Muse Reporting on the arts and culture

Dethroning the King of Pop

Media | Documentary accuses Michael Jackson of sexual abuse
by Mary Jackson
Posted 3/08/19, 03:01 pm

Sensational narratives of celebrity sexual abuse scandals are becoming a subgenre in print and television media in the #MeToo era. The Lifetime cable channel ran a docuseries in January detailing allegations against R&B singer R. Kelly, and The New York Times published an exposé on singer-songwriter Ryan Adams in February. Radio stations have since pulled both musicians’ music. Adams’ tour was canceled, and Kelly was arrested in Chicago. (The singer, whose legal name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, tearfully told CBS news anchor Gayle King this week that his accusers, including his ex-wife, are lying: “I have been assassinated. I have been buried alive.”)

But searing HBO documentary Leaving Neverland, in which two men say Michael Jackson sexually molested them as children, is forcing even casual fans to reevaluate how they approach one of the most popular and beloved music catalogues in American history.

Jackson, who died in 2009 at age 50, spent most of his later years dodging suspicions of child sexual abuse. He settled a 1993 civil child molestation case outside of court for a reported $23 million. Then, in 2005, he was acquitted of separate child molestation charges. On several occasions, Wade Robson, 36, and James Safechuck, 40, each gave sworn testimony of Jackson’s innocence. Now, the men say the singer threatened them into silence.

In Leaving Neverland, Robson and Safechuck describe in graphic detail how Jackson allegedly abused them as children. Both men claim it took them years to mentally and emotionally process their abuse. Their mothers also appear in the film, saying the singer groomed not only their sons, ages 7 and 10 at the time, but also the families, seducing them with fame and success.

Jackson’s fans, family, and estate have denied the accusations and condemned the documentary, directed by Don Reed. The singer’s estate filed a $100 million lawsuit against HBO, accusing the network of violating a nondisparagement agreement.

Leaving Neverland has raised many unanswered questions, particularly whether it is morally wrong to enjoy Jackson’s songs. “What is the relationship of morality to art?” asked Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a WORLD News Group board member, this week on his podcast The Briefing. “Can we enjoy art by discredited artists? What about enjoying music when we discover that the writer, the performer, the arranger, you name it, was somehow morally corrupt? Perhaps, even a child sexual abuser? What happens to the music?”

Some radio stations in Canada and New Zealand have pulled Jackson’s music from their playlists. But through album sales, shows such as Michael Jackson: One by Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas, and TV reruns of Michael Jackson’s Halloween, the estate continues to rake in money, earning more than $400 million in 2018, according to Forbes.

Jackson dazzled with his physics-defying dance moves and global hits like “Thriller,” “Beat It,” and “Billie Jean” and presented himself as a sort of “magical creature,” wrote music critic Mikael Wood in the Los Angeles Times: “To consider his career is to acknowledge the outrageous leeway we felt his work entitled him to in his personal life.”

As secular fans struggle with how to respond to Jackson and other now-disgraced artists and entertainers, Christians should understand “art cannot be totally and fundamentally separated from the artist,” Mohler said. “Christians have to affirm the fact that we do know that we are morally responsible for every one of our purchases. We are economic actors with moral significance and moral accountability for our economic and consumer decisions.”

Associated Press/Photo by Jeff Christensen (file) Associated Press/Photo by Jeff Christensen (file) Luke Perry in January 2011

Remembering a ’90s icon

Actor Luke Perry died Monday after suffering a severe stroke last week. He was 52. He was best known for his role as Dylan McKay on the Fox TV series Beverly Hills 90210, which ran from 1990 to 2000. Perry’s character in the series went from loner to part of a close-knit circle of friends while enduring a string of romantic, family, and other setbacks, including drug addiction. Perry left the series in 1995 to pursue other roles, returning in 1998 for the rest of the show’s run as a guest star.

In a 2011 interview, Perry said he and his male co-stars were a “really good strong core group” while the show aired and maintained close ties. “I will forever bask in the loving memories we’ve shared over the last 30 years,” castmate Ian Ziering tweeted. A few days before Perry died, Fox TV had announced plans for a six-episode return of 90210 featuring most of the original cast except for Perry.

More recently, Perry starred as TV dad Fred Andrews on the CW teen drama Riverdale. His publicist said that at the time of his death, he was surrounded by his fiancée, Wendy Madison Bauer, and his family, including children Jake and Sophie and his mother, Ann Bennett. —Lynde Langdon

Associated Press/Photo by Paul Sancya (file) Associated Press/Photo by Paul Sancya (file) Former gymnast Rachael Denhollander

Worth a read

Rachael Denhollander, whose powerful witness helped bring down gymnastics sports doctor and serial sexual abuser Larry Nassar, has a memoir due out Sept. 19. Publisher Tyndale House will release What Is a Girl Worth? at the same time as a children’s book by Denhollander titled How Much Is a Little Girl Worth?

“It’s my prayer that both books help survivors gain their own voices and that others will learn how to support and come alongside survivors while helping to create a culture where abuse is stamped out,” Denhollander wrote on Facebook. —L.L.

Somber diagnosis

Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek said this week he will keep working as he fights pancreatic cancer. In a video posted online Wednesday, the 78-year-old said he plans to beat the disease’s low survival rate with the love and support of family and friends and with prayers from viewers.

Normally, the “prognosis for this is not very encouraging, but I’m going to fight this, and I’m going to keep working,” he said. Trebek, a native of Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, has hosted the syndicated quiz show since 1984. He and his wife, Jean Currivan, have two children. —L.L.

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Mary Jackson

Mary is a book reviewer and reporter for WORLD. She is a World Journalism Institute and Greenville University graduate who previously worked for the Lansing (Mich.) State Journal. Mary resides with her family in the San Francisco Bay area. Follow her on Twitter @mbjackson77.

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    Posted: Fri, 03/08/2019 05:35 pm

    I was as they say born at night but not LAST NIGHT.

    The Michael Jackson saga on closer analysis begs the question(s): Who "knew or should have known"? I would argue it is the same as was the case with another serial rapist, Harvey Weinstein. Who "normalizes" having sleep overs with young boys? Who would even entertain that liability? The Jackson victims were violated and abused by a long list of people and sadly atop that list are the victims parents who seemed to eager to use their sons to gain access to Jackson and all the privileges of being with him.

  • MTJanet
    Posted: Sat, 03/09/2019 10:41 am

    I have heard that the making of the MJ documentary was done to alert parents to be more vigilant with their children.  Since this is a message that doesn't come naturally to many - i.e. too many parents lack basic common sense - I think it was probably a good idea to make it.   

  •  Xion's picture
    Posted: Sun, 03/10/2019 12:55 am

    We live in a world that blasts us continuously with a firehose of non-stop sexual deviency, chaos and confusion.  The holy grail of the Democratic platform is abortion, which is a tool for sex without consequences.  So it is fascinating how easily the world turns on its own, acting like Puritans and throwing offenders down the Orwellian memory hole, while letting many other offenders walk free.  Satan seems equally pleased to elevate and destroy at will.  There is no rhyme or reason to who is sacrificed next.  God's moral opinion never even enters into the discussion.

  • Midwest preacher
    Posted: Mon, 03/11/2019 05:44 am

    I know this is not exactly on subject but I struggle with supporting politicians with possible (apparently?) corrupt morals and documented filthy language.  As far as entertainers go their abilities simply stop amazing me when their corruption is revealed.  What about a politician who does many good things but clearly has difficulty expressing himself in a wholesome manner?  Out of the abundance ot the heart the mouth speaks.  My support is fading. In some political races Christians may not have a dog in the hunt.  I'm still studying the problem.