In the wake of the Leaving Neverland documentary (which I will fully admit I have NOT watched. Not yet.), a lot of radio stations are banning MJ’s music. The Simpsons has pulled the classic episode about Lisa’s birthday featuring his voice from syndication and it will be archived. (Apparently.) The Prince’s Trust (a charitable children’s foundation in the UK associated with Prince Charles) has pulled their association with an MJ-themed musical in London’s West End that’s been going on for about a decade or so.
And I get it. In his personal life, Michael Joseph Jackson was a deeply troubled person who’d overcome a shit ton of bad circumstances in his life in order to become one of the best selling artists of all times. But he was deeply disturbed and quite possibly mentally ill. In some ways, he was amazingly, tragically, intensely stuck in the childhood that his father (in his own narcissistic bid for fame) ripped away from him and his brothers. And his mother kinda just sat back and let it happen because either she was too afraid of Joe Jackson to stop it or she just didn’t know what else to do but LET it happen because it was better than the alternative of trying to raise her brood alone.
There is also the problem of the public crotch grabbing. He wasn’t the only one to do it, mind you, but he did it so regularly it became (at least to me) almost a non-issue. It was just that thing he did. I don’t know why he did it. All I know is that several decades into his career it became a thing to do to shock people and it just..IDK. Kept going. Kinda like the sock-on-a-peen thing the Red Hot Chili Peppers did for several years at one point in their careers. It was a thing until it wasn’t.
But when I look back at my own life, my growing up years…they are filled with MJ moments. In 3rd grade, I was allowed to pick a book from a selection my teacher had pulled out of her stash because I’d won some sort of contest or something. I picked a book that I believe was titled something like “The Magical Michael Jackson” and read it until the binding literally fell apart. His music was constantly on in our house and one of the first albums I bought for myself with my saved up allowance was the Dangerous album.
I REMEMBER seeing the Black or White video on TV after an episode of The Simpsons (at least I think I do) and being completely blown away by it.
I remember when the first accusations came out and I defended him like crazy, saying it couldn’t be possible. Not Michael. Not this guy. He doesn’t look like a creep. He can’t be a creep. No way.
When the second trial came around years later, I began to question. I began to wonder. But there was a part of me that always doubted that he’d actually done anything to anybody.
Through it all, I still listened to his music. I still rolled the windows down and cranked it up when Thriller, Beat It or Smooth Criminal came on the radio. When my husband decided to enter public service and became a town councilman, I joked that one day he would be governor (he really has no designs on that, actually) and we would play Man in the Mirror at his inaugural ball as our first dance.
Now with the release of Leaving Neverland and all the damning accusations, I still cannot bring myself to ban his music in our house. I guess it’s because in a way I guess I’m able to compartmentalize, to separate the fact that he was an amazing singer and a dancer of unparalleled skill from the fact that he might have been a pedophile. Kind of like how people still like listening to Chris Brown or R.Kelly music (which I’ve never listened to personally) or any other artist who’s ever been accused and/or convicted of some horrible, terrible, very bad crime in their life without feeling like they need to get rid of it all together.
Just because Michael did (allegedly) some things that are absolutely 100000% abhorrent doesn’t really lessen the way I feel when I listen to his music or watch him dance. It doesn’t change the way I FEEL about his music, the way it affected me growing up or the way it’s still one of those things I instinctively turn to when I need a boost during a work out or when I feel like dancing around the kitchen while I make dinner.
Michael was…who he was. Was he failed in a big way by a LOT of people who SHOULD have been helping him? I think absolutely. Did he have a mental problem that should have been addressed by professionals? Probably. Did he make amazing music that touched the world? Your damn right he did. And that’s why I’m never leaving Neverland…not now. Not ever. Because he will always be a magician who managed to change himself (drastically so, at least physically), who managed to re-invent himself, who managed to spin and dance his way into our hearts. If he did something, OK. So he did it. But I’m not going to stop listening to his music BECAUSE of these allegations. I refuse to give up on the music that has been so intertwined with every single part of my life. I just..I can’t. It’d be like asking me to cut off my arm. I can’t do it.