Well, it’s certainly been a tough week for us Michael Jackson fans, hasn’t it been?
This past weekend saw the release of Leaving Neverland, a four-hour documentary in which two men accuse the Late King of Pop of molesting them when they were young boys. Coming on the heels of the Surviving R. Kelly documentary series, this is causing millions of people to reconsider their feelings towards the music icon and ask important questions, such as whether the public has too often let someone’s musical talents and contributions to the culture cloud their judgment in regards to their behavior?
Personally, I have chosen not to watch the documentary, nor have I read any news articles or reviews about it. I don’t believe these men are telling the truth. Both denied under oath that Michael Jackson ever acted inappropriately towards them in the past, only waiting until years after his death to now come forward with changed stories and attempt to sue his Estate. Both claims were thrown out on technical grounds, and I believe their participation in this documentary is an attempt to garner public sympathy in hopes of stirring up public pressure to allow them to sue again, such as in the case of the R. Kelly documentary leading to renewed investigations and charges against him.
I know many reading this will probably choose to disbelieve me when I say that my opinion is not just based on blind adulation. As I’ve said before, there was a time when I did believe that Michael Jackson was guilty of child molestation. But actual studying of the facts of the 2005 trial led me to change my mind, as it was apparent that that was a blatant attempt at extortion against him, aided by an overzealous District Attorney, the Late Tom Sneddon, who was desperate to get Michael Jackson for something. Others who actually knew Michael, from actor Corey Feldman to Michael’s niece Brandi Jackson, have given better defenses of Michael than I ever could. But if your mind is made up against him, well, so be it. I’m not interested in arguing that here. I’ll just say that Michael Jackson’s music is remaining on my playlists.
But one thing I do feel compelled to speak on is in regards to Miss Oprah Winfrey. At the conclusion of the airing of Leaving Neverland, Oprah interviewed the two accusers on her network. I have not watched that interview either. Nevertheless, many of Michael Jackson’s fans, as well as some of his family members, have posted disdain, and outright hate, towards Oprah for her participation in this controversy. This is especially hurtful to them, as when Michael was alive he granted her access to his home for an exclusive interview (which gave her huge ratings), and after his death his mother allowed her to interview Michael’s children. So, to them, this feels like a personal betrayal on Oprah’s part, with her now being referred to as a “traitor” (and worse).
I will confess, I initially shared some of those feelings. However, I have had to rethink that and put it into perspective.
Oprah Winfrey has been a personal hero of mine for a couple of decades now, and the reasons for that have not suddenly disappeared. Oprah is someone who was born into abject poverty, suffered physical and mental abuse, drug addiction, career setbacks and other things that would have caused the vast majority of people to give up. But she didn’t. This woman persevered and became a legitimate self-made billionaire. The richest Black woman in the world. That by itself is an impressive enough life story, one that women and men of all races can admire. But there’s also what she has done with her fame and fortune. She has given millions to charity, from her self-funded girl’s school in South Africa to her scholarships here in America, not to mention the people she’s helped through her talk show over the years. She encouraged reading (a passion of mine) with her book club, and through her movie roles and TV network has tried to create more diverse roles for women and POC. Even when she’s failed, such as with her film Beloved, I still admire that she tried to tell such an important story. And I could go on. This is a woman who has put her money where her mouth is. I haven’t agreed with everything she has done, but I’m convinced that her heart is always in the right place.
And that’s the thing, I can’t just act like all of those good things are now irrelevant because of this particular action of hers. This is something I’m seeing far too often lately and I don’t like it when it’s done to others, this “call-out/cancel culture” we’re experiencing, where if someone takes a public position that people disagree with, or even just posts something dumb on social media, people leap to attack, and start trending hashtags against them and calling for boycotts and such. And often it doesn’t matter who the person is or what their history has been, they can have done 50 things you agreed with, but now they do one thing you don’t and that’s it for them. Well, I can’t go for that.
Another thing I realize is that when you get to the heart of it, Oprah is a journalist. And this story is news. And journalists cover the news, that’s their job. They’re not supposed to be advocates for or against any particular person. No, Oprah didn’t have to cover this documentary or interview those men. But maybe she just figure, hey, somebody was going to do it anyway so it might as well be her? I don’t know. I do wish she had chosen not be involved, but I still consider her an honorable woman and good role model.
Just my opinion.