“Leaving Neverland” director Dan Reed condemned the upcoming Michael Jackson biopic, saying in a Sunday op-ed in The Guardian that it will “glorify a man who raped children,” pointing to the lack of outrage regarding its creation.
“In an era when full-throated outrage accompanies anything that smells of delegitimization or insensitivity against a vulnerable group, it amounts to a deafening silence,” Reed wrote. “No one is talking about ‘canceling’ this movie, which will glorify a man who raped children.”
The biopic, which is slated to begin filming under “Bohemian Rhapsody” producer Graham King,” comes four years after “Leaving Neverland,” which illuminated the heartbreaking and disturbing stories of Wade Robson, who Jackson sexually abused when Robson was 7 years old, and James Safechuck, whose nonconsensual relationship with the King of Pop began when Safechuck was 10, premiered at Sundance in 2019.
“Here was an opportunity to bring to the widest possible audience an insight into how children fall victim to any sexual abuser, the psychology of the predator and, above all, the grooming process,” Reed explained of his motivations for the documentary. “Maybe we could help prevent young children from falling prey to this most scarring, crippling of crimes.”
Though Reed’s main goal was to share these stories in the hopes that it could help avoid further victimization for these children, he, of course, knew that torching the music icon’s reputation would be a “necessary collateral impact.”
“If you know that your idol has abused children, should that not make celebrating his personality a little more problematic, to say the least?” Reed posed.
Reed also recalled one of the film’s most heartbreaking takeaways, which he always noted is the “most painful for any parent to accept,” hinges on how predators make the child fall in love with them as part of the grooming process, which draws them into a “kind of guilty complicity in the abuse” and ensures their silence for decades to come.
For this reason, Oprah, a survivor of childhood rape, once said sexual abuse faced by children should more accurately be called “child sexual seduction.” Despite this widespread understanding, Reed states that “Jackson’s seduction is still a living force, operating from beyond the grave.”
“It seems that the press, his fans and the vast older demographic who grew up loving Jackson are willing to set aside his unhealthy relationship with children and just go along with the music,” Reed continued. “By sidestepping the question of Jackson’s predilection for sleeping with young boys, you are broadcasting a message to millions of survivors of child sexual abuse. That message is: if a paedophile [sp] is rich and popular enough, society will forgive him.”