A divisive two-part documentary about the late singer Michael Jackson is set to be released in the UK, airing on the Wednesday 6th and Thursday 7th of March on Channel 4. Since its first viewing at Sundance festival earlier this year it has been making headlines for its controversial allegations of child sex abuse against Michael Jackson.
The documentary focuses on the allegations made by James Safechuck and Wade Robson, who were both close to Jackson in their formative years. The two men tell their respective stories through ‘gut-wrenching’ interviews, focusing on their relationships with Jackson, which allegedly turned predatory and sexual. The programme shows how their lives were affected by the alleged abuse, and for many it has built an undeniable case against the late singer. The creator of the documentary Dan Reed has stated that “It took great courage for these two men to tell their stories and I have no question about their validity… I believe anyone who watches this film will see and feel the emotional toll on the men and their families and will appreciate the strength it takes to confront long-held secrets”. If found to be convincing, this documentary seriously questions the credibility of the late King of Pop and his legacy.
Yet, some do not find the documentary convincing, with some fans seeing it as an attempt of character assassination. There have been calls to pull the documentary amid criticism and protest, with many arguing that it is unfair the late singer is unable to defend himself against the allegations. Jackson’s family have branded the programme a ‘public lynching’, and his estate has said that “This is yet another lurid production in an outrageous and pathetic attempt to exploit and cash in on Michael Jackson”. Many defend Jackson on the grounds that he has been to trial for child sexual abuse allegations and was acquitted of all charges, proving his innocence.
Sundance argued against protestations against the documentary, saying that they support ‘artists in enabling them to fully tell bold, independent stories, stories on topics which can be provocative or challenging. We look forward to audiences at the Festival seeing these films and judging the work for themselves and discussing it afterwards.’ They argue that the documentary and Jackson’s alleged victims should not be censored or silenced, and that viewers should be able to see the documentary and make a judgement for themselves. Indeed, in the wake of the MeToo movement, we should be prepared to at least listen to the victims of alleged abuse, whether we find their testimonies convincing or not.