allegations are true, was the sense of emotion both men presented when describing their unconventional relationship with Jackson. Though he sexually abused them, Robson and Safechuck loved him in a deep way.

The last hour of the documentary reveals how the sexual abuse impacted the lives of Wade and James. In 2003, when Jackson was yet again sued for sexual abuse, the parents of Wade and James started to finally understand that there must be some truth behind the allegations if Jackson was getting convicted a second time. Jackson yet again asked Wade and James to testify, and Wade did, while Jame declined the invitation. The conversations between Michael and the boys are what I found so profoundly unsettling. He promised them so many things in return if they testified for him in court.

Right around the trial was when Jackson started to fall ill. As Robson and Safechuck spoke around the star’s death, I felt a wave of uncomfortable sadness. Both men seemed to suffer from Stockholm Syndrome due to the fact that Jackson made them feel important. Now that he was gone, it almost made them feel like their lives were meaningless. I find it sad that both men felt such a sense of great loss when Jackson died, though he had abused them for almost seven years. The documentary shows how, after Jackson’s death, Wade and James took years to process the death.

Now that these men are coming forward, they feel that it was their fault that Jackson chose them. Whether the documentary is truthful or not, both Robson and Safechuck continue to cope with the situation and help each other rebuild after their life-altering childhoods. The two men have moved on with their life after Jackson but not without grave consequences. Their relationship with Jackson, whether sexual or not, was as intimate as two people can be with one another.

The documentary has opened my eyes, and I question if Jackson was a pedophile who preyed on little boys. Jackson can no longer speak for himself, which is what made the documentary so controversial. There are so many reasons to believe the two men, but no incriminating evidence. True or not, this documentary has shown me the lengths people will go for fame and fortune. This documentary not only allowed the alleged victims to come forward after years of lies, but helped them start to come to terms with this abusive childhood and, though he is dead, there must be some justice against Jackson.