Wednesday, March 6, 2019

the truthers of pop

"... as the first installment of Leaving Neverland aired...  the Jackson truthers emerged, this time in ethereal form. The hashtag #mjinnocent trended on Twitter. Jackson’s estate—which has steadfastly denied the men’s allegations, and which has sued HBO for $100 million for airing the documentary—shared rare video of Jackson in concert. The footage, a vaguely grainy reminder of Jackson the performer at his most dynamic and compelling and ingenious, is, in all, two hours long, the precise length of Leaving Neverland’s first episode. The estate’s implication is clear: Michael Jackson was a superstar, and superstardom is its own defense.

"Americans are accustomed to talking about fame using the heady language of the cosmos: the celebrity as a celestial truth, situated above us; the superstar as a force in the firmament, all heat and light and gravitational demands. Jackson’s environmental form of fame—music that permeated people’s lives, iconography that saturated American culture—anticipated the intimate version of celebrity that is the default today. It is fitting, in that regard, that celebrity itself functions as a spectral character in Leaving Neverland. Jackson was acutely aware of the affordances of fame; he leveraged them, the documentary suggests—and, ultimately, he weaponized them. Joy Robson, Wade’s mother, recalls Jackson making a request of her; she recalls, as well, that when she refused it, he coolly informed her: “I always get what I want.”

"Leaving Neverland suggests that, on some level, he was correct. Jackson was introduced to Safechuck and Robson because they were impersonating him—Safechuck in a Pepsi ad, and Robson as a Jackson-inspired dancer in Brisbane, Australia; the boys, and their families, were awed by him. And he led them to believe, Leaving Neverland argues, that his fame could be made transitive. He dangled the promise of celebrity—and of fruitful careers in a fickle industry—before them like bits of shimmering bait....   [here's] a man, rich and powerful—a person whose whims get alchemized via fame into collective truth—telling them that they, too, are anointed. Here is the King of Pop himself reportedly promising Safechuck and Robson that their unique talents would be seen and appreciated and remunerated and loved, just as his own had been.....

"In ignoring all [of Jackson's abuses]—in emphasizing the not-guilty verdicts of the trials, in dismissing the allegations as defamations spurred by greed—the Jackson truthers fall prey to the same myopias that faith-based reasoning will usually involve. But their perspective has a grain of truth: It’s much easier, after all, not to believe. It’s intensely preferable to live in a world in which Michael Jackson, the groundbreaker and the advocate and the entertainer and the genius, is innocent. It’s much simpler, when “Billie Jean” comes on, to give way to the beats you know in your bones..."

- Megan Garber, "On Not Believing Leaving Neverland", The Atlantic

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