It was painful to watch “Leaving Neverland” but if I was going to write about the documentary I had to see the entire thing so that I could adequately speak to it. I watched the first half which was two hours and had to take a few days until watching the second half which was an additional two hours. It was heartbreaking, all of it, and honestly hard to stomach some of the details. But there was some behavior then, that still happens today that involves putting your trust in the wrong people. I don’t wish to provide a defense for either side. I only want to dive into the relationship between fan and celebrity.
In particular, one recollection really stuck out to me, which included the mother of Wade Robson (one of the two boys in the documentary) detailing about spending time with Micheal Jackson for the first time. Wade’s entire family was from Australia and he starting dancing at a young age. There was a contest of some sort where five-year-old Wade was awarded by meeting Jackson briefly. Two years later, the family took a vacation to Los Angeles where seven-year-old Wade and his family found their way into an MJ backstage meet and greet. After persuasion from his mother, Jackson invited Wade to briefly dance onstage at his concert the next night. Things went so well that Jackson asked them to spend the weekend at his Neverland estate. After one weekend, Monday morning rolled around, and the family got ready to leave and head for the Grand Canyon. Michael was sad and wanted only Wade to stay. After some convincing from Jackson, Wade’s mother okayed the extended visit and left behind her seven-year-old son, letting him spend one week alone with a 30-something-year-old man after knowing this 30-something-year-old man for only one weekend.
Now, of course, this wasn’t just anyone, it was Michael Jackson. So through idolizing his talent as a performer, Wade’s mother, like several fans, felt that if they knew him from a distance, this meant that they honestly did know him. But they didn’t, not even close.
That scenario I just described was their first interaction, and the red flags are so obvious it makes you want to scream. The red flags didn’t creep up on them; they mocked them from the very start. James (the other boy in the documentary) had a similar experience to Wade. James was ten years old when he started sleeping in bed with Michael while his mother allowed the behavior staying in another room nearby. She didn’t think anything of it as she grew to like Michael and even viewed him as a son but admits getting wrapped up in the excitement that comes with living the good life of private jets and hotel suites. Michael provided all of the flashing lights. Both mother’s judgment was clouded by the deception of fame and fortune.
What we’re finally realizing today is one person can be talented and be a predator. You can be one, the other, or both. A celebrity can be mostly right and still do wrong things. A favorable person can make unfavorable decisions. Everyone has choices, and those in the limelight do not get a hall pass on bad behavior. Famous people are people, and the famous part is an illusion that lives inside our minds that we give needless power to.
It’s only been amplified through social media. Now everyone is famous, and the truth of the matter is that fame does not define morals. Fame is a judgment. We can enjoy the performance or talent without making the mistake of thinking that, this perception of a celebrity we admire, is their entirety. We have to stop giving power to people that aren’t worthy of it. We have to stop trusting people we don’t know. We have to stop thinking we know people that we follow on social media. We have to stop thinking that altered content is reality. We have to stop buying products because someone with a lot of followers told us to. Social media is edited and makes it easier to edit out the bad stuff while distracting with the good stuff. Social media lets you be whoever you want to be even if it isn’t true.
If we sense inappropriate behavior when it comes to a celebrity, lose the star-factor and focus on your instinct. Not all stars are dangerous just as not all people are unsafe, but some are. No amount of fame and fortune is worth ignoring your moral compass. Pay attention to the details your missing because it’s easy to get blinded by the luminosity of stardom.
Giving power to someone you idolize is taking away from your personal power. Take that power back and give it to yourself. Respect and admire the talent without falling into a delusional obsession.
We don’t know people we don’t know.
We have to know that.