Michael Jackson Edition
Before we start the show since nineteen eighty four Samuel Adams has brewed Boston lager. Inefficiently the traditional way Sam Adams brews for over a month and uses only one hundred percent, heirloom hops, from the Hallertau region in Germany, it's glorious inefficiency in every sip. The Boston beer company. Boston, Massachusetts, savor the flavor responsibly. The following podcast contains explicit language. I'm Steven McCaffrey. This is the culture gabfest the Michael Jackson edition. It's Wednesday March sixth two thousand and nineteen may have noticed the absence of glib title for today's show. We're doing something different. And I pretty sure unprecedented for us. We're gonna spend the whole time talking about a single subject the two part four hour HBO documentary leaving Neverland from director, Dan read, I do not think that this is a hard decision to justify there's scarcely more important figure in the history of music or popular culture than Michael Jackson, and he's likely to hold onto the record for the highest selling album of all time forever. He broke color barrier. But that is so reductive -ly small next to the totality of his achievements. He's completely unconstrained to this day by any traditional categories of taste or identity. I let me introduce my co host. Of course, Dana Stevens is the film critic for slate. Hey, dana. Hey, steven. And of course, Julia Turner deputy managing editor of the Los Angeles Times. Hey, julia. Hi, Steve later, we'll be joined by Christina Ricci to discuss the allegations of abuse in a slightly more legal Listrik way. And then by Carl Wilson to discuss Jackson's legacy. I should also say before we dig in earnest at our regular listeners know, and as my common practice not to talk about HBO production since my husband works there on the comedy series department. And we've decided that this document which comes from an entirely different team at HBO that has nothing to do with him has enough cultural significance that might make sense for me to join for this episode devoted entirely to its claims, and it's form and the pop star at the center of it. So that's why we're breaking with practice today. Certainly as far from comedy as you can get. Yup. Superlatives tend to make for terrible criticism. But in this instance, he I really believe this is the biggest pop star of all time. And really there's nobody in the field of vision coming in second. He almost single-handedly put the rockier behind us behind him. He was along with Madonna the first in defining star for MTV, thus bringing pop music together with multimedia platforming television preeminently and becoming the first truly global pop star. In addition to being completely unconstrained by these categories of taste and identity as I said, he was also never in some way, quite human. He always contained within his magical innocence. It's opposite the monster. In fact, the defining document of his career, I think still is the thriller video which you know, I was completely sentient teenage being when it was in constant rotation on MTV it played a huge role in taking thriller to it's been estimated between six. Six one hundred million sales which puts it at a factor of three or four over some of its closest competitors for all time biggest selling disc, but that video discloses him as a monster. That's what's so strange about it and disorienting about it in retrospect, it's startling final image confesses that he is part demonic beast and since his death in two thousand nine and even leading up to it the suspicion was proving out to be true. The accusation was that he was child molester and had followed him to the grave, and it's now been awoken reawoken with force with the documentary leaving Neverland are before we do the clip though, I should say I want to name both of these remarkable men with. I is Wade Robson who was a tiny little Australian boy mean really miniature little adorable human being who could dance like the king of pop practically before he could speak. He was uncannily gifted mover of his own little body. An extraordinary talent, and he won a competition. In Australia that allowed them to meet Michael Jackson, while he was on tour subsequently moved to the states to pursue a career in show business, and he ended up being sexually abused by Michael Jackson between the ages of seven and fourteen allegedly the voice you're about to hear is the voice of James safe. Chuck the other man from the documentary. He was a California kid kind of ranch house suburbia style. Upbringing he tells substantially the same story as of Robson he appeared as a ten year old in the very first Pepsi ad may by Michael Jackson at the time a kind of conic ad in which a little boy finds his way into the dressing room of Jackson tries on I believe his fidora. And then the man himself appears behind magically. He ended up being groomed and abused by Jackson for several years starting at the age of ten. Let's listen to the clip beautiful wine cellar. You know, really good wines. Champagne that was just something. I enjoyed it was a fairytale every night. The routine was we would get a blanket and lay down on the floor inside of the closet next to his his main bed. So he could close the doors and have like several sort of doors people had to get through. It was just the hall that leads to his room. So they were bells you can have a moment of hearing them trip and the lease it alarmed him to when people are coming. He had another house far away from the main house. And then there he had lot of memorabilia jackets from like, the Grammys. The Brian stone ones in his glove on I was far away from people, and you could see somebody who's driving up as narrow road. Then we would have sex in there too. Dana this is a astonishing and in many ways, very difficult for hours of viewing. It's a riveting not to trivialize it in any way. But I didn't really wish it were any shorter. But for a couple of maybe slightly loving drone shots too many one or two to too many. But what did you what did you make those? It is strange to watch a four hour documentary that essentially is just about to people's stories and spend so much time with them as so patient with them. And yet leaves you wishing the documentary were a little longer, and we can get to the things that we wish were in there that are not in their there. I guess esthetic criticisms or not just as that it but structural or formal or even legalistic criticisms to be made about how the director Dan Reed frames his material, but I don't wanna make them right now in our first segment when we're just responding to this as a document and something that we've just experienced and the culture is just now experiencing because. My primary action to it is that everyone should see it. And that I can't stop thinking about it since having seen it, regardless of whatever, you know, those those formal deficits might be because what it does deliver is just something that feels so unusual in the context of this case in particular and also of the way that we talk about sexual assault and abuse and have been over these past few years, which is really just sitting with the