*trigger warning: contains content of sexual abuse*
They looked up to Michael Jackson. As young boys, they would spend hours in front of the TV, practicing the dances so that they could be just like him. It was his moves, his music, his gentle character–these young boys got lost in him.
Leaving Neverland shows just that: how they were utterly captivated by the magic of Michael Jackson.
This two-part documentary resurfaced the sexual abuse allegations against Michael Jackson in the late ’80s. Specifically, this story follows Wade (who was 7 at the time) and James (who was 10 at the time) recalling their horrors with Michael.
Though they had two separate lives and two separate experiences, there is still some undeniable parallel between the two.
When the abuse started, neither Wade or James thought it was something bad. I mean, as a child, you don’t really expect the person you admire to be the person who evidently hurts you the most.
How could a child see someone they admire to be someone actually so evil?
He had this magic to him.
They were captivated.
When he invited the boys and their families into his home, his Neverland, and on vacations, they felt as if they were living in this fairytale land. They were treated so well materialistically — they were gifted jewelry and even his “Thriller” jacket — and they seemingly got lost into this fantasy world of Michael Jackson.
Wade and James noticed when he started to give his attention to other boys. They were jealous and hurt and so desperately wanted to be in his presence. He was this powerful being that just drew people in and he knew how be magical.
He was great at manipulating both the children and their parents.
Not only were the parents of Wade and James drawn into the fantasy of him and his Neverland, but they were drawn into the ways in which he was willing to help the boys and their careers. He wanted them to follow their passions — as dancers and actors — and so he convinced the parents and the boys that they didn’t need school, because he would be there to help them succeed in other ways. He wanted to guide these boys to a better place for them – which was anywhere that he was.
When the abuse started, he told the boys to keep their “games” a secret, because if not, he would go to jail and they would too. As a child, punishment is the scariest thing. He convinced them that what they were doing wasn’t wrong, and that their relationship with him–and all the sleepovers and sleeping in the same bed, the gift-giving, and everything in between–was normal.
He taught them how to dance and he taught them how to have sex.
He was a teacher. As Michael Jackson, he was a role model and an inspiration. As Michael, he was an abuser.
Both Wade and James gave horrific and graphic details about how the abuse started and what really happened when they were alone with Michael. According to the recollections of both Wade and James, he taught them how to masturbate, he would masturbate himself in front of them, and introduce them to sexual acts that no child should ever experience.
This documentary showed how their families split and fell apart because of him and how trauma could sit with someone for years and years.
This documentary showed people who were die-hard fans of Michael Jackson and who doubted the possibility of his pedophilia ways. People believed that because he was a celebrity, a pop star, and an inspiration to all, there was no way he would be sexually interested in little boys.
Leaving Neverland was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to watch. My heart hurts for them, as both the children they were and the men they are now. My heart hurts for other victims of abuse. If you are one, and you are still sitting with this pain, please know this: I believe you. I believe you.