Dan Reed’s documentary Leaving Neverland will be a gut punch to audiences around the globe when it premieres on HBO Sunday night. Reed takes a meticulous approach as he peels back the layers of suspicious behavior to shed light on a truth that most didn’t want to believe. The power behind this documentary doesn’t come from Reed’s storytelling but through two of Jackson’s accusers (Wade Robson and Jimmy Safechuck). Robson and Safechuck each take center stage as the recount how two seemingly innocent boys came to be in The King of Pop’s inner circle. However, Leaving Neverland is not a four-hour recounting of Micheal Jackson’s dark side. Reed’s documentary is more about the lasting impact these acts can have on a child and the ripple effect it can have on a family.
For example, let’s examine the first act which focuses on the Robson family. While Robson first came to meet his idol through a dance competition in Sydney, Australia (his home), it was his mother who enabled these interactions to occur. While fame can be quite an intoxicating elixir, it shouldn’t come at the expense of putting your child in uncomfortable situations. Jackson seized on her enabling ways and continually offered opportunity after opportunity because he wanted to “help his career.” The truth is that Robson was so talented at such a young age that he would have likely made it on his own without being dragged through this path. What sets Living Neverland apart is that it doesn’t shy away from focusing on the ripple effect these despicable acts continue to have to this day. It brings to mind the question, does anyone recover from this?
The second act spends time focusing on the Safechuck family and how naive they were at the time. I did find Jimmy’s mother to be refreshingly candid about how their family became so close with Jackson. For those who don’t know, Jimmy first met the King Of Pop during this commercial shoot.
Quickly a bond was formed, and his parents didn’t seem to mind it one bit. Micheal came across to them as nothing more than an overgrown child. The Safechuck’s often treated him as one of their own (the documentary goes into detail about this). What they didn’t realize was what was going on behind closed doors. From an outsider’s perspective, it’s hard to rationalize how they were okay with a grown man having a sleepover with their son. Reed lays out some compelling evidence outlining how Jackson would, in a way, brainwash the children and their parents. The children were often told that if they told anyone about their sexual interactions, and it would ruin both of their lives crushing everyone they loved. The parents were often brought over to Neverland or an expensive getaway and treated like kings and queens (with the catch being that their rooms were always far away from where Jackson and the boy were staying at the time).
Leaving Neverland leaves no stone unturned in its attempt to show the horrid impact sexual abuse can have on a family. Reed’s documentary also leaves little doubt about the person Jackson was. While there’s no denying that he is one of the greatest singers of all time, Micheal Jackson was a predator who used his fame and fortune as a means to trap his victims and escape allegations. This documentary left me conflicted on who to be more enraged at, Jackson or the system that allowed him to get away with it.