victims. And almost almost as if we were in a psychotherapy session with them just slowly walking through all of their memories of this formative and incredibly damaging event in their lives. And I think maybe a lot of people. This was the case for sure with me went into this sort of already suspecting that we understood something about Michael Jackson's relationship to children based on the trials we've seen in public all the documentaries and stories that have already been out there. But it's impossible to watch this and not feel a different way about I think the Jackson legacy. And about those cases, even if you go in knowing that you're already going to believe the victims. I don't know if the two of you shared this experience. But after you've sat and sort of watch these two men in close up think through and work through these these memories on camera. There's there's no way you can disbelieve them. I mean, we're putting allegedly on all of our statements here. Because of course, none of these allegations have been proven in a court of law. But I mean, one of the things that would require for these men to be lying would be that. They're the greatest actors of all time as every member of their family. Everybody would have had to have been so rehearsed and coach down to the last syllable and the last. I blink in the last reaction. There just doesn't seem to be any way that something as detailed as heartfelt and as convergent as their two stories are when they didn't know each other at all at the time to to be false testimony. It's an incredible journey to watch this surface to use a cliche word, but to watch this story rise to the surface of these young men's consciousness and faces and to me, I agree with the required. Those four hours in order for one to move from an abstract notion of Michael Jackson is a monster and possible child abuser into the depth. And the reality of. The spell that. He put on two families lives in order to gain access sexual access to these children. How did you feel about this documentary? I would agree with Dana's recommendation that people really should see it. It's one of those films that if you've heard about it and hurt people talking about it and have a general inkling that you might be interested in it. You still might of a, you know, Thursday night after work think. I don't know if I'm in the mood for four hours of child sex abuse stories because who ever is or would be, but the part that I actually found most rarin powerful is the second half of the documentary where the film begins to explore how it was the as adults these men began to be able to think critically about what happened to them with a little bit more distance and began to recognize the damage and separate themselves from the beliefs that Michael Jackson inculcated of the, you know, this is between us, you can never tell anybody just all of the sinister trappings that they head absorbed into their mindset, these incredibly young heartbreakingly young ages watching that and hearing how their families have birth and their wives. Began to understand what had happened to these men. This film is not nearly as interested in Michael Jackson, as it is in the experience of these men, and that is the part about it that feels most radical and interesting to me, I agree. In fact, the setup that Steve gave of Michael Jackson's career at the top of this podcast is much more time than the documentary devotes to sort of setting up who he was not what you might expect some sort of montage of clips of him growing up in the Jackson Five, and then, you know, becoming an adult artist getting some sort of background. I mean, it's just sort of a soums, right? I mean this documentary departs from the assumption that by default, we all know a lot about who. Michael Jackson is as an artist and probably a fair amount about his legal troubles as well. And we're really just going to stay, you know, on the couch with these two guys. Yes. And no, though, I mean, I think what mix the story unique isn't the salaciousness of it being Michael Jackson, and the kind of horrible dark thrill of watching not only a celebrity, but maybe the biggest celebrity of all time. Brought them to size and even in some way, destroyed will what what makes it critical that. It's Michael Jackson is how with every kid who grew up with Michael Jackson. But especially these kids he worked his way into your consciousness as two things both as appear because he himself appeared to have never gone through puberty. He was sort of without a definite sexual aspect in some respects. Obviously he was also hyper sexual he was hybrid satellite the floor. He went through puberty right in the Jackson Five, but there was a way in which he was sort of pan sexual and asexual and very childlike or pre sexual or whatever you want to describe it. And so he was kind of I level to the kids who fell in love with them before he could before they could even speak, and then especially with these two kids because he enabled both of their showbiz careers to a degree. And in the case of Wade Robson. Wade Robson internalize the image and the movements of Michael Jackson into his person before he could. Speak and that made him a dancer, and he grew up to become a super highly accomplished choreographer choreographer for Pitney spears an incident in part by taking these moves that he'd learned in a kind of pre conscious state as a lover of of Michael Jackson's music. And so I agree with you completely that this is told entirely through the point of view of these two young men. It is them taking possession of in telling their story. But part of that story is the degree to which they internalize this show biz image, and therefore how fucking unreal it was to have him appear to have this operation of the actual human being that you've already had formed this relationship with to have that actual human being enter your life in both in extrordinary completely ordinary way. I mean, one of the strangest details one of the most moving one of the most difficult like ping flee and bigamous details from the documentary is that Michael Jackson appears to legitimately fallen in love with the family, the safe Chuck family and found a haven in their mouth. Modest little ranch house at the height of his fame. He would escape his own celebrity imprisonment and go to their house to do fucking laundry and spend the night and have a home cooked meal. I believe that happened. There's plenty of documentary evidence that happened. But I also believe that it was done out of a keen sense of loneliness on the part of Michael Jackson. This is so the the tragedy and the sadness of the documentary as a document of late twentieth century loneliness American loneliness moves in all directions, I think, but I couple things quickly as like I I mean on a first pass with so moving about this is the two men whose maturity forthrightness grace self possession. You know was so fucking hard earned, and they they now at this moment in their lives appear like maybe not the total opposite. But very different from our. Or ordinary stereotype of show biz kid who was destroyed by show biz. You know, they they are the model of poise