Where are the adults? There are none in Neverland!
That thought kept occurring to me as I watched the “Living With Michael Jackson” documentary on ABC. Jackson sees himself as Peter Pan, the boy who lives in a world where grown-ups don’t exist. He even has his own flag!
What he doesn’t seem to have are adult friends and mature staff members. There appears to be no one to tell him when he’s stepped over the line into the world of the inappropriate. Even if someone on his staff has tried to make that point, it no doubt sounded to him like the grown-ups in the Peanuts cartoons: “wah wah wah wah, wah wah wah.”
Where are the parents of the children who are allowed to visit and romp at Jackson’s Neverland theme park? What is their star-struck motivation? Sure, fun is a therapeutic and necessary part of any child’s life. But last time I checked, the country was full of amusement parks and carnivals with rides and games, none of which are run by men wearing lipstick and tattooed eyeliner who admit that, while in their late thirties, they carried baby dolls around with them all the time.
Where are the parents of the children who sleep in Jackson’s bed? What kind of person thinks that’s a good thing for their kid? Even Bernard Law’s priests know you shouldn’t go there. If you or I did that with boys or girls to whom we weren’t related, we’d have to answer to the authorities, not to mention the kids’ parents. What do you tell your son or daughter if Michael’s bed is full that night? “Sorry, honey, we’ll have to go over to R. Kelly’s or Pee Wee Herman’s place instead.”
Gavin, a 12-year-old who had cancer, told the story of wanting to spend one night in Jackson’s bedroom. Michael saw nothing wrong with that, nor with the lure of milk and cookies in bed, which he used with Macauley and Kierin Culkin and other youngsters.
When interviewer Martin Bashir pointed out that he would never allow his child to take part in such activity, because it was simply improper for a 44-year-old man to do with children who were not his own, Jackson asked, “Why can’t you share your bed? It’s the most loving thing a person can do.”
Gavin said that Michael begged him, “if you loved me, you’d sleep in my bed.” Don’t those sound like the words of a pedophile? I pictured thousands of viewers who prey on children nodding their heads with pleasure, as if they finally had validation for using similar words to bait their victims.
Jackson wants to be portrayed as a victim. He declares that his whole life has been marred by torment, from the early days by his father to present day by the media. But the only members of his family who deserve any sympathy are his children. There aren’t enough psychiatrists in the world to supply the therapy these kids are going to need. He says he’s giving his kids a normal life, but won’t send them to regular school because there would be too much fuss. This from a man who forces his children to wear masks whenever they’re in public — that’s a good way to deflect attention!
In the real world, a normal life does not involve putting burqas over the heads of your children to drag them to the zoo just so you can have a peek at the gorillas — while being negligently unaware of the danger you’re needlessly exposing the children to in a crush of fans and paparazzi. I say needlessly because I’d bet that a single phone call to a zoo administrator could have pre-arranged a private, secure visit for a billionaire and his children. Without it turning into, well, a zoo.
It’s apparent that Jackson doesn’t think that way because, as much as he may complain about the attention, he thrives on it. I’m sure he agreed to this in-depth profile because he doesn’t view anything he does as remotely wrong — he has no clue why his actions are deemed unacceptable by the real world — but thought that this television exposure would make him look so wonderful that there would be a surge in his sagging fan base, thus returning him to the top of Show Business Mountain.
That explains the Berlin balcony baby-dangling. Jackson claims he did it because the fans — and it was clear from an overhead crowd shot that there were no more than fifty of them on the sidewalk — were shouting, “Let us see your baby!” The responsible answer from a parent who wants to shield his children from the glare of attention is to ignore the public’s request. Yet, he acquiesced to their demand, although he didn’t actually show them his kid. The infant’s head was covered with a blanket, leaving the spotlight on daddy, instead.
Jackson seems oblivious to the damage he’s doing to his own offspring. Let’s just hope he doesn’t start screwing around with their appearance as much as he has with his own (already, the five-year-old has hair that’s been bleached blond, probably to match daddy’s skin color). I can’t help but wonder what it looks like when the kids draw a picture of daddy’s face. They certainly wouldn’t have to worry about outlining his nose — two simple dots for the nostrils would do.
Ironically, in the original tale, Peter Pan couldn’t take care of the Lost Boys all by himself. He needed a woman’s help. A woman who could be mature and handle responsibility, while he played like a child.
Maybe that’s the real untold story here. On the inside, Michael Jackson is Peter Pan. And on the outside, he’s still trying to turn himself into Wendy.
The documentary shows that he has a long way to go. Let’s hope he doesn’t end up with Lost Kids along the way.