For many Michael Jackson fans who watched the four-hour, two-part HBO documentary Leaving Neverland, there are suddenly a lot of questions about how to process the late pop icon’s career.
Can you still listen to Jackson’s iconic songs and watch his signature videos the same way? Do we need to re-evaluate everything the singer said or did in his life for signs we may have missed? Are the horrific stories of alleged abuse told by James Safechuck and Wade Robson credible enough to cancel the biggest pop superstar in music history?
Those questions will likely bubble for months, maybe years to come. But for now, the atomic bomb impact of the two men’s stories has had a ripple effect that could set off a new flurry of legal action, potentially scramble the $2 billion Jackson estate’s meticulous plans to exploit the singer’s lucrative image through new, ever-bigger projects and possibly lead to a generational re-evaluation of a star whose forever fame once seemed guaranteed. Jackson’s family and estate have denied the allegations in Neverland.
Here are some of the most notable developments so far:
— In the Oprah Winfrey After Neverland special, Robson, 36, said he hopes to revive his lawsuit against the Jackson estate, which was dismissed in 2015 after a judge ruled that the late singer’s holding companies (MJJ Productions, Inc. and MJJ Ventures, Inc.) could not be held liable for Robson’s exposure to the singer; Safechuck is also appealing the dismissal of his ruling.
— HBO is the subject of a $100 million lawsuit from Jackson’s estate, filed on Feb. 21 based on allegations that the network violated a nondisparagement clause included in an agreement to air a 1992 Jackson concert film, Live in Bucharest: The Dangerous Tour.
— Following the airing of Neverland in the UK, a series of crowd-funded advertisements have popped up on buses around London with Jackson’s face and the words “innocent” over his mouth along with the slogan “Fact Don’t Lie, People Do.”
— Stuart Penney (@StuartPenney1) March 8, 2019
— Also in London, a group of MJ supporters led a protest last week outside of Channel 4’s HQ before the film’s premiere.
— A legendary episode of The Simpsons featuring an uncredited guest appearance from Jackson has been pulled from circulation due to the contoversy over the documentary.
— Three Canadian radio stations pulled Jackson’s songs in the wake of Neverland and Billboard reported that the companies behind more than 300 others are still considering their options when it comes to removing the singer’s songs from their airwaves.
— A Jackson statue erected in 2014 was removed from the National Football Museum in Manchester, England, on March 7.
— A Care2 petition demanding that Mandalay Bay cancel the long-running Cirque du Soleil Michael Jackson ONE show has garnered nearly 6,000 (of the 10,000 goal) signature to date.
— The sale price of the site of the alleged molestation, Jackson’s former home, the 2,700-acre Neverland Ranch (now renamed Sycamore Valley Ranch), was reportedly chopped by 70 percent from the original asking price of $100 million to $31 million.
— Two New Zealand radio stations, MediaWorks and NXME, drop Jackson’s music, with MediaWorks content director Leon Wratt explaining, “We aren’t deciding whether Michael Jackson is guilty of pedophilia; we’re just making sure our radio stations are going to play the music people want to hear.”
— While some tributes to Jackson are coming down, two music museums in Detroit and Tennessee have said they’re holding firm. The National Museum of African American Music says some Michael Jackson artifacts will be on display in a planned exhibit called “One Nation Under A Groove,” when the museum opens in downtown Nashville in early 2020. The museum has previously released renderings of the building’s design, featuring an image of Jackson on the exterior. In Detroit, the chairwoman and ceo of Motown Museum said its mission is to share the stories and artifacts of the history of Motown. “Michael Jackson’s musical contributions remain part of the Motown story,” Robin Terry said.
— A stage musical about Jackson, Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough, that was slated to have a pre-Broadway run in Chicago will instead open on Broadway in summer 2020. The announcement, which came just weeks before the documentary aired, blamed a recent Actors’ Equity Association dispute for the change.
Support and condemnation:
— Jason DeRulo recently released his first music and videos from a planned boxed set of EPs the singer/dancer made in tribute to Jackson, which are set to be released on June 25th, the 10th anniversary of Jackson’s death. “Michael was the sole reason I started singing and dancing, so this was a way for me to give back,” Derulo, who has not seen Leaving Neverland, told The Associated Press. “I started this project because of my love of the performer that Michael Jackson is and the influence that he had on my life as the best performer that ever lived. This has nothing to do with anyone’s personal life.”
— India.Arie says it was right to speak out against R. Kelly, who faces new sexual abuse charges after the Lifetime documentary Surviving R. Kelly aired more than a decade after he was cleared of child pornography charges. But Jackson’s situation is different, the singer said. “I think it’s too late for people to be saying ‘mute Michael Jackson,’” Arie told the AP.
