Original Air Date
March 3, 2019
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Like in a fairytale, "Leaving Neverland" starts with a wonderful dream-like story. The parallel story of two young and innocent boys. Wade Robson and James (Jimmy) Safechuck. The two boys would cross Michael Jackson’s path, one by chance (Jimmy starring in a Pepsi commercial with Michael) and one by envy (Wade wins a dance competition to meet his favorite artist).
What is very intelligent is that the director takes his time to tell the two stories. It is through their eyes that we will discover who was Michael Jackson. Interestingly, the two boys, now adults, start by saying that Jackson was one of the kindest person they ever met. Jackson would invite them on stage, in tours, would give them money.
Suddenly, the life of two middle class families, one from Australia and one from America, are blessed with the power of fame, celebrity and money. They fly first class, are met by a limousine with a chauffeur, get to meet other celebrities.
Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s, Michael Jackson was the single biggest star on Earth. There is no stars like him today, as explains Jimmy at one point:
“There’s no stars like that now, that kind of megastar.”
Entering Michael Jackson's world was like entering into a Walt Disney fairytale, only real. The mothers explain that they met some of their own idols, such as Harrison Ford, George Lucas or Sean Connery. This feels a bit like when the young boy enters the world of Arnold Schwarzenegger in Last Action Hero. All the kids have heroes: musicians, actors, writers, and meeting your true idol is something surreal.
Michael Jackson fell in love with those children, literally. In a sick way. Jimmy mentions “infatuation”, which is a pretty eloquent way to describe it. Michael would fall for these children the way a young male star would fall for young women, only to throw them away soon after.
This is the story of a fairytale that ends as a horror tragedy.
The mothers are very important in the stories, as they are crucial people. If Jackson wanted to sleep with a women, all he needed was to say the word. Here, it is way more complex for him, as he has to lure the parents and especially the caring mothers. Being a pedophile is not an easy task.
It’s only forty minutes into the first part of the documentary that things start to become really sad. The beloved super-star with a big heart transforms itself into a monster. As another abuser would say, Kevin Spacey in the film The Usual Suspects, “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was to convince the world he didn't exist.” In that respect, Michael Jackson was a true magician.
But the four-hour long documentary goes far beyond Michael Jackson. In a way, this is not a documentary about Michael Jackson. This is a documentary on childhood abuse and I learned a great deal about it. It actually took me a couple of days to process it. I always pictured that childhood molesters were utterly bad people, crawling into young kids at night and molesting them in a very rough and nasty way. I did not expect that many molesters actually are seducing young kids, the same way someone would seduce an adult. Michael Jackson can be heard at one point stating that his favorite part in the trip to Hawaii with Jimmy was actually Jimmy. Here comes a multimillionaire megastar telling a young kid that he's the center of his universe. The fact that this is Michael Jackson exacerbates the emotions of the young boys.
What is also counter-intuitive is that it can be that young boys actually like having their penis stroke by adults. The feeling can be good and while it is not said out loud in the film, Oprah Winfrey talked about it in an interview released just after the film, titled "After Neverland". This is quite shocking and makes childhood abuse very, very complex. To quote a famous song from Jackson, this is not black or white, and the two men had to spend years before finally understanding that they were abused.
This documentary opened my eyes on childhood abuse and gave a totally new meaning to the tragedy that so many young kids are living. I also want to recognize and applaud the courage of Wade Robson and James Safechuck. Telling the truth must have been extremely difficult, but I hope that the truth will bring them comfort and ultimately solace.
I give this documentary 9 out of 10. Outstanding.
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