Opinion | He made ‘Thriller,’ but…

Maura Kate Mitchelson, opinions editor

Is it OK if I listen to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”? Would it be all right if I played “Ignition Remix” by R Kelly? Will you judge me if I watch “American Beauty,” a movie starring Kevin Spacey, or “Django Unchained,” a film produced by the Weinstein Company?

Is there a way to still enjoy the art if the artist is accused of horrible things? Man, I sure hope so.

After watching “Leaving Neverland,” the recent HBO documentary that details the alleged sexual abuse that two now-grown men say they experienced at the hands of Jackson when they were young, I believe that he is guilty. Like many, I tried to disregard the stories of Jackson’s involvement with children at first, but now having, listened to Wade Robson and James Safechuck tell their side of the story, I regret that I didn’t believe them sooner.

In 1993 and 2005, Jackson was accused of child molestation. According to CNN, in the 1993 case, Jackson settled with the accuser, Jordan Chandler, and his family to the tune of nearly $23 million in order to keep the ordeal out of court. Then in 2005, Jackson was taken to court – but was eventually acquitted of all charges. Though he was never proven guilty in a court of law, the documentary has given the public a different view of one of the most famous men of all time.

Jackson’s sprawling 2,700-acre estate in Los Olivos, California, known as “Neverland Ranch,” was where some of the alleged assaults occurred. The ranch was designed to be the perfect place for kids; there was a movie theatre with a stocked candy bar, a zoo with giraffes and even an amusement park in the backyard. The documentary details that before Jackson had any children of his own, he would invite families over to stay because he told them he was lonely and had no friends. Eventually, he would convince parents to let their sons and daughters stay the night in his bedroom under the guise of a movie night.

In a 2003 interview with a British journalist, Jackson admitted to letting children sleep in this bed with him, but claimed it was harmless. Still, some of the accusations claim otherwise.

In a 2005 skit from “The Chappelle Show,” Dave Chappelle plays a man who is being interviewed to be a potential juror on Jackson’s case. Chappelle’s character doesn’t believe that Jackson could be guilty of the charges because, after all, “he made ‘Thriller.’” Then when asked if he would let his children sleep in a bed with Jackson, Chappelle’s character said no.

That’s the easiest and most comfortable mindset to have about the accusations. How could someone with such talent and the ability to bring so much joy to people all over the world do something as horrific as molest a child?

We tend to give icons like Jackson a free pass because it feels better to us. No one wants to acknowledge that their hero is a real person with real flaws and someone who could potentially cause other people massive harm. We all want Jackson to be the man on the stage moonwalking, not someone who allegedly manipulates and takes advantage of children.

Jackson can no longer hurt children, but we hurt the men those children have become by not acknowledging what allegedly happened to them.

The myth of Michael Jackson has been destroyed. The man is dead. But the music is still here. Personally, I don’t believe we should stop listening to “Thriller” or any of Jackson’s other hits, but we do have to recognize what he is accused of. Once you do that, though, the music might sound a little different.