— Dancehall stars Bounty Killer and Vybz Kartel both spoke out in support of Jackson, with Killer writing, “Salute to the greatest artiste of all generation 750,000,000 albums sold donated over 300,000,000 to charities worldwide Thriller is the biggest selling album of all times over 100,000,000 copies sold: THEY DRAGGED HIM FROM NEVERLAND TO NETHERLANDS ON 14 COUNTS OF CHILD ABUSE AND HE WALKED AWAY FREE IF HE WAS GUILTY ON ONE COUNT Y’ALL THINK HE ‘D WALK FREE.”
Salute to the greatest artiste of all generation 750,000,000 albums sold donated over 300,000,000 to charities worldwide Thriller is the biggest selling album of all times over 100,000,000 copies sold: THEY DRAGGED HIM FROM NEVERLAND TO NETHERLANDS ON 14 COUNTS OF CHILD ABUSE AND HE WALKED AWAY FREE IF HE WAS GUILTY ON ONE COUNT Y’ALL THINK HE ‘D WALK FREE: Move unuh duty blooodclaath KKK unuh cyaah smear black history this not R Kelly this is the King of Pop Music MICHEAL JACSON Call him weirdo call him crazy call him whatever but he is no child molester they couldn’t prove it in life why now in death make him Rest In Peace once and for all Black Excellency—- ALSO WE NOT DEFENDING MJ BCUZ HE’S DEAD WE DEFENDING HIS GREAT MUSICAL LEGACY!
Cartel posted an image of a Robin Roberts report on Jackson with the message “Nobody cares about the #TRUTH.”
— “This time is difficult for us because you know Michael, coming up on the 10th anniversary of his passing and my father passed away six months ago,” Marlon Jackson told AP last week. “So those things are still there, and you never get rid of them. You learn to live with them. And now we’re dealing with something that’s totally different but has no truth to it. There’s no facts at all.”
— The longtime nanny for Jackson’s children, Grace Rwaramba — who worked for the singer for 17 years — told ABC News this week that she never suspected or knew of any sexual abuse of any children by the singer. “If Michael harmed Wade Robson and James Safechuck, they have my deepest sympathy and compassion,” Rwaramba said in a statement. “I don’t claim to know what happened between Michael and his accusers. I wasn’t there…however, because Michael is no longer here to defend himself, and because I have a unique view of him and the life he lived, I feel compelled to speak out against what I firmly believe to be false claims. The person that Wade and James describe is not the person that I knew. He was trusting to the point of extreme naivete; always assuming the best intentions in everyone. While he was far from perfect, in my over twelve years of living with Michael, knowing him and his lifestyle intimately, I never saw or experienced anything that led me to suspect that he was capable of child sexual abuse.”
— sia (@Sia) March 6, 2019
— T.I. weighed in after Neverland aired, defending Jackson while calling for other alleged pedophiles in Hollywood to be equally spotlighted. “Let this man speak for himself to defend his legacy. Don’t just listen to one side and expect to find truth,” Tip wrote. “Oh that’s right…dead men can’t speak. So what was the point again? Destroy another strong black historical LEGEND?!?!”
Pierce Morgan a real one for this. Let this man speak for himself to defend his legacy. Don’t just listen to one side and expect to find truth. Oh that’s right…Dead men can’t speak. So what was the point again? Destroy another strong black historical LEGEND?!?! It’s several examples of pedophilia in American History… if y’all pulling up all our old shit… we gotta examine ELVIS PRESLEY, HUGH HEPHNER,and a whole slew of others guilty of the same if not more!!! BUT WHY US all the time? There’s an agenda to destroy OUR CULTURE. #KingsThoughts
— One of Jackson’s long-time supporters and friends, actor Corey Feldman — who has said he was sexually abused as a child by people in the movie industry — backtracked on his defense. “I ask people to put themselves in my shoes,” he said, voicing support for Safechuck and Robson while reiterating that “absolutely nothing inappropriate” ever happened when he was with the singer. “You’re a kid who has endured sexual abuse and during those times, I’m looking to somebody like Michael Jackson as a friend, as a big brother figure. And he was that person to me. However, as you’re friends with this guy, all of a sudden you start to hear more and more accusations being thrown around by various people and it comes to a point where — as an advocate for victims, as an advocate for changing the statutes of limitations to make sure victims voices are heard — it becomes impossible for me to remain virtuous and not at least consider what’s being said and not listen to what the victims are saying.”
— Lupe Fiasco weighed in on Instagram, stating that Jackson “was/is” his hero, but “he’s not my God. Michael was/is larger than life but he was not life itself. Michael represented creative excellence but he was not excellent,” he wrote in a lengthy post. “Take the parts that inspire and let them inspire, take the parts that disgust and make sure that we apply the pressure and grace to make sure our heroes never put us in this position again. Championing Michael’s good doesn’t mean you also are championing Michael’s bad. Listening to his songs doesn’t mean you are supporting pedophilia or rape.”