Leaving Neverland

no rating

TW: sexual abuse

I know it's hard to let your idols go. Many don't like to mention this. When the news about Louis C.K. and his sexual misconduct hit the news, I cried. Full-on sobs. I remember whispering "fuck you" at my twitter feed which was already plastered with reactions and rebuttals and devil's advocate. It was too much. So many celebrities and individuals of power were failing us. Utilizing their money for predatory circumstances. I was tired, not simply out of disappointment and rage, which there was plenty of, but a selfish loss of what I loved. As horrible as it sounds, his mocking, awkward stand-up, which heavily featured masturbation reenactments and other graphic imagery, was never going to be the same, primarily due to the revelation of the victims and their bravery, their willingness to stand up and say no more. I was upset that it even happened. I was also upset that his work was taken away from its previous context. I didn't want to let him go.

But it's necessary in all this, from Spacy to C.K. to Dustin Hoffman and Jeffery Tambor and Brian Singer, to R. Kelly and Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer, to push through the nostalgia, the memories, the space they constructed between them and you. Because that's how they got away with it.

I'm sure many of you are like me in that 'Thriller' was one of my very favorite albums. I distinctly remember hearing Vincent Price on the titular track and, as a Haunting of Hill House fan, screaming with delight. 'Billie Jean' knocked all the feeling out of my body and beckoned it all back to me, one note at a time. 'The Girl is Mine' was some sort of magical odyssey of cozy, 50s misogyny (I dunno, maybe she doesn't want to be with either of you!) that somehow still rang out as kind and gentle. Landmark production, a top-to-bottom flawless track-list, mixed and mastered to the heavens. There still is nothing like it in the history of pop music.

But that's how Michael Jackson tricked an entire generation and his entire fanbase into believing him. You don't want to let 'Thriller' go. Or 'Off the Wall'. Or 'Bad'. Hell, you might even say that you can watch this documentary and still go on listening to it like nothing happened. But it's not possible. Not if you even have a shred of empathy for the testimonies of these men, Wade Robson and Jimmy Safechuck. They do not hold back in speaking succinctly, honestly, and graphically. They know that to act against the utterance of truth and scenario in any instance would render the documentary worthless, in spite of MJ fans still claiming that case. They are framed straight ahead, looking above or to the side of the camera, with no place to hide. It is here in their testimony, which makes up a bulk of the documentary's narrative and visual structure, that they tell their side of the story. One away from the media circus, from the institutions that frequently fail and cater to the rich, and from the confusion of adolescence and the immediate aftermath of trauma.

As adults, Wade and Jimmy are finally telling their story. And it is our task to listen, learn, and believe them.

You can see it in their eyes. You can see it when Jimmy shows a ring that Michael bought him after going shopping, utilizing the guise of picking it out for a girl as cover, his hand shaking. You can feel it when Jimmy woke up to Michael telling him that he'd just performed oral sex on him while he was sleeping. You can feel it in the description of Michael's lair, which was video and audio-wired so he and the child could quickly get dressed and not be caught if necessary. You can feel it in the descriptions of porn and S&M scattered around the rooms, on every TV as the boys are forced to watch. These are not fabrications or white lies or stories based in profiteering. They are accounts told by victims that are finally given a chance to speak out, with their abuser gone to the toils of time.

Yes, this is a one-sided perspective. Yes, this is aggressive and pointed and antagonistic against Michael. This documentary is built as a narrative to shock and stir. None of this should matter when you hear these two men. What defenders of abusers or molesters need to understand is that *you do not matter*. I could wax poetic for hours about my affection for 'Thriller', but it is an astronomical blimp in the face of this information. Your memories of a celebrity, or your own personal narrative of the individual is mute. He made a classic album? Who gives a fuck? These testimonies are all you need.

It is your choice whether to believe Wade and Jimmy, but it's your responsibility to choose one of those two options. And you know damn well which one I'm talking about.