The Neverland Ranch was the nickname given to Michael Jackson’s California home. It had everything a kid could ever dream of, from a carnival and an exotic zoo to a movie theater and a toy room. It was like a mansion straight out of a children’s movie. To experience this dream house however, there was a nauseating price that young boys had to pay to a man they believed was their friend.
In a new HBO documentary titled “Leaving Neverland,” filmmaker Dan Reed follows the experiences of two men who were introduced to Jackson as children. Their separate yet interchangeable stories come to the same chilling conclusion: An unsettling account of manipulation and sexual abuse.
The two men, James Safechuck and Wade Robson, share intimate details about how Jackson brought them and their families under his wing with a false sense of opportunity. The men go on to explain in graphic detail the abuse they endured once their families felt secure.
“Leaving Neverland,” which is a two-part series lasting around four hours total, cuts back and forth between pictures of Jackson spending time with the young boys and intimate interviews exposing what was going on under the surface. These interviews include both the victims as well as members of their family who experienced the manipulation first hand.
The first man, Safechuck, met Jackson when he was nine years old. The pair met when they starred in a Pepsi commercial together. After the success of the commercial, Jackson invited Safechuck to travel with him on his upcoming tour. Safechuck goes on to describe the devastating abuse that he endured on tour and in the home of Jackson.
The second man, Robson, was an Australian born dancer who caught Jackson’s eye after winning a dance competition in the States. Robson’s mom and siblings even moved out to the United States after Jackson promised that he would make the young boy a star.
A striking similarity between the two accounts was Jackson’s ability to befriend and manipulate the families of the two boys. The men claimed he would often call them on the phone or go over their house for dinner with their family. He was able to make the mothers truly believe he wanted the best for their sons.
If accurate, the film reveals a striking and horrifying truth about one of music’s most beloved superstars. The undisputed “king of pop” will forever have the word “abuser” associated with his legacy. “Leaving Neverland” gave a voice to a couple of men who will never recover from their childhood experiences with Michael Jackson. The film offers an important lesson to parents about the dangers of trusting strangers with their children, no matter how adored and untouchable that stranger may seem.
The Jackson estate has denied all claims made by “Leaving Neverland” and stated that the film is “yet another lurid production in an outrageous and pathetic attempt to exploit and cash in on Michael Jackson.”
“Leaving Neverland” is available online to viewers with a subscription to HBO Go or HBO Now.
Matt Souvigney is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.