Music

Thu, 14 Mar, 2019Basmah Qazi

“It’s much bigger than just Michael Jackson”: Why you need to watch Oprah’s After Neverland special

 “It’s much bigger than just Michael Jackson”: Why you need to watch Oprah’s After Neverland special

Oprah has publicly acknowledged Leaving Neverland director Dan Reed for his efforts in raising awareness of a topic that she tried to illuminate for 25 years on The Oprah Winfrey Show, in the hopes to get the public to understand the complicated subject.

The TV special, After Neverland acts as a companion to Reed’s body of work, with Winfrey saying that a child sexual abuse reckoning must “transcend Michael Jackson”.

Winfrey, who is a victim of child assault herself, says the term “abuse” is misleading when discussing the experiences she and other children have faced.

Here are a few things to know:

  • During Jackson’s adult life, he kept a number of young boys around him, none of who he was related to. These children were regularly photographed accompanying him throughout the '80s and '90s and would stay with him at his Neverland home.
  • So far, five boys – Jordan Chandler and Jason Francia in 1993, Gavin Arvizo in 2003 and Wade Robson and James Safechuck in 2013 – have placed allegations against the musician for sexually abusing them. The first case was resolved out of court, the second Jackson was acquitted for. The latest accusations come after Jackson’s death, with Robson and Safechuck providing harrowing details of the crime in Reed’s four-hour documentary Leaving Neverland.

Despite having five people accusing Jackson of the same crime, his loyal fan base refuse to accept that their pop idol could have committed such a monstrous act – passion that wasn’t shown to other men in similar situations such as Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and R. Kelly, all three who have been accused during the #MeToo era. The King of Pop’s fans almost consider him as a Christ-like figure, meaning if they choose to accept the allegations, they must come to terms with their hero having an extremely dark side. One thing is for certain, many of these people will never come close to watching Leaving Neverland, which highlights Robson and Safechuck’s trauma as children in immense detail.

But if you’re someone who has already seen it, and want further information on the incident, then Winfrey’s one-hour special After Neverland should be next on your list of things to watch. The 65-year-old sits down with Robson, Safechuck and Reed, with a studio audience consisting of over 100 sexual abuse survivors and their supporters. The talk show legend makes a clear statement from the very beginning on where she stands: She believes both of them. But despite the ongoing support, Winfrey makes sure to ask the tough questions that everyone is thinking, such as their true motivations, the reason they chose to tell their story now and whether their parents are to blame for allowing the abuse to happen.

Winfrey, who has experienced sexual assault as a child herself, has dedicated a large part of her career to spreading awareness on the misunderstood topic.

“Here’s the reason why I’m here,” Winfrey says on the segment.

“In 25 years of The Oprah Show, I taped 217 episodes on sexual abuse. I tried and tried to get the message across to people that sexual abuse was not just the abuse, it was sexual seduction.”

She then praised Reed for being “able to illustrate in these four hours what I tried to explain in 217”.

And Reed deserves the accolades, as Leaving Neverland highlights the manipulative behaviour predators use to groom children, to the point that their innocent subjects don’t realise they are being abused until years later.

The documentary goes into detail about how Jackson garnered the trust of Robson and Safechuck’s families, shedding light on the exact tactics used by paedophiles.

“Child sexual abuse; even the word ‘abuse’ lacks accuracy. I’ve been saying this for years,” says Winfrey.

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“As young boys, these two men did not feel it was abuse until much later. When you’re a child – this is the message I want every parent to hear – you don’t have the language to explain what is happening to you, because you’ve been seduced and entrapped.”

Robson then went on to explain why it took him this long to reveal what had happened to him.

“I had no understanding that what Michael did to me was abuse. From night one of the sexual stuff that Michael did to me, he told me it was love, and that God brought us together. I was this little boy from the other side of the world, and Michael was God to me. Now, he was telling me, ‘I love you. God brought us together.’ This, this sexual stuff, this is how we show our love.”

While the victim’s stories are unique in their own right, the abuse they suffered was not, with one in five girls and one in 20 boys being a victim of child sexual abuse.

“For me, this moment transcends Michael Jackson. It’s much bigger than any one person. It’s a moment in time that allows us to see this societal corruption, this scourge on humanity. It’s happening right now in families, in churches, in schools and in sports teams everywhere,” says Winfrey.

“If it gets you to see how it happens, then some good will have come of it.”

Oprah’s full After Neverland special is up on YouTube and her website for Australians to watch.

Have you watched Leaving Neverland? What did you think of it? Let us know in the comments below.