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Leaving Neverland director says Michael Jackson biopic will ‘glorify a man who abused children’

Leaving Neverland director says Michael Jackson biopic will ‘glorify a man who abused children’

The director of the documentary Leaving Neverland has argued that the upcoming biopic of Michael Jackson will “glorify” a child rapist.

The 2019 documentary is a “brutally frank and explicit account of two abusive relationships,” British director Dan Reed wrote in a comment piece for The Guardian, published on Sunday.

The documentary reveals that the pop star first raped a boy, Wade Robson, when he was just seven years old, and abused another, James Safechuck, starting when the child was only 10.

Mr Reed wrote that the film was “an opportunity to bring to the widest possible audience an insight into how children fall victim to any sexual abuser, the psychology of the predator and, above all, the grooming process”.

He described his hope that the film could prevent other children from being abused, adding that destroying Mr Jackson’s reputation was not the “primary goal,” but that it “seemed like a necessary collateral impact”.

“If you know that your idol has abused children, should that not make celebrating his personality a little more problematic, to say the least?” the director asked.

Mr Reed said he wrote the comment piece because a film being made about Jackson will soon begin filming, produced “hand in hand” with the “co-executors of Jackson’s estate”.

The Hollywood Reporter states that it’s “unclear how the film will address the many controversies involving the late music icon, given that the film is made in conjunction with his estate, which has defended him against accusations of sexually abusing children”.

James Safechuck, from right, director Dan Reed and Wade Robson pose for a portrait to promote the film ‘Leaving Neverland’ (Taylor Jewell/Invision/AP)
James Safechuck, from right, director Dan Reed and Wade Robson pose for a portrait to promote the film ‘Leaving Neverland’ (Taylor Jewell/Invision/AP)

The director added: “In an era when full-throated outrage accompanies anything that smells of delegitimisation or insensitivity against a vulnerable group, it amounts to a deafening silence. No one is talking about ‘cancelling’ this movie, which will glorify a man who raped children.”

He said the most “shocking insight” of his documentary is that “the predator makes the child fall in love with him, drawing them into a kind of guilty complicity in the abuse” meaning that victims will “cover up for their abusers and protect them for years or decades”.

Mr Reed noted that Mr Robson now admits that he lied in court in 2005 to protect Mr Jackson, leading to his acquittal in his child sex abuse trial.

Michael Jackson prepares to enter the Santa Barbara County Superior Court to hear the verdict read in his child molestation case June 13, 2005 in Santa Maria, California (Getty Images)
Michael Jackson prepares to enter the Santa Barbara County Superior Court to hear the verdict read in his child molestation case June 13, 2005 in Santa Maria, California (Getty Images)

The director wrote that the lack of anger at the announcement of the biopic reveals that “Jackson’s seduction is still a living force, operating from beyond the grave”.

He said the media and his fans appear willing to ignore the child abuse and “just go along with the music”.

The director then went on to directly address the fans and the press.

“Even if you do not believe a word of what his many accusers have said; even if you are not concerned by the police investigations and the massive payouts to halt legal proceedings, how do you explain the completely uncontested fact that for years Jackson spent innumerable nights alone in bed with young boys?” he asked. “What was he doing with them, alone in his Neverland bedroom, with alarm bells in the corridor? That cannot be acceptable by any measure.”

Turning his attention to the makers of the biopic, Mr Reed asked, “how will you represent the moment when Jackson, a grown man in his 30s, takes a child by the hand and leads him into that bedroom? How will you depict what happens next?”

“By sidestepping the question of Jackson’s predilection for sleeping with young boys, you are broadcasting a message to millions of survivors of child sexual abuse. That message is: if a paedophile is rich and popular enough, society will forgive him,” he concluded.