and people who have fought their way to become the tellers of their own narratives, and and Dana. You're right. They're the opposite of rehearsed. I mean, I kept thinking this may be the first time they've really had a chance to tell the whole story in their own words from beginning to end uninterrupted, which is why at those moments when the grief, you know, there is that way in in which one over here's oneself when one speaks and moments of grief like genuine grief. Arise. When you hear yourself for the first time tell the truth about something that you've buried, and it overwhelms you and there is no way. Either. One of these men is lying when that happens. None. I agree with you. Both everybody should watch this documentary. Everything you say makes so much sense to me, Stephen I hearing you talk about Jackson's youth and his own celebrity, and and how strange he was all of that is true and explains I think some of how we all received these allegations and accusations over time because of course, they've been in the public consciousness since the early nineties when there was the first lawsuit about it. I think again, that's where I think the restraint of this movie having the power, essentially, the thing that none of these families are boys could do was put aside how compelling and magnetic Jackson and his own story were and his music and his body and his. Movements. Like, he was just this incredible dense celebrity object that sucked things towards him in. That is is almost what makes me admire more than anything the discipline of this documentary in not looking that way and just leaving that all as implicit and not trying to explain well Jackson was a perpetrator. But he probably was also some kind of victim and a, although, of course, probably most of them are, but he's seem particularly uncanny, and we like it you get touches of it. You get brushes of it with that sense of like, he's really just partying at this ranch house in Simi valley with the safe Chuck family trying to avoid the trappings of his fame. You you get glancing visions of it. But. It's really hard. Not to be interested in Michael Jackson in this movie, this movie's discipline in holding him at arm's length I just think is incredibly thoughtful and effective something that struck me. So much was how similarly the chronology of their lives went after the abuse there around the same age. I think save Chuck is a few years older, but it was essentially the same part of their childhood that was damaged occupied ruined by Michael Jackson. And it was essentially the same part of their adulthood that they started to be able to grapple with it and feel like maybe I will tell someone maybe I will tell my wife. My mother the truth about what happened and in both cases, it was because they had a son in that. Both of them attribute the fact that they had a child of their own to the fact that they started to reckon with these things from the past. And that's the part of the movie, I think Julia said that becomes about much much more than Michael Jackson in this particular case. And even these two particular men and really becomes about how incredibly incredibly powerful it is. To tell the truth to tell one's own truth about something that stigmatized and painful and shameful. And that's why ultimately even though this is a hard watch. It's definitely a hard for our sit with a lot of parts that you may want to stop and turn off and think about for awhile. It ends on a on a feeling of uplift is completely the wrong word, but it ends on some sense of hope because it does seem like these two men are not irreparably damaged. And that speaking the truth has helped them to be able to go on. Absolutely. You know, something we should talk about before closing is also the mothers who are a huge part of the documentary. The mother of Wade Robson who is an Australian woman who moved her entire family or most of her family from Australia because of her sons rising stardom in because of his connection with Michael Jackson and the mother of James safe, Chuck who also in complicated ways got financial benefits from Jackson and profited from their relationship while also seeming to be genuinely devoted to him. Steve as you said having him into their home and so forth. The moms are such characters in this that I feel like we have to talk and respond a little bit to them. I almost think you could have had a whole nother for our documentary just about the moms because the film necessarily spends most of its time with Wade and James, but with the moms, you have a sense by the end of the film that Stephanie save Chuck has come to understand. I mean, she claims to have. Revelled and done a dance on the day of Michael Jackson's death because he couldn't hurt anymore. Children. And. That the film unless I'm mistaken doesn't quite put its finger on exactly when she figured out that he was hurting children. Here's a much clearer time line in the film of understanding how we'd Robson begin to come clean to his family and his mother about the damage that was done to him and his mother, it's not it feels slightly less clear to me that she has Foley reckoned with what happened and what her accountability for might be. Well, can I tell you? This is not in the documentary. But something that I just read about joy Robson's response to the documentary. That was quite shocking to me is that she has seen the documentary, but she won't watch the parts in which her son talks about his abuse. She she had the director show her the documentary, but wouldn't watch those parts and her son Wade has responded in print to that saying, you know, this is he said it in a mild way. But you know, that it was upsetting to him. And that the whole idea was. Supposed to be to confront the actual details of what happens. So to me that seemed like a there are moments that you feel some some real moral qualms about both of these mothers. But to hear that after all, this joy Robson will still not watch the hard parts of the documentary the parts that you know, people who don't even know. Wade Robson have all set through seemed seemed pretty disturbing to me. Yeah. I mean, look there's a way in which the documentary dovetails all too sickeningly with the -ducted in plain sight in which the question over and over again is how did you do this to your child? How did you allow this to happen to your child and maternal culpability is a really complex question? Whether we Vilnai's mother's automatically because we so naturalized bond between mother and child, and and fetish is in Santa, my is it in ways that no actual human relationship can bear, you know, nonetheless, like, I do think though that these young men much of what they're saying directed at the camera, but also towards their mothers. I mean, they are to the extent that they are in therapy. It's not only because Michael Jackson violated their dignity and stole their childhood from them and raped them. It's also because they're, you know, they have to come to grips with what their mother, or at least the suspicion that their mother allowed it to happen, and thus forsook them for money or. Celebrity or something. And I think the thing that occurred