Leaving Neverland: Is Michael Jackson’s legacy ruined?

For decades, Michael Jackson has been called "the King of Pop". He's one of the biggest superstars of all time.

 

 

 

 

 

But his legacy has been called into question after a documentary called Leaving Neverland was shown on TV in the US and UK this week.

In the programme, James Safechuck and Wade Robson claim they were abused by the singer when they were children.

Michael Jackson's family has denied the allegations, but the claims have cast a huge cloud over his name.

So has his legacy been tarnished forever?

Innocent or guilty?

The allegations made in the documentary undoubtedly left many feeling uncomfortable and disturbed.

People have been left shocked by the level of detail the two men gave about their time with Michael Jackson and the abuse.

But whether the singer is innocent or guilty has divided opinion - both among celebrities and viewers.

Some people say the documentary shows the King of Pop was a paedophile.

Digital marketing firm SEMrush analysed nearly 30,000 tweets that used #michaeljackson and #leavingneverland between 6 and 8 March.

Here are some of its findings:

33% (7,995) of the tweets using "Leaving Neverland" used positive language

39% (9,252) used neutral language

27% (6,385) negative language

37% (2,008) of tweets using "Michael Jackson" used positive language

38% (2,048) used neutral language

24% (1,286) used negative language

Olga Andrienko, head of global marketing at SEMrush said: "Leaving Neverland moved people to discuss the documentary openly on social channels in large numbers.

"Almost three times as many people were positive about the documentary than were backing the hashtag #michaeljackson after it aired."

Paul Blanchard, founder of the PR company Right Angles, says it's too early to tell what lasting impact the revelations will have on Michael Jackson's legacy.

"This is the Brexit of pop music. People will be more divided than ever. The longer it goes on the more alienated and divided people are.

"As we've got nearer to Brexit people have become even more polarised and even more opposed to each other and not come together.

"I think this will happen with Jackson's legacy. For those who are starting to turn off him they will become more entrenched in that view.

"For those that think he's a victim of blackmail and these people are trying to get money out of him - they will continue to think that ever more strongly."

What has the Jackson family said?

Michael Jackson's family has strongly denied the claims made against him and says the allegations are about getting money from the singer's estate.

His nephew Taj Jackson spoke to Newsbeat on Wednesday to defend his uncle and said the singer would be "crying" over the allegations.

But other high profile family members - such as his mother, and sister Janet Jackson - haven't addressed the claims.

His daughter Paris has kept a low profile since the documentary was shown and hasn't spoken about it directly.

But on Thursday she sent a tweet in which she told her followers to keep calm, saying: "Y'all take my life more seriously than I do."

She went on to say: "I know injustices are frustrating and it's easy to get worked up. But reacting with a calm mind usually is more logical than acting out of rage and also... it feels better to mellow out."

Michael Jackson's estate is suing HBO, which showed the documentary in the US, for $100m (£77m) - claiming the film breaches a non-disparagement clause in an old contract.

Will his music be muted?

Some radio stations across the world - including in Australia, New Zealand and Canada - have stopped playing Michael Jackson's music.

Leon Wratt, the boss of MediaWorks - which owns nine radio stations across New Zealand - said the company is guided by the audience and wanted to "err on the side of caution".

But radio stations in the UK haven't taken such a public stand.

The BBC says it doesn't ban artists and Michael Jackson could be played on its radio stations.

A spokeswoman said: "We consider each piece of music on its merits, and decisions on what we play on different networks are always made with relevant audiences and context in mind."

While Global, which owns stations including Heart, Capital, Classic FM, Smooth and Capital XTRA, says it "never comments on editorial (playlist) decisions".

Scott Bryan, who hosts the Must Watch BBC podcast, says he deleted 15 Michael Jackson songs from his iPhone after seeing the documentary.

"A couple of days later I was in a cafe working on my laptop and by sheer coincidence it was playing Michael Jackson.

"I had to put my headphones on and listen to some other music because I couldn't concentrate on what I was doing because I found it a little bit uncomfortable."

But Radio 1 listener Christian, 26, from Colchester says he thinks people should still listen to Michael Jackson.

He told Newsbeat: "He is the King of Pop. I can't even begin to imagine how many musicians have considered him a role model.

"He's had some massive singles and massive albums. So we need more and more generations to keep thinking about where the music has come from in the past."

Will his cultural legacy be erased?

An episode of The Simpsons featuring the voice of Michael Jackson is being pulled from streaming services and streaming channels.

The singer voiced a character called Leon Kompowsky, who meets Homer in a psychiatric hospital, in an episode which originally aired in 1991.

"It feels clearly the only choice to make," executive producer James L Brooks told The Wall Street Journal.

He added: "I'm against book burning of any kind. But this is our book, and we're allowed to take out a chapter."

A statue of Michael Jackson has also been removed from Britain's National Football Museum.

Thriller Live - the musical which centres around Michael Jackson's music - has refused to comment on whether the documentary is impacting its shows.

It's been running on the West End for 10 years and the website is continuing to take bookings for the show until the end of September.

There's also a Cirque du Soleil production inspired by the singer on the go and a Broadway show based on his music in the pipeline.

Taj Jackson told Newsbeat the allegations are "hurtful" but believes they won't have a lasting effect on his uncle's legacy.

"I think it's temporary in terms of the stain. First of all I believe the truth will come out," he said.

But PR expert Andy Barr, managing editor of 10 Yetis, thinks the fallout from the documentary will leave his brand in "tatters" in the longer term.

"I think the business people behind some of his upcoming new ventures will be looking at this closely and looking at whether his brand is on the verge of becoming toxic.

"With him not being around to defend himself and his family not really being able to put anything out that is positive I can't see it improving for him long term.

"I think it's just going to get worse and worse."

Andy says thanks to the internet, these allegations will always float around Michael Jackson's name no matter what.

"I'm a guy who has grown up listening to his music and have three young kids and I have to think do I want my kids listening to this music knowing the connotations of what's gone on.

"I think future generations will come to actually forget him and he'll fall to the wayside a bit."

 

 

 

 

Photo: Jackson, who died in 2009, struck up a friendship with actor Macaulay Culkin who has always maintained the singer's innocence

 

 

 

 

 

 

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