6 things we learned from the new Michael Jackson documentary


A new controversial documentary, Leaving Neverland, premiered at Sundance and it details dark accusations against Michael Jackson.  Here’s what we’ve learned so far.

Warning: Some of the content in this article could be difficult or disturbing for readers.

Sundance this year is full of films that cover some very high-profile and controversial figures. A film about Ted Bundy starring Zac Efron called Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile premiered, and the trailer has already been criticized for romanticizing the serial killer. Now, another anticipated but controversial film has premiered — a documentary focused on Michael Jackson titled Leaving Neverland.

The HBO documentary, which premiered last Friday at Sundance, is a four-part series that explores allegations of child molestation made over the years against Michael Jackson. The story centers on two people, Wade Robson, 36, and James Safechuck, 40, and their experiences and the allegations they’ve made Jackson.

We’ll have to wait until spring to view the docuseries on HBO, but until then, those who have seen the film have already detailed some of what we can expect to learn and see.

The documentary is candid and graphic.

The documentary apparently does not mince words and includes graphic descriptions of alleged abuse by Jackson. This is important for people to know before they watch the series as it could upset people who are triggered or bothered by descriptions or details of sexual abuse. The two men featured in the documentary go into detail about what they say happened to them, and the creators of the documentary are also very candid.

Michael Jackson participated in grooming behaviors to keep what happened secret.

Considering the seriousness of these allegations, it’s not a surprise Jackson would have taught his victims how to keep the ongoing abuse a secret. Safechuck says Jackson would have him run drills so he could learn to put his clothes on quickly in case someone else came around. He would also tell both of the children that they couldn’t tell anyone else about what happened.

Robson says in the documentary that Jackson would say, “If anyone ever found out that we were doing these sexual things, we would go to jail for the rest of our lives.”

Jackson kept a cut-out of Peter Pan in his room.

Robson says Jackson would masturbate in front of him while looking at a Peter Pan cutout, and that there were a variety of other sexual acts that took place at the ranch. He also says that Jackson showed him pornographic material and had him drink alcohol. This, and many other disturbing details are revealed in the documentary which sounds like it’s difficult to watch in many ways.

There was reportedly a mock wedding held between Safechuck and Jackson.

The relationship between Safechuck and Jackson allegedly went on for several years, until Safechuck was 14. He also claims that Jackson held a mock wedding ceremony where they exchanged wedding vows and Safechuck was given a wedding ring. As Safechuck says in the film, “I was really into jewelry, so he would reward me with jewelry for sexual acts.”

The docuseries focuses on abuse, as well as the effects of it.

Reviewers who have seen the film also noted that the second half of the series explores another important topic related to child abuse, the idea of how to survive going forward. The documentary also explores why Robson denied allegations in the past and even testified in support of Michael Jackson during a court case in 2005. It’s important that the film acknowledges how sexual abuse during childhood can impact victims many years later and how the effects of it can be confusing and complicated.

There are no feature interviews from anyone other than Robson, Safechuck, and their families.

Leaving Neverland is their story, and as such, the only perspectives are theirs and those around them. There are no interviews from people who were close to Michael Jackson, and this is not a documentary that is looking to give an objective or events-based view. Instead, it is the personal accounts of the two men.

Jackson has faced allegations over sexual abuse of children before, outside of Safechuck and Robson’s cases. One case was settled out of court in 1993, and in 2005, Jackson went to court but was found not guilty.

While this docuseries will undoubtedly be hard for any who watch, it will hopefully shed new light on these allegations. Michael Jackson has been viewed as a legend both in music and pop culture. Even after his death, he is celebrated — his songs are on the radio, artists do post-mortem collaborations, and awards are given in his namesake. Leaving Neverland is here to ensure these allegations are given just as much attention.

If you or someone you know is or has been the victim of sexual assault, please know you can go to RAINN.org or call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 for support.