to me over and over again, as I was watching this is, you know, the heartbreaking truth is getting a small child to submit to the will of a grownup is easy. Once you get the mother to relinquish him to you. Right. Once the the strongest and the most natural bond is in some respects that of a mother to a child, and and Michael Jackson's and this is what makes him a sinister to me as any human being imaginable is that he understood this. And so he worked those mothers. And he knew he was working those mothers. And he knew that the moment that he could rupture the maternal bond, those kids were his he pushed it, you know, he he asked to take possession sole possession of one of the two kids. I believe it's weighed for a full year was weighed and the mother finally found, you know, her inner limit to which Jackson says you in this. Very pointed way, he says I always get what I want. But to me the mothers are are at the center of the story in every way principally because they're psychologically at the center of the exorcist them that these two young men have to go through if you go back to where you were with this whole story before leaving Neverland, right? The place that this Michael Jackson, these legal imbroglios existed in your mind that I would argue. I mean, even if you suspected the victims were telling the truth, it was a place of ambiguity. Right. We didn't know exactly he he was never convicted at trial at cetera. But a way that it was always talked about at the time as I remember in the two thousand five trial, for example, was to demonize the mothers almost in place of Michael Jackson that you know, how could anyone put their kid in that scenario in the first place, and that the conversation would sort of end there and something that's Admiral about this documentary is that it doesn't get leave the others completely off the hook. But nor does it demonize them. And thereby take any of the of the onus off. The one who actually committed the alleged crimes. This episode is brought to you by the biggest BMW ever built the first ever x seven this sports activity vehicle has it all performance comfort and luxury and with three rows of seats. It's a big deal travel in style in all leather interior, whether you opt for all electric captain's chairs or stick with the standard bench seats in the second row. You'll have legroom despair x seven has the technology to make your life easier control, everything from navigation to temperature with just your voice using BMW. Intelligent, personal assistant. It can even respond to personalise name. You can also upgrade to gesture control to make adjustments with a wave of your finger. Plus, you have the option to include remote engine, start hands-free parking assistance and heated rear seats to top. 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Plus bonus segment we're now joined by Christina cauda rucci who's a slate staff writer, she's also a host of the waves asleep podcast on gender and feminism Christina. Welcome back to the podcast. Thanks for having me. So you wrote for a great piece for slate. And the let me read the title, it's how leaving Neverland does a disservice to Michael Jackson's accusers, and what I loved about the pieces that it was an intelligent critique of the movie the didn't in any way, cast doubt or suspicion of any kind on the two accusers. Why don't you just why don't we just begin by having? You summarize your argument. I'm a what about the documentary did it to service to these to these? Two young men. So first of all, I should say, you know, I I definitely believe the the two accusers who are in the documentary. So I came into this piece trying to evaluate the criticisms that other people were launching at the accusers themselves having not seen the film, and I found that there were a lot of points of Robson and save trucks history that they kept bringing up over and over again. So the fact that they had tried to get money from Jackson's estate. The fact that Robson had tried to get Jackson's estate to hire him to direct a show. And you know, only after that only after he was snubbed did he accused Jackson of sexual abuse. The fact that he shopping around a book about the abuse the through line of all of those criticisms of the accusers themselves was that, you know, these two men are just trying to get money by manufacturing falsities about Michael Jackson, the same criticisms that those people in. Jackson's fans Jackson's estate and Jackson's lawyers had levied against his two previous accusers, Jordan, Chandler and governor visa, and so I thought you know, this documentary, which I think was extremely well-made in many other respects in which I think made a really compelling case. For the veracity of the accusations of presented why didn't it try to address some of the criticism that seems so obvious to me like people have been saying these things for years because safe Chuck and Robson have been alleging this abuse for years. And I think it that they're it left a big gap in the story where it seems like it was leaving out. You know information that might have harmed them or or made them seem less trustworthy. But in doing so it didn't give them a chance to really address an explain that information. And so the it didn't make them less credible for me. But I think for people who are inclined to view their accusations with skepticism. In Mike may it might make them seem less credible briefly. Describe maybe why these criticisms don't shake your belief in the story, these two guys tell I mean, it's I find it very easy to hold multiple truths about these men in my mind at once the fact that. They they loved Michael Jackson, ams the fact that Michael Jackson abuse them. And now they feel betrayed. And and that they've their lives have been thrown off track in many ways by that abuse. The the fact that both they were abused by Michael Jackson, and the fact that they desire some monetary compensation for the the damage that they are continuing to grapple with. I believe that people can want money for more reasons than you know, greed that it can be, you know, partially punitive because it was met Michael Jackson's fame and wealth that allowed him to allegedly abuse several young boys and also because they deserve compensation for the abuse. They suffered. So for me, those things don't cancel each other out. I don't think it's unseemly for victims of abuse to try to see compensation. I don't. Think it's unseemly or uncharacteristic of a victim of abuse to attend a memorial service for the man who abused him. I mean Robson, you know, addresses that a little bit in the film. But like, I think the film makes a very powerful case for the love and attachment that the boys in their families felt for Michael Jackson, and one of the things the film does best in my opinion is showing how those attachments, and and maybe the fears that Michael Jackson, instilled in them as boys, you know, if you come out against me were both going to jail for life. And the fact that, you know, their mothers, basically, encourage them to think of Michael Jackson's father, a brother figure, those things don't go away when you turn eighteen and become an