We Need to Talk About Michael.

It has been ten years since Michael Jackson died. 

“It doesn’t feel like it’s been that long,” our founder, Nick George admits. 

Maybe you forgot, never realizing it's been a whole decade. Perhaps, for you, not a year has passed. Maybe you don’t want to be reminded...for more than one reason. 

Documentaries serve as a looking glass into the peculiar, the beautiful, and the ugly. We, comfortably in our homes or in theaters, experience uncomfortable material. We are transported to the center of people’s lives. A lot of times, documentaries are best consumed with others. This is the case of Michael Jackson’s This Is It, carrying viewers all the way into the summer of 2009.

Mixed feelings and powerful memories deserve company. 

Abuse, Accomplishments, and Allegations: A Timeline

I will be the first to admit that I am not an expert on Michael Jackson or the Jackson family. I was around 10 when he died. I have attempted to provide an unbiased way for us all to reflect on the events that cling to his legacy. This is meant to be brief and are additional layers to all aspects of this conversation. Later, we can talk about it. 

Young Michael Jackson discusses the pressures of his fame.

During 1964, Michael began his professional career alongside his family members as part of the Jackson 5. Even though he was just a child, his talent quickly made him the lead singer on many of the group’s songs. The Jackson 5 became one of the most successful, award-winning, and influential musical groups of the 1970s.

In 1982, Jackson released Thriller. One of the two albums to land him as spot in the Grammy Hall of Fame and arguably his most recognizable work. This is the first album ever to have seven songs hit the BillBoard Hot 100 chart. 

Shortly after, in 1983 he debuted the Moonwalk during a performance of “Billie Jean.” 

In 1984, he became the first person ever to take home 8 Grammy Awards

His works continued to catch the attention of many throughout the 1980s. More than just a music icon, his style, appearance, advertising endorsements, charitable contributions, and romantic relationships, made him one of the biggest stars of the era.

Jackson speaks to his artistic process and evolving career as a solo artist.

Jackson purchased 2,700 acres of land in California to create his home, “Neverland Ranch” in 1988. It included exotic animals, fairground rides and a movie theatre. He was known to bring children to the ranch as part of his alleged mentoring relationships. 

In August 1993, The Los Angeles Times reported that police launched the first criminal investigation against Jackson. They investigated four possible cases of child molestation, the most notable being a boy named “Jamie,” whom he admittedly slept next to for many nights. The family of Jamie sued that same year, the case was dropped when Jamie wouldn’t testify. 

In a famous 1993 statement, Jackson’s estranged sister, La Toya, claimed these allegations were true. She also shared that her and her siblings (including Michael) were sexually abused as children. She referenced her book Growing Up in the Jackson Family. Michael Jackson repeated similar claims in an interview with Oprah. La Toya later recanted her claims to a degree.

Jackson speaks with Oprah to clear his name after the 1993 allegations.

Jackson’s marriage to Lisa Marie Presley, in 1994, made headlines as some speculated it was an attempt to distract from the allegations of child molestation against him. Their marriage ended after a year.

Shortly after, in 1996, Jackson married Debbie Rowe. She was pregnant with their first child, Michael Joseph Jackson Jr. 

While the child abuse allegations stood, Jackson received the Grammy Legend Award in 1997.  Also, The Jackson 5 were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Paris-Michael Katherine Jackson was born in 1998. Jackson and Rowe split not long after the birth. Rowe cited the pressures surrounding the abuse allegations as part of the cause.

Jackson and Presley defend their marriage from tabloid rumors and offer an explanation for his friendships with children.

Prince Michael “Blanket” Jackson II is born in 2002. His mother’s identity is unknown.

The 2003 documentary Living With Michael Jackson sparked yet another criminal investigation after he was seen embracing and sleeping next to a boy. Jackson claimed the boy was sick and he wished to provide comfort. That same year, Jackson was arrested on criminal investigation charges after raiding his Santa Barbara County property. 

Still in 2003, the boy from Living With Michael Jackson testified against Jackson. His name is Gavin Arvizo and he claimed Jackson molested him, and gave him alcohol.

In 2005, Jackson was acquitted of all charges. Some jurors personally found Arvizo’s mother at fault for allowing her son to get close to get close to Jackson. 

From 2006-2009, Jackson’s estate struggled. Neverland closed and the media reported his near-bankruptcy. Additionally, there were rumors about his health decline with questions about his mental status and ability to parent his children.

Poised for a comeback, Jackson announced his “This Is It” tour in 2009. The best performers in the industry sign on to his team. 

In 2009, Jackson’s death shook the world as he unexpectedly died of cardiac arrest

In 2014, two men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, file lawsuits against the Jackson estate. They claim they were sexually abused, nearly hundreds of times, by Jackson in the 1980s. Judges dismissed their suits on the grounds of time (waiting too long to come forward) and finding that Jackson’s companies are not legally liable for damages of this nature. 

In March of this year HBO released their hard hitting documentary Leaving Neverland. The Jackson estate is suing for damages. 

Making Room for Two Experiences 

In discussing the upcoming event, Nick mentioned, “There's a lot of work our culture has to do when placing artists and entertainers on a pedestal.” When a figure revolutionizes the way we dance, sing, create, and love art this idealization is inevitable. 

What happens when bad news, horrible news that challenges the foundation of the pedestal? 

Understanding this polarization is a process, a journey. Some have chosen to stop consuming MJ’s work altogether, and others remain fans. It’s not radical assume that many are somewhere in between — conflicted — attempting to make room for memories that push at each other like same poles on a magnet. 

This is why community is so important. Though no two memories are alike, we all experienced the existence of Michael Jackson. We listened to the same songs, saw the same moonwalking and that single glove. Now, it’s likely we all have a lot to say. All the more reason to come together and discuss this controversial icon.

Screen/Shot will take place Saturday, Aug. 24 at Riverviews Artspace

During our screening, we plan to dig into all aspects of Michael Jackson’s legacy.

This will be a free limited capacity event. Engage in conversation. Bring your memories — the good and the bad. Tell us about the role Michael Jackson played in your life. 

Bear the emotions you have surrounding his legacy, negative and positive. Come and share them with your community. 

Screen/Shot: Michael Jackson's This Is It

Saturday, August 24, 2019 at 7 PM – 9 PM

Riverviews Artspace

901 Jefferson Street, Lynchburg, Virginia 24504

Additional details on FACEBOOK


Written by Maria Navolio

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