Michael Jackson: Viewers shocked and disgusted by 'Leaving Neverland'

Laura Hannam
Reporter

As the first two hours of HBO’s controversial two-party series Leaving Neverland aired on Channel 4, viewers reacted with a mixture of shock and disgust on social media.

The first part of the documentary explored the beginnings of the late Michael Jackson’s relationship with two former child actors and performers – Wade Robson, now 36, and James Safechuck, now 41.

Read more: US celebrities react to Leaving Neverland

“He was the one of the  kindest, most gentle, loving caring people I knew…he helped my career and creativity and all of those types of things…and he sexually abused me – for seven years,” started Wade Robson.

Michael Jackson with a young Wade Robson (Channel 4/HBO)”He’s already bigger than life – and then he likes you,”  explained Safechuck.

The two men, now fathers of young children themselves, described how Jackson allegedly groomed and gradually sexually molested them from the age of seven (Robson) and ten (Safechuck).

Read more: Michael Jackson’s children ‘devastated’ by Leaving Neverland

They both went into graphic details of how Jackson allegedly sexually abused them up to their early teens. The allegations included ‘French kissing,’ forced anal penetration and oral sex.

Initial reactions from viewers were of shock and dismay.




Many also declared they would now never listen to the music of the once King of Pop ever again.




The role of Robson and Safechuck’s mothers is also unsparingly addressed in the documentary. Safechuck’s mother describes Jackson as providing her family with the “lifestyle of the rich and famous” while Robson’s says Jackson appeared like a “kind” but “lonely” man.

And while Jackson is very much the villain of the piece, many viewers picked up on the uncomfortable willingness of the pair’s mothers to leave their children alone in the same bedroom as Jackson.

Robson has since said of his mother, Joy: “My relationship with my mother has grown immensely over the last six years. It was really challenging for a while. I’ve gone though lots of anger towards her. Lots of confusion. Thankfully we’ve been able to get through a lot of healing.”

While Safechuck has made a point of describing how his parents, including his mother Stephanie, were also groomed by Jackson.

“Michael spends a lot of time talking to your parents. Connecting with them and building relationships,” he has said. “But I try to look at it from their point of view, without letting them off the hook.”



While there were hundreds social media responses overwhelmingly in support of Robson and Safechuck’s claims, not everyone was convinced.

One of the most notable elements of the coverage of Jackson’s alleged abuses is the unwillingness of his family, friends and fans to accept it to be true.

In London, supporters of Jackson protested outside the headquarters of Channel 4 ahead of the airing of the documentary. They chanted “don’t believe the lies, seek the truth” and “facts don’t lie, people do.”

Jackson’s three children are said to be ‘devastated’ by the documentary. Close friends of Jackson, such as actor Corey Feldman, and British actor Mark Lester have described to film as “one-sided” and “sensationalist“.

And as the documentary aired, the divisions were all too apparent on social media with many accusing the victims of appearing ‘fake’ and ‘rehearsed’. X Factor winner Steve Brookstein called the show ‘bull***’ and claimed it was simply a show ‘about a family infatuated with a megastar.’




NSPCC posted several tweets during the Channel 4 airing. This included an explanation of the term grooming and a helpline telephone number.



The two-hour episode ended with both Robson and Safechuck describing the heartbreak they experienced as they were allegedly gradually replaced by other young boys by Jackson.

The second part of Leaving Neverland will air Thursday on Channel 4 at 9pm.

 

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