adult, you know, sometimes because they were children when this abuse occurred and Michael Jackson was sort of imprinting himself in their minds as this loving and. Caring protective figure and lover almost you know, for for these these men, they're still it seems like their perceptions of that abuse are evolving. So you know, the fact that we'd Robson testified on Michael Jackson's behalf in the two thousand five trial. I feel like it the film glossed over a little bit the the actual Macintoshes of that trial and Robson talks a little bit about why he decided to testify on Jackson's behalf, but it's still left a lot of room for people who still think like, oh, governor viso, isn't that the person whose family was just scamming. A lot of celebrities to say, you know, it makes sense that the Robson family and the visa family would sort of be in the same category of people trying to extort the Jackson estate for money, Christina you've reported a number of stories about sexual assault accusations. And I've added a number of stories on the subject. You are one hundred percent, right. That this documentary does not do the tough and also protective work that I think most good responsible journalism on sexual assault. Accusations must do which is really try to put the accuser through the ringer ahead of publication and inoculate or answer the questions that a skeptic might have about their claims in the piece it self. So that you're not putting the accuser out to suffer those questions for the first time without that being incorporated into the fundamental document of journalism that you're making I, you know, we've had those conversations you've those conversations with other editors I've had this conversation with other writers. It's it's part of the journalistic work of telling this kind of story. I will say that I found this document to be very different in its focus because of the choices it made in that regard. And the fact that it just lets you sit with the testimony of these. Accusers and spend so much time immersed in their emotional reality in their memories does something very different than typical pieces and an almost almost seem to be making a different point seem to be making seemed to be trying to tell the story of being a victim of child sex abuse. And how that complicates and confuses your growing child brain. And how you begin to process that experience later on in life. Like, I wonder do do you think that the documentary could have had the same emotional impact? In the way that it bears witness to a victim experience. If it had been more traditional journalistic document that was focused primarily on the guilt or innocence of the accused. I mean, you make a good point. I do think that the narrow focus of the documentary is one of its strengths. You know, the viewer really has the time and the the space and the depth of story to really explore what child sexual abuse was like for these two people how their own conceptions of that abuse shifted over time how complicated things get when this larger than life man, you know, inserts himself into your life and imprint some self on your childhood brain as this loving partner. But on the other hand, I think the I guess the question is what was Dan Reed trying to do. And what what audience is this documentary? For you know, this is not the first time that Robson safe Chuck have made these allegations they've both made them publicly before, but this is without a doubt the most impactful, and, you know, high production value piece of culture or or consumable material to make those accusations. So I think because of that because of the outside place this documentary will have an is having on the discussion of Michael Jackson in our understanding of his life and diligent abuse that I think Dan Reid had a responsibility to compliment that very indepth and sensitive portrayal of sexual abuse victims with an honest reckoning with the criticisms that were certainly going to be made. I mean anyone could have predicted the exact questions that or. Musicians. The skeptics would make an are indeed making. I think I personally felt like the documentary almost spent a little too much time painting the picture of of how they got into Jackson's orbit and how much they loved him. I felt like dragged a little bit. I could see plenty of space in the documentary four just some additional questions like Robson sisters says that she called Jackson's previous accusers money grubbing liars gold diggers, and now she feels really bad about it. Now that she realizes that her own brother had been abused. So, you know, why not ask them like why did you think they were gold diggers? Oh, because their parents were seemed like scammers will weren't yours or or were yours and. I actually think it would have helped people understand Robson and save Chuck's thinking more. If they were able to explain why of victim of abuse might go after money from this incredibly, rich and famous man's estate. I have some thoughts about why they might. And and I certainly don't think it's wrong of them to do that. But I I would love to know, you know, as a victim of child sexual abuse. What would that do for you like is that are you looking for closure? Are you looking for money to help you, you know, move on and and and get medical help and mental health services is it because you feel like money is the only language that the Jackson state speaks or that a verdict in your favor will finally settle the public conversation around Tim like these are things that I am am left. Wondering about Robson and safe Chuck's thought process and growth process in healing process. Even though the documentary told me so much about so many other aspects. Of it. Do you agree Christina with the director? Dan, reads decision to not give any voice to anyone from the Jackson estate or any representatives of of his family. Do you think that for in other words that that the things that should have been done differently? Should have been done through just asking different questions of the same subjects. Yeah. I personally don't think that he needed to include a response from the Jackson state in the documentary in part because as Julia said, it's not a strict piece of journalism. But I and my concerns actually aren't necessarily about the fairness to the memory of Michael Jackson or the Jackson the state because I think the evidence is so clearly on one side. And I think the Jacksons states response has been very much the same as it was to the previous accusers. And you know, it doesn't include clips of Jackson's lawyers making those arguments at the time. So in that way, I think it does it depicts possibly one-sidedly the response to some of these accusations. I don't think it would have. I think you could the Dan reads decision to make this about victims of sexual abuse dealing with that abuse isn't wrong in that. And he could have addressed some of the critics questions are accusations without any input from the Jackson estate. What do you guys thing? I think that's right. I mean, I also I guess one other thing that I that this way of constructing this documentary made me think about is a broader trend that I think we've