Leaving Neverland has left viewers divided as the first part of the four-hour documentary received its UK premiere.
The two-part film explores the allegations of sexual abuse made against Michael Jackson by Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who both say the pop star abused them as children. Jackson’s estate have denied the claims, while a civil suit was thrown out by a judge in 2012 after it was ruled the estate could not be held liable for Jackson’s behaviour.
Following its US premiere last weekend (March 3 and 4), the first half of Leaving Neverland was broadcast on Channel 4 earlier tonight (March 6). Viewers have taken to social media to share their thoughts on the documentary, revealing a split in opinions on the contents of the film.
Many commented on the graphic retelling of the allegations, calling it “so uncomfortable and sickening to watch.”
“#LeavingNeverland is really distressing to watch,” wrote one Twitter user. “Oh, I’m gonna be sick. This is horrible,” added another.
Oh, I’m gonna be sick. This is horrible #LeavingNeverland
— Lucy Foster (@LucyFoster182) March 6, 2019
OMG the details in #LeavingNeverland are shocking and disturbing! He got away with so much abuse!!
— Matte “Treacle” Hart (@treacletots) March 6, 2019
I was so excited to watch #LeavingNeverland but now I’m not sure why. I feel physically sick watching these two brave men give such a graphic description of the abuse they experienced from someone the world idolised.
— Angel (@AngelFletchPen) March 6, 2019
Actually, scratch awful.
One look at it explains all you need to get a small insight into why so many people don’t/can’t talk about child sexual abuse #LeavingNeverland
— jaimee lewis (@jaimeelewis) March 6, 2019
Others came to Jackson’s defence, accusing Robson and Safechuck of lying. “It’s difficult not to have doubts about #MichaelJackson’s accusations, but watching #LeavingNeverland I’m finding it hard to believe these two guys!” wrote one. “It just seems like another scam…”
— Ⓡⓞⓑ Ⓓⓞⓗⓔⓡⓣⓨ singer songwriter. (@iamrobdoherty) March 6, 2019
Someone else wrote: “Fake news, they clearly have been coached. Get a lie detector on them.”
Fake news, they have clearly been coached. Get a lie detector on them .
— Holton?????????????????? (@fryleigh1974) March 6, 2019
MJ was not a normal person that is obvious but people believe this shite. There is only ONE reason for this. MONEY. These guys are frauds.#LeavingNeverland
— Sidney QC (@NaughtyMrSid) March 6, 2019
Some body language expert better be analysing these liars for youtube… #LeavingNeverland
— Amna✌ (@Femme434) March 6, 2019
Viewers also criticised the parents involved, calling them “negligent” for allowing their children to share a bed with Jackson and questioning their demeanour in the documentary. “Why is the Safechuck mother smiling and giggling whilst recalling the events of her son getting abused?” asked one. “This documentary is a hot unreliable mess.”
Another added: “Can’t understand why the mother is laughing and smiling whilst reminiscing about a man who has allegedly abused her child. Doesn’t add up.”
Why is the Safechuck mother smiling and giggling whilst recalling the events of her son getting abused? This documentary is a hot unreliable mess #LeavingNeverland
— Jack Walker (@JackTheFact29) March 6, 2019
Why is everyone so happy talking about this too? Yes mother, it’s hilarious your child got sexually abused ??♀️ #LeavingNeverland
— ?????? ?? (@TamzinSwann) March 6, 2019
It does not matter who asks whether it be the king of pop themselves, but you do not, under any circumstances let your young child sleep with a stranger. A parent should never say yes no matter how much a child begs. It’s your responsibility to look after them #LeavingNeverland
— Nazmeen Arif (@Nazmeen_Arif) March 6, 2019
Under what circumstances is it ok to let a grown man you've just met sleep next to your child??#LeavingNeverland
— Samantha Purdie (@purdie_samantha) March 6, 2019
Other viewers pointed out not all sexual abuse victims act in the same way and suggested that the parents were “groomed”, as well as the children.
The parents are smiling at times because despite what happened they still had GOOD memories. Remember, they didn't know their children were being abused. They too were groomed by Michael. #LeavingNeverland
— Daniel Falconer ? (@DanielJFalconer) March 6, 2019
All these people saying “sexual abuse victims don’t act like that”…is there a specific way they’re supposed to act? Who are you to judge them?! It wasn’t a traumatic time for them, it was a happy time for them. They were just too young to realise what it was. #LeavingNeverland
— Amy Hambrook (@AmyHambrook) March 6, 2019
Earlier today, fans of Jackson marched from Westminster to Channel 4’s HQ to protest the decision to broadcast the documentary. The demonstration came after the broadcaster refused to pull Leaving Neverland from its schedule, despite messages from fans and Jackson’s estate.