The long-rumored Michael Jackson biopic is officially in the works, with Antoine Fuqua signed on to direct and Jackson’s nephew Jaafar Jackson attached to star. Production is set to begin later this year, and it’s being made in partnership with Jackson’s estate.
When The Hollywood Reporter noted that the movie was moving ahead, they said distributor Lionsgate told them that “the film will address all aspects of Jackson’s life” while conceding that “it is unclear how the film will address the many controversies involving the late music icon, given that the film is made in conjunction with his estate, which has defended him against accusations of sexually abusing children.”
Dan Reed, the director of the explosive HBO documentary Leaving Neverland, had some sharp criticism for the producers of the film in a new opinion piece published in The Guardian.
“That gentle raising of eyebrows by the Hollywood Reporter has been pretty typical of the press’s reaction to the announcement of the biopic,” Reed wrote. “In an era when full-throated outrage accompanies anything that smells of delegitimisation or insensitivity against a vulnerable group, it amounts to a deafening silence. No one is talking about ‘cancelling’ this movie, which will glorify a man who raped children.”
“What the total absence of outrage accompanying the announcement of this movie tells us is that Jackson’s seduction is still a living force, operating from beyond the grave,” Reed continued. “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.”
To them I say this: even if you do not believe a word of what his many accusers have said; even if you are not concerned by the police investigations and the massive payouts to halt legal proceedings, how do you explain the completely uncontested fact that for years Jackson spent innumerable nights alone in bed with young boys? What was he doing with them, alone in his Neverland bedroom, with alarm bells in the corridor? That cannot be acceptable by any measure.
To the film-makers, I say: how will you represent the moment when Jackson, a grown man in his 30s, takes a child by the hand and leads him into that bedroom? How will you depict what happens next? 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 is rich and popular enough, society will forgive him.
Read the full opinion piece here.