seen in the reporting around sexual assault for the last two years, which is journalists and other tellers of stories getting past a traditional up about looking for the quote, unquote, perfect victim that you had to find someone with a completely unimpeachable record and no possible disqualifying or discrediting facet of their narrative in order to take the the testimony of an accuser and give that the same way that you might give the presumed innocence of the accused, and I think we saw this in Ronan Farrow's reporting on Harvey Weinstein, his decision to include the as the Gento story, even though she was his hurry. Weinstein's girlfriend was consensual. Relationship with him, and she accuses within that relationship Weinstein of of rape within a consensual romantic relationship. Like, that's a complicated accusation. That's the kind of accusation that I think journalists and other outlets, and the lawyers who advise them might have shied away from including and I think similarly in the les Moonves accusations, one of the people as someone who's involved with by common thread stones, and as someone who, you know, a more traditional approach to this kind of storytelling have said, well, maybe let's not include her narrative, like that's just complicated. Everything that's going on with companies complicated. Let's find some other people who can tell the story. And so I do think there's this increasing trend to give weight to the experience of people whose biographies and actions also might give any reasonable person. Pause and reason to ask questions, and it is fair. I think too. Say well, what what does it mean that you testified on Jackson's behalf? And what is being that you shopped book deal tried to get a job out of the the estate, and yet really if you spend time listening to these men's stories, just the clarity and precision of their narrative and the way in which you watched the emotions play crossed their faces. I just I felt utterly persuaded on also admiring of. The bravery of the men just deciding to tell their story, and sort of sit there and take whatever is gonna come in. And I also think given the violence of the the defense of Jackson from the estate in from his super fans. I'm not sure there's any version of this documentary that would have no matter how assiduously it acknowledged every possible knock against their narratives, it's hard to imagine a version of the documentary that would cause some of these most avid fans to be like oh darn I was wrong. He really did do that. Or will the pieces how leaving Neverland does a disservice to Michael Jackson's accusers, Christina? Thank you so much for coming back on the show. This is great segment. Thank you guys. All right. Our other other sponsor is ever lane. Ooh. What am I favor? It's probably wearing a stitch of their clothing right now. Would you buy a t shirt for fifty bucks? If you knew it only costs seven bucks to make. I wouldn't you wouldn't we wouldn't nobody should with Evelyn. You never need to overpay for quality clothes. It's true. I am here to testify. That is absolutely correct ever lane makes only premium essentials using the finest materials without traditional markups. They want you to know what you're paying for. And why so they tell you the real costs and a radically transparent about every step of the process from the materials, they use to the ethical factories. They work with ever clothes. Look better cost less last longer because ever lane sells directly to you. Their prices are thirty to fifty percent lower than traditional retailers central's. 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And to do it loud as hell the clash or a ban that burns so brightly they eventually burned out but their light still shines today. Now, they're fascinating journey is a Spotify original podcast called. Stay frey. The story of the clash hosted by hip. Hop icon. Chuck d and produced with the BBC stay Frey unearths. Rare interviews the chart the clashes legendary rise and fall, and why they're music matters. Just as much in two thousand nineteen as did a nineteen seventy nine. It's the clash in their words. And like you've never heard them before. Listen to stay free. The story of the clash it's free and it's only on Spotify. Okay. Back to the show. All right. Well, we're joined by Carl Wilson who is of course, the slates music critic and a very good friend of this program. Karl welcome back to the show. Nice to be here. Yes. A sad to be here as well as nice to be here. Your piece for slate, which is terrific is called Jackson's legacy. It's too late to cancel Michael Jackson. You start with a remarkable comparison between Michael Jackson, and Charles Dickens. What what what what led you to begin their? Well, there was just this piece of research that came out in the past couple of weeks confirming a terrible story about dickens that when he was dumping his wife to take up with this eighteen year old actress, the latter part of the story has been well known, but we didn't know is that he tried to have his wife committed to an insane asylum and only failed to do. So because the doctor he approached refused to do it. And that it just struck. Me the dickens in many ways is if you project across a century, the same kind of level of Titanic figure in both kind of artistic achievement and enormous popularity in his form, the Jackson really is to postwar American pop music in global pop music, really and approaching the question of what you do with the fact that the the person behind that story in the person behind the that work may have been reprehensible on a lot of levels seemed like a way of throwing the sort of current sense of confusion about what we do if we believe these stories about Michael Jackson, how we look at his work. It's felt like taking a historical step back might be helpful on that level right in it's like dickens dickens, isn't you don't have to read dickens from to be part of your your consciousness and. You know, canceling Michael Jackson is like cancelling your DNA. I mean, you're going to you know, I think according to your argument, you're going to sort of Iraq, it what is in radically part of your own self. If you try and also that it's not just about ourselves. Right. One of the things that I wanted to say is that no matter what each individual person does with their own conscience and their relationship to notice work after these things the cultural history remains cultural history, and if you care about that level of things, which I certainly do as a critic. But I think that we all should as participants in culture than cancelling is a little bit of a fantasy. It's it's a category. We've invented in ways that lets us kind of. Show off our own emotional responses and try and sort of show that we're on the right side in terms of Justice. But it doesn't really relate to how culture works Carl. That's so interesting. Of course, that's in your piece, but I hadn't hadn't really even quite processed. I think that essentially, you're the can we don't actually have volition to cancel. Anybody particularly because the work we can change how we personally respond to things institutions can change whether