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Though Disturbing and Horribly Sad, 'Leaving Neverland' is Important Viewing – If You're Able
March 3, 2019  | By David Hinckley  | 1 comment

Advisory warnings at the beginning of television productions tend to have the same impact as pre-flight airline safety instructions about putting on your air mask before helping others. They’re valuable and necessary and, after a while, we tune them out. They become white noise.

It’s worth paying heed to the advisory that precedes Leaving Neverland, an already controversial four-hour documentary alleging sexual abuse of two young boys by the late Michael Jackson.

The advisory warns that the descriptions of sexual abuse could disturb some viewers. It’s right. They could. 

Accusers Wade Robson (top right) and James Safechuck (top left), now middle-aged men with wives and families, explain matter-of-factly the movements, actions and interactions into which they say Michael repeatedly drew them.

The stories, told separately, dovetail in both clinical details and M.O.

The question, of course, is whether the stories are true. The Jackson family says they are not. Jackson himself was tried on child abuse charges in 2005, four years before his death, and acquitted. Both Robson and Safechuck denied for years having any sexual contact with Michael.

Leaving Neverland, a four-hour production that airs at 8 p.m. Sunday and Monday on HBO, argues that Robson and Safechuck were lying then and are telling the truth now.

Toward that end, director Dan Reed constructs a chronological walkthrough of both men’s relationships with Jackson, using interviews with the men themselves and their families.

Both Safechuck and Robson defend their changing stories by explaining that years ago they felt the need to protect their lives, their families and Jackson himself from the potentially catastrophic fallout of a child abuse scandal.  

Robson capsulizes his earlier silence by saying that for many years, well into his 20s, he didn’t think of his sexual sessions with Jackson as abuse. He thought of them as caring expressions of love. When Jackson eventually took new young boys as his special friends, he didn’t wonder if Michael was abusing them. He was jealous. He felt jilted.

Safechuck expresses similarly evolving emotions, echoing Robson’s assertion that having this sort of intimate contact with perhaps the world’s most famous musical artist made him feel like the luckiest kid in the world. Who wouldn’t want to hang onto that? Who’d want to betray it and turn something special into something ugly?

The fact Jackson was in his 30s, Robson was 6, and Safechuck was 10 does, both men admit today, cast a much darker shadow over their play sessions. 

Still, they describe life with Michael, on the road or at his Neverland compound, as endless fun. There were games all day, movies in the evening, free candy and popcorn.

It was after the movie, when Michael took them to bed, that they say he read them children’s stories and “taught” them things that, he said, people who care for each other like to do with each other’s bodies.  

Nothing was rough or forced, both men say, but the details they recount here flow straight from the pedophile’s handbook. That pre-documentary warning about the graphic nature of the descriptions is accurate.

Leaving Neverland addresses a number of ancillary questions as well. The mothers of Robson and Safechuck, who were brought into the Jackson orbit, treated like stars and given management-type positions, both insist they had no idea there was any sexual element to Jackson’s affection for their sons.

Both say they assumed it was just what it appeared on the surface and to the outside world: a famous entertainer who had never had a childhood creating one with the proceeds of his work, and sharing it with other children. He was kind, they say, and he was human, a life-size person and not the outsized image seen by the world.  

The parents and Robson’s siblings, who were also folded into Jackson’s circle, admit that like the boys, they felt they had won the lottery and been sprinkled with pixie dust. Life was blessed.

“I’d never been in that kind of world before,” says Wade’s mother, Stephanie Robson.

This leaves open the question, probably unanswerable by the people involved, whether on some level they didn’t want to look for signs of trouble because that might have ended the dream.

They should have, they say now, raising the fair question of whether they could say anything else.  

Safechuck and Robson both went on to successful careers, with Robson becoming an award-winning choreographer for the likes of Britney Spears.

Both men say they’re still sorting out what happened with Michael Jackson.

They’re not alone.

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Best video in understanding the dynamics of pedophilia. MJ had the maximum amount of resources such as stardom, rich, attractive and charming individual with a methodical and systematic grooming process. He was amazingly deceptive and manipulative to both his victims and the victim's family. The child-like behavior that he was able to synch with his child victims is classic pedophilia behavior.
Mar 10, 2019   |  Reply
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