Michael Jackson: The Collision of Power of Celebrity and Public Perception

Written by on 5 March 2019

“Leaving Neverland” once again put a spotlight on the sordid, horrendous allegations of child sexual abuse that plagued Michael Jackson for decades. While Jackson would eventually be charged with multiple counts of child molestation, and ultimately acquitted, it’s almost impossible to come out unscathed from this type of controversy, especially when you’re known as the King of Pop. While Jackson vehemently denied the claims and continued to do so until his death, many were left wondering how truly innocent Jackson could be with numerous accusers, detailed accounts, multiple out-of-court settlements and his bizarre behavior.

The new documentary has brought back all the questions, denials, apathy, sympathy and outrage that fans and the general public have experienced in relation to Michael Jackson for years. How could somebody so talented commit these acts? Why would he want to risk all his money and fame? How could somebody who seemed so gentle commit these atrocious acts? How could such a philanthropic humanitarian be such a different person behind closed doors? How could somebody who loved children so much put children in these types of unsavory conditions? Why did parents continuously allow their children to be put in these situations with Jackson? Why have some victims told conflicting stories and even recanted? The questions go on and on, but highlights once again, that you never know what goes on behind closed doors and how the power of celebrity can shape public perception.

While pedophilia is normally deemed the lowest of the low, and perpetrators are often cast aside with disgust, when it comes to MJ, even people who begrudgingly admit that he was to some degree a pedophile and guilty of something, they will still have sympathy for him. They’ll make excuses for him about his rough childhood or being in the limelight since he was a child, his infamous Pepsi burn, his various health problems, drug use, etc. Or, it’s the parents of the boys fault. They shouldn’t have let them go over there. They should’ve known better. They’re liars. They’re leeches. They’re looking for a hand out. No matter how it’s sliced and diced, Jackson is somehow, someway absolved of absolute guilt.

Let’s throw the race card in the ring. We all know that blacks have historically been treated terribly in the criminal justice system, but it doesn’t mean that every black person is treated unfairly or even held accountable. If MJ wasn’t who he was, he more than likely would’ve seen a jail cell years ago. But green can override black when it comes to celebrities and their dalliances. This is why many black folks will side with Jackson. “They always want to bring a black man down.” “The law is always trying to lock a black man up.” “It’s about time a black man beats the system; white folks are always getting away with stuff.”

Race also plays a major role when it comes to MJ’s legacy, where a percentage of black people are viewing these “hackneyed” claims as yet another attempt to destroy Jackson’s legacy. “White people get away with this stuff, and their music still gets played.” “They just want to destroy him because he was the greatest of all time.” Even while the documentary was airing on HBO, social media was ablaze with a sizable number of black and even many white fans saying it was all lies and let the legend RIP.

Let’s say that Jackson was guilty of at least some of the allegations against him. Any rational human being would have to admit that Jackson had some deep-seated issues and demons and probably could’ve benefited from professional help. And, if he was guilty of even one act against a child, he should’ve been held accountable and faced real punishment. What if we stopped viewing him as a celebrity,  as THE Michael Jackson, but as Michael Jackson, a normal person. Would that change your opinion of him? Would you view him as more culpable, less culpable? Weigh in and let us know how you feel.

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