they, you know, put Michael Jackson on Starbucks mix, CDs or whatever else, but there's a level on which culture works. That's beyond what we can control. Yeah. In on on the secondary level too. There's also a really big difference between dealing with the living figure who still is within the reach of of actual earthly Justice, and and needs to be dealt with a made accountable for what they done and then with the dead who, you know, are is beyond all that. And it's really what we collectively want to do with the moral judgment that we can't exercise in any sort of legal or practical fashion, and that we're left with this quite the set of questions in our own head about icons in Iran. Shipped to them Carl. There's there's a a line from the documentary that you quote in your in your piece on it, which is absolutely wonderful. By the way. This is one of the best things I've read on this documentary, and I commend it to everyone. But you you quote, something that Wade Robson's wife says really late in the film in the second half. Which was this this quote that made him he one of many things that made me cry when she said it in the documentary, which was love is so powerful, right which sounds out of context like a very uplifting. Hallmark in sentiment, but she was using it specifically in regards to talking about why her husband Wade Robson decided to testify at the two thousand five trial knowing that he was perjuring himself but trying to protect Michael Jackson who he still loved. And that's a huge part of this documentary is the the love that both of these men had for Michael Jackson in the the huge journey that they had to make to even conceive of what happened to them as abuse. Yeah. I mean, I think it's definitely a really striking moment in the documentary. And the question of like how love in an abusive context exists in what that means is so wrenching, and I do think that. Yeah. That it's it's a microcosm in a lot of ways for for our relationship to these icons stars that we, you know, in many ways create and project, and all of those sort of psychological mechanisms of love that work in everyday life, and even in extreme dark circumstances. Like this case of abuse that that all happens with celebrity to that we that is always an exploitive relationship, and it's always of projection, and it's always full of a an unevenness in that unevenness falls in different ways in different cases. But that we there's a real tendency to just as you were saying, kind of hallmark is romantic love. So we too we can kind of hallmark is our relationship to celeb-. Criti in our relationship to cultural power, you know, like one of the things every once in awhile thinking about this story alongside the cases in the Catholic church with priests abusing children in one of the things that keep striking me about. It is that in a lot of ways in a in a congregation in a parish, the priest ist celebrity right that same charisma in that same imputed authority, and and the idea that they know better than you do what's right and all of those kinds of things those power dynamics are built in the same way. And and so you know, we can't wish away. I think that there's something in human nature that creates celebrity in the wants to make these larger than life figures. But I think they get we have to understand that like culture is riddled with this problem bring this down to the plane of like your Spotify account, and or the the mix tape like Carl, I don't know what your actual music. Listening habits may be you have to. To be bathed constantly in a flow of new tracks in order to keep up with all of the music world is throwing off to us. But. How will watching the documentary change how you personally deploy Michael Jackson in your life? If it will at all. I mean, I think it does change it. Instead, you know, I mean, many ways, you know, my experiences with Michael Jackson's music aren't really a present test tense issue. You know, it's it's over decades of of dealing with his music in a lot of ways. Like, a you know, I was never the kind of committed fan that must have to deal with him in a different way when the sort of peak period of Michael Jackson ended my relationship with sort of nineties Michael Jackson, when a lot of his work started to sound like a reaction in a kind of paranoid fate ac- that was wrapped around being under suspicion dogged by tabloids and all those things so like I'm I'm a distance from it now. But at the same time, you know at a dance party at my house or even just hanging. Out with friends if somebody said, hey, put on Billy Jean you know, let's dance. The you know that that definitely feels like something that I won't have that kind of casual relationship with for a good time to common. I think one of the things that feels useful is to realize that while we're grappling with issues like this in revelations like this. I think kind of moratorium on our on our listening, you know, and again, everybody can make these choices, but sort of collectively publicly it skills like for a time things become radioactive, and you need to get some distance before you can say okay now, we can listen to this as like a Representative of its time or in relationship to the other music of the eighties nineties and things like that. But yeah, I mean, I've heard Michael Jackson unbidden out in the wild in restaurants and stores in that kind of thing since I've seen the documentary in its I definitely flinch quite a bit. When are here. It's funny that you mentioned Billie Jean specifically Carl because when we got our preview screeners for this. And we knew we were going to talk about it on the show the actual day that I knew I was going to watch this heavy documentary about Michael Jackson. I was sort of putting it off because I knew it was going to be a hard watch. And and I had some gifts to rap, and I was sitting there wrapping gifts and listening to the radio and on came Billie Jean, and I just had this very eligible experience of it coming on by chance. It's maybe my favorite Michael Jackson hit and thinking. Well, I'm just going to really enjoy this. I'm going to have one less. Good listen to Billie Jean as it was because it will never be the same again. Yeah. I think that's that's definitely the case. And I mean, the other thing in my current listening feels relevant is that there's all these figures in contemporary pot. You know, people like Bruno Mars Justin Bieber or the weekend. There was a Drake track on his last album that sampled and unreleased Michael Jackson track. And that was kind of a coup showing off Drake's power to have. Says to these kinds of things so that the sound of Michael is in is on the radio. Anyway, you know, it's all still there in even if we put the particular recordings aside, it's I think more about the fact that that influences still going to be there, and I can't shut off my awareness that that's happening. I mean, one of the things that struck me so much about the weekend. When I started making it the sort of top forty version of his music was how eerily reminiscent of Michael Jackson, his voice was. And so there's all of that, you know, in in our listening ecology to deal with two coral. Let