Ten years ago, on Jun 25, 2009, a legend of music left the world. He was the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, famous for his incredible songs and equally infamous at the time for his strange lifestyle, not to mention accusations of molesting the young children who were always welcome at his once-home of Neverland Ranch in California. His passing somewhat deadened criticism against him, out of respect. But earlier this year a brutal documentary featuring two alleged victims of Jackson from their childhoods started ruining his nostalgic image anew. As his tenth death anniversary comes and goes, the world is unsure on how best to remember a timeless icon.
As CBS News tells is, people are no longer quite sure as to how best to remember the late Michael Jackson ten years after his death from a medication overdose. In nobody else is this more pronounced than with James Safechuck, one of the children the pop superstar was said to have molested. Now an adult with family, he admits that he still has good memories of Jackson outside his experience, along with guilt at participating in the “Leaving Neverland” documentary which is currently the driving force in the increasingly negative public perception of the singer long after his death.
The conflicting feelings by many for Jackson could also be observed in the airplay of his massive library of music. One week before “Leaving Neverland,” a co-production of the UK’s Channel 4 and the US’ HBO, was aired on the two networks, songs by the King of Pop saw streaming up to 16 million times. Following the release of the damning documentary, some radio stations have removed their Jackson songs either temporarily or permanently, while streams actually increased for a time. Now however, MJ streaming has somewhat decreased at 15.5 million, though the numbers difference can still be considered negligible.
For what remained of his life Michael Jackson has denied all the accusations of child molestation against him, with the most significant obstacle at the time being his 2005 trial, which ultimately declared him not guilty. Following his death, his family and estate have taken up the task of fending off new suits against him. Of the Channel 4-HBO documentary the Jackson estate has declared “Leaving Neverland” an attempt at character assassination. And on Tuesday, the anniversary of a decade after his passing, they released a statement extolling his virtue and exemplar for many people.
On Tuesday, for every person disillusioned of Jackson to the point of wanting to forget his songs due to evoking uncomfortable feelings, there are others who pay tribute to him everywhere. This time, the divide of opinion is more distinct.
Image from New York Times