Michael Jackson and the Tragedy of Neverland

From my Facebook/Twitter post yesterday:

Just watched the whole 4 hours of the HBO show. That was work! But also riveting. I recommend it highly. Beautifully done, and highly plausible psychologically. Aside from sexual abuse, the less obvious though equally destructive tragedy is the sick psychology of celebrity worship. None of these parents would ever have let their six-year-old boys engage in sleepovers with a 30-year-old man–had it been anyone other than a megastar.


A few more thoughts on Michael Jackson and the 4-hour HBO “Leaving Neverland” … It’s impossible to know the truth when you will never have all of the relevant facts. I DO know it’s extraordinarily unlikely for a grown 30-year-old man to want to invite six- and ten-year-old boys into his bedroom, and for week-long/year-long stays unless he has some kind of sexual interest in them. It has nothing to do with being gay, because a gay man who is interested in men his own age–or even younger men, provided they are at least young adults, and not kids–wouldn’t be tempted to invite pre-adolescent youngsters into that context. It just wouldn’t occur to him, any more than it would occur to him to invite women, or any more than it would occur to a heterosexual man to invite men into his bedroom, and for months-long stays at that.

For that reason, I always thought it likely there was sexual abuse going on, even back in 2005 when Jackson was acquitted of sexual abuse charges while everyone, including himself, acknowledged the invitations for sleepovers and such intense friendships with youngsters. I understand that fact alone can’t, in a court of law, necessarily be enough to convict you, but for me the issue was always unresolved for that reason.

Now for one of the key people to come out and say he lied about it–on the surface, that might seem dishonest and just for the money–but having watched this entire show (4 hours of it), I am prepared to accept the total plausibility of it, psychologically, at least in this case. Wade Robson says he loved Michael Jackson, and as horrifying and sick as that may sound, it’s (to my understanding) how victims of sexual abuse as children do honestly sometimes feel about their abuser, at least as children and still in some subconscious sense, later on, as adults.

I’m not saying it has to be that way for all victims of sexual abuse, but it does happen, especially when that abuse took place in childhood with such a beloved figure. Both alleged victims continue to say the abuse took place even without the money, if that’s relevant, because as I understand it they will never see claims from a civil suit.

Having said all this, I will grant you: We will never know everything for sure. But the idea of what Michael Jackson claimed — that he only wanted to be friends with these boys — seems highly, highly unlikely, even before the HBO documentary, because of all the things we know to be facts.

I recognize we live in a wildly crazy “Me Too” era in which conclusions, at least in the media, are determined by political and social considerations alone, to the point of totally ignoring or making up facts. However, sometimes logic, reason and actually KNOWN facts do lead us to the conclusion that sexual abuse does take place. Because it does. That’s why it’s so horrible to lie about it, or support people known to be lying about sexual abuse, harassment and the like. The real victims suffer more.

Human beings are complex creatures. A person can be incredibly virtuous and admirable, in some contexts, and less so (or even a monster) in others. It will take a long time for us to figure out exactly why this is, but it remains a fact all the same. Michael Jackson was an almost surreal and unbelievable combination of contradictions embodied in a real person. His music will forever be with us, and forever a reminder of everything we have yet to truly understand about the nature of character and psychology.

For better or worse, he was truly one for the ages.


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