me make a case for why will be personally, very hard. So first of all, I totally agree with you. I'm in the Stoorikhel ports of him. It's like you don't cancel Napoleon because he invaded. Russia a menu that the Stoorikhel Porton says on a is untouchable in anyone attempting to describe or teacher in any way, engage with the history of popular music is going to include Michael Jackson, prominently, just by simple. Sedation of the facts, but you know, the complex question is, you know, what radio stations do what a we do what we do when we come on, you know, at a dance floor. You know, what he what do you say to your kids about listening to it or not listening to it? I'm sort of where do you draw these personal lines? And let me make something of a distinction between dickens and and Jackson that goes beyond. The obvious fact that dickens's several generations beyond dead. I mean, you know, there's not a single living person who who has any personal experience with, you know, anyone who knew Charles Dickens, and so in some sense, we can read his books moving beyond whatever reprehensible things he might have done with his wife or to his wife, but with Jackson it's different not just because we're near and time, but because Jackson to me one of the defining things about him is his coincidence with the rise of MTV. And therefore, you know, how do you ever take the the music or the work of art and separated out from the person? I mean, the the sort of Totani. Ability imagery, that attended post MTV stardom, you know, it was really insinuating. It was really intimate or fo- intimate. That's certainly part of the story the ubiquity of his image. And it will always be his voice. It's as if you know dickens were only a book on tape, and you had to reckon with that voice that human beings voice in order to experience the thing itself. And so I'm curious about that aspect of you know, just from a personal point of view. How detachable is one's skin crawling response to what we now know when you engaging with the person and someone, but then also how much do you think? I mean, there's been some debate on Twitter about this. How much do you think a notion of his own monstrosity and monstrous guilt entered into his music? It's a big question that that is specially revisiting some of the music to write this piece. Definitely struck me. A new. You know, one of the important things about Jackson's biography is the fact that the fact that he was drafted into this business by his father and quite forcibly. So was an abuse victim himself in the in the very moment that the world was enjoying the some the supposed- innocence and kind of miraculously Chile of the Michael Jackson of the Jackson Five. And then we hear these stories and. Think about what he was contending with not knowing in what way he was psychologically grappling with these things except in the way that he created this public image of this. You know, somewhat decentralized in beyond that even dehumanized figure where he was constantly transforming into animals in zombies. Monsters all of these things in his visual representations. And then the the dancing, you know, the dancing which in so many ways brings us back to his body. Except in the ways that his dancing seem so freed from bodily nece in so many ways that that that also becomes a kind of paradox. And one of you know, we can't we don't have access to the interior of Michael Jackson. And we in a lot of ways we never did. He was always kind of a masked an elusive figure as a creative artists, you know, much more that a lot. Of the Marceau were left with this with this set of questions about, you know, wet the integrity of his sense of self was what his relationship to a secret life that he may have had might have been an all of those things felt like paradoxes that we were dealing with while he was still active, and and those things are even more mysterious to us. Now, I think the thing that the thing that I keep thinking is that. Is that in some ways that split Nissen that divided nece that we imagine in him is a truth about performers in general in the that, it's a reminder to to sort of catch ourselves in our equation of the image and the person and the work all of those things that we kind of in our fantasy version of an artist imagine as a whole, and and to realize that, you know, just guys like Jackson's creativity and his philanthropic work, and what kind of abusive things he might have been doing. We're not all of a piece, and they weren't all necessarily a coordinated agenda in the same way. You know, the way that we imagine our favorite artists somehow like these figures of virtue who are bearing representing virtue. That's that's one of the things that make me want to keep my cell phone alert. And and kind of try to remember that in the way. That we talk about culture in the wake of this art while the piece is called Jackson's legacy. It's too late to cancel Michael Jackson. Of course by Carl Wilson, Carl tremendous a piece of writing and as always just a complete pleasure to talk to you on the show. So good it. I'm glad I had you guys to talk this three with. All right. Well, in keeping with the show that was not in keeping with any of our previous shows, we're going to skip endorsements in lieu of just saying all three of us unanimously that you should watch this documentary, and please share your thoughts about it with us wherever Twitter, you'll find us are. Yeah. I would just add that after you watch it. You're gonna wanna talk about it. So watch it with someone you love or have them on hand afterwards. You'll find links to some of the things we've talked about theater show page that's late dot com slash culture fest. You can Email us at culture fisted slate dot com or a please directives especially about this documentary. We very much like to hear what you thought about it at our Twitter feed, which is at slate cult fest. Our producers Benjamin Frisch or production assistant is Alex Barish Dana Stevens and Juliet Turner. And also, of course, this week Carl Wilson, increasing the Richie. Thank you so much for joining us. And we will see you soon. Here's a short preview of our sleep plus segment, otherwise known as slap loose segment for today. If you want to hear the whole thing sign up for sleep, plus at sleet dot com slash culture. Plus. Absolutely everything about this miniature world is designed in every respect to pleasure and flatter Michael Jackson that instead of making him. Instead of making him childlike. You know, would it should have alerted you to is that it was kind of a totalitarian setup in a bizarre way. Even though it's every artifact was dedicated to a child's view of the world. And it's it's that perversity that that came home over and over and over again, I mean, if there's an aspect of the story that's part of what the two men are talking about, but not necessarily directly, you know. A result of their own testimony. But the documentaries that to me was really it. And and I think Neverland is a big character in this. And I just wanted to signal that thanks for listening again to hear the whole thing. Sign up for sleep, plus at sleep dot com slash culture. Plus.