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Why Am I Seeing A Double Standard?

Michael Jackson and Ryan Adams


I am waiting for the shitstorm that will land on the Michael Jackson estate when the documentary ‘Leaving Neverland’ airs on HBO this weekend. The two-part, four-hour documentary, which was directed by British director Dan Reed, gives plenty of graphic details regarding the sexual and abusive relationships that allegedly occurred between the famous pop singer and two boys, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, in the 1980s and 1990s. It’s extremely hard to read (for now I have just read the article published by Vulture), and I bet it’s gonna be even harder to listen to these horrific stories when ‘Leaving Neverland’ airs in the following days.

It’s so damaging that the Jackson estate has found a way to sue HBO for $100 million over a truly trivial and ridiculous reason compared to the terrible molestation accusations at stake: they are saying the film violates a 1992 contract to air a Jackson concert. But HBO has declared they will air the documentary no matter what, so I guess everyone will be the judge.

This story is interesting in the wake of the other recent scandal in the music world, the Ryan Adams story. Of course you can’t compare the two stories because one is decades-old, one is recent, one involves young children and the other one adult women (maybe at one exception), one is about the king of pop, the other one is about a tyrant of indie rock, and despite the fact that Michael Jackson has been dead for almost 10 years, it is interesting to see how the media and the public are treating both stories.

In Ryan Adams’ case, we have seen a lot of ‘Believe Women’, ‘Believe the survivors’ showing up everywhere, all over social media, and it didn’t take long for the scandalous story to terminate Adams’ career: his upcoming album will not be released and his upcoming tour was canceled. It seems that ‘Believe the victims’ worked very well in this case, and it is not sure whether Adams’ music career will survive this public outrage.

But there is a very different attitude regarding Michael Jackson’s case, the media and the public are not always believing the victims, and a lot of critics are watching the movie with a very different angle: ‘The film presents just one side of the story: what Robson and Safechuck recall about their experiences with Jackson, and, decades later, how both of these men have navigated the subsequent trauma. But what about Jackson’s side? What sympathy or voice, if any, is he owed now, in death? In his lifetime, Jackson furiously denied any sexual interest in children,’ wrote Amanda Petrusich in the New Yorker. ‘Documentary Leaving Neverland is Damning—But Flawed’, wrote Alfred Soto for Pitchfork…’Worse, the film’s absence of context—artistic, psychoanalytical, legal—leaves exposed the fact that two white men accused a black man of grotesque violations,’ he continues. Really? Was it necessary to bring up race in this mess?

It’s also the thesis of critic Jason King who wrote in Slate: ‘Let’s call out the elephant in the room: Have any of Michael Jackson’s accusers to date been black?’— which is a ridiculous statement because we all know that Jackson was only interested in white boys – but King is even blaming Reed for reinforcing gay stereotypes: ‘Whether or not the allegations presented in the film are true, and whether or not it ever intended to do so, Leaving Neverland dangerously reinforces the gay-folks-are-predators stereotype—if only because it never acknowledges that such a stereotype exists in the first place.’

The Slate article is plain ridiculous and looking for the same lame excuses, as the documentary is not about white supremacy, and Jackson is not a victim of race or LGBT discrimination. He has been the subject of many accusations for decades and the list of evidence against him is shattering, the very knowledgeable Maureen Orth wrote a very important list in Vanity Fair.

However, plenty of articles are bringing this fuzzy opinion about the entire story, and everywhere, it is the ‘alleged victims’, ‘Michael allegedly did this’,… whereas the ‘believe the victims’ leitmotiv suddenly disappears. Why this double standard?

In Michael Jackson’s case, everyone is bringing back the two trials and especially Jackson’s acquittal on 10 felony counts and of course the fact that Robson was called upon to testify on Jackson’s behalf in 1993 and 2005, and that he asserted under oath that Jackson had never molested him. But any therapist will tell you it’s not a surprise for people who have been a victim of sexual abuse to be in denial for a very long time, and the saddest part is that Robson and Safechuck have said they still had affection for Jackson, as the relationship between victims and abuser is a complex one. It was very hard for them to recognize the abuse, they still wanted to protect the king of pop and both men have declared they came to terms with the truth when they became fathers.

Another important point is that Robson and Safechuck are not being paid by HBO, so they are not doing it for money as the Jackson estate is claiming, and it’s very difficult to imagine two people lying about being molested for 4 hours in front of the camera… and I am not even talking about all these Q&As, Oprah interview and the implications regarding their families, wives, and children. If it’s not for money, why would they do such a thing? Wade Robson is now thirty-six, James Safechuck forty, and they are actually taking a lot of risks to tell their story, Robson has said to Oprah he has received death threats from Jackson supporters.

But this is not even the point here, in both cases there are victims and there is obviously a double standard when you compare both stories. I know that the Jussie Smollett hoax has shaken up our faith in victims, but it is apparently very easy to bury Ryan Adams’ career based on a few accounts from women talking about their fucked up relationships with Adams, whereas the myth of the king of pop still persists despite all these horrific molestation stories. Why? Because he could moonwalk, dress up like a king and make us believe he was Peter Pan? Because he made us believe for decades that he was a grownup man trapped in an eternal child-like mind? Contrarily to Adams, Michael Jackson was not living among us, he was at the head of an empire and had reached this asexual semi-religious status – just listen to his fans who worship him like a god. That’s why it will take much more efforts to tear down Michael Jackson’s cult of personality.

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