We as a society need to stop idolizing celebrities regardless of reprehensible off-stage behavior. Otherwise we will be complicit in creating more Michael Jackson scenarios.
The late King of Pop still has ardent fans obtusely rushing to his defense – despite being accused of sexually abusing several young boys on his Neverland property – The allegations of child abuse against Jackson have recently been brought back into the spotlight with the release this month of HBO’s “Leaving Neverland.”
The film follows the stories of Wade Robson and James Safechuck who claim they were sexually molested by Jackson.
Though the two met Jackson at different times, they share similar stories of Jackson befriending their families, which allowed for Jackson to essentially groom them when they were children.
The film comes at the same time as the Lifetime documentary “Surviving R. Kelly,” which details allegations of predatory behavior and pedophilia.
The responses to “Surviving R. Kelly” and “Leaving Neverland” were drastically different. After “Surviving R. Kelly” aired, his record label dissolved ties with the artist, and other artists have publicly apologized for collaborating with him on projects.
Many artists have pulled collaborations with R. Kelly, including Lady Gaga who pulled her song “Do What U Want” from music streaming services.
Even though the allegations against Michael Jackson have been around for years, people are still quick to defend him as a person and an artist. His music still plays on the radio and is still available on music streaming services. Many are quick to judge the people coming forward with their stories, and claim that their allegations are false.
Others abused by Jackson include Gavin Arvizo and Jordy Chandler, who were both targeted by Jackson when they were 13 years old.
While Jackson was found not guilty in People v. Jackson against Arvizo and reached a settlement with Chandler in Jackson v. Chandler in 1994, they were children when they testified, being 13 and 15, respectively.
The verdict gave Jackson’s ardent defenders fodder against anyone who tries to discuss his abuse allegations.
Additionally, poor conduct on the part of the prosecutors and the impact of media sensationalism on the trial proceedings cast further doubt on the claims of the victims.
In hindsight, we should have collectively disavowed Jackson while he was still alive. Though it has been almost ten years since his death, and over twenty years since his initial settlement with Chandler, it is not too late to bring his past abuse allegations into the larger discussion of celebrities and sexual abuse.
Hearing allegations against celebrities and high-profile individuals can be hard if they are idolized, but it is important to know that not all of them are the perfect image they portray.
The actions of these esteemed celebrities cannot be ignored because they are famous, and a double standard cannot be applied between two different celebrities who have committed sexual abuse.
Rather than insist that we “separate the art from the artist,” or to stop defaming a dead man, we should condemn Jackson as harshly as we are now condemning R. Kelly.