Most of the coverage of Michael Jackson’s death has been extremely positive. A thread on Buzzfeed.com called “Your Favorite Michael Jackson Memory” has dozens of comments, with most folks expressing their sadness that “the Gloved One” has passed on.
But not everyone has kind words for the self-proclaimed King of Pop. Syamala108 wrote the following:
“Fav moment was yesterday when the dog dropped dead”
The commenter doesn’t say that he/she is referring to the allegations that Jackson molested young boys. But if I had to guess what they were upset about, that would be my first choice.
As Michael Jackson aged, he became more and more controversial. His looks and behavior were increasingly bizarre, but most scandalous were the allegations of sexual abuse. I’m saying “allegations” because he was never convicted of a crime.
This doesn’t mean that nothing happened, of course. The famous Chandler case was settled out of court, and there were numerous rumors of other cash payouts to families. And that trial. Remember “Jesus Juice“? Macaulay Culkin testifying that Jackson didn’t molest him? (You can read all about it on Wikipedia if you want the full report. It’s very long.)
Is it possible that Jackson did something abusive to some of these children? Absolutely. I’m not saying it happened, or that it didn’t happen. But when people blame him, you have to consider the circumstances.
This was clearly a deeply troubled man. It’s funny to say that he was still a child (The Onion’s headline “King Of Pop Dead At 12” sums up that idea nicely), but he was in fact a 50-year-old man who thought it was a good idea to live on a ranch he called “Neverland.” That’s not even remotely the oddest aspect of his life. Bubbles the chimp, anyone? And that was back when he was only a little bit strange.
Some of his problems were likely because of his father, Joe, who by most accounts was demanding and extremely abusive. That’s not to excuse Michael if he did molest a child. But it’s worth mentioning that Joe Jackson was no saint, which is likely how he’ll be viewed at the numerous tributes that will probably happen in the coming months (such as last night’s BET Awards).
A more important fact is that Michael Jackson was not an after-school tutor or gym teacher, someone with regular unsupervised access to children. Someone had to bring them to him. Why would any parent allow their child to spend the night with a grown man that they hardly know, especially at the Neverland Ranch? With Michael Jackson? I want to be clear about this — molesting a chlid is a horrible thing to do. But in Jackson’s case, he would never have had children in his bed if someone didn’t bring them to his home and leave them there unsupervised.
Here’s the real question. Can we separate these two aspects of Michael Jackson? The entertainer and the alleged pedophile?
There are many famous and talented people who have done reprehensible things. Miles Davis was, by most accounts, a fairly bad guy and a drug addict. Woody Allen married his own stepdaughter. Emotional abuse, definitely. Probably even non-sexual physical abuse. (I can’t think of anyone off the top of my head but I’m sure there are plenty of examples.) But I can’t think of someone on the level of Michael Jackson who allegedly did something as terrible as molesting a child. (Woody Allen was accused of that but the charges didn’t stick.)
For me, I can enjoy the Jackson 5 and acknowledge the possibility that Michael Jackson may have done some terrible things later in his life. (Not to ignore “Thriller” and the rest, but I prefer the early stuff.) The abuse allegations became a big joke over the years (like the t-shirt pictured above). But if the stories were true, it’s not funny at all.
What do you think? Can we keep the two things separate? Is it hard to think about Michael Jackson the alleged child-abuser while boogying down to “Billie Jean”?