Fans of pop icon Michael Jackson have hit out at a controversial documentary detailing allegations of child sexual abuse against the singer.
The first instalment of the two-part film Leaving Neverland aired on HBO in the US last night, after premiering at the Sundance Film Festival.
Directed by British filmmaker Dan Reed, the documentary focuses on accusers Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who both allege they were abused by the Thriller singer as children.
Fans of the singer were less than convinced by Leaving Neverland and were quick to criticise HBO for its decision to air the movie, calling it a “cheap shot” and a “one sided and totally biased portrait” of the allegations.
One livid fan even suggested the Jackson estate should pursue legal action in the wake of the documentary and its allegations.
— Donica Love (@iamdonica) March 4, 2019
HBO should be ashamed to air such a one sided and totally biased portrait. Too much of the story don't add up and after some quick research about the families this is laughable… Jackson estate better sue HBO if possible #LeavingNeverland
— Felix Rodriguez (@FelixPRodriguez) March 4, 2019
Taj Jackson, the singer’s nephew, turned his focus on the two accusers in defence of his uncle, claiming they did not have any credibility.
The family had previously issued a statement slamming the claims made in Leaving Neverland.
You are right. I’ve been around my uncle only thousands and thousands of hours. And since my uncle is not here to defend himself, the credibility of the accusers matter. And Wade and James have none. https://t.co/fF0OgYXUBz
— Taj Jackson (@tajjackson3) March 4, 2019
The response to Leaving Neverland, however, was not confined to defenders of Jackson, with many social media users declaring that they think those who allege abuse should be believed.
Former child star Amber Tamblyn, who rose to fame on US soap General Hospital, added her voice to the ranks of those condemning the “slippery, dangerous, often abusive slope” that can arise from children being put in vulnerable positions.
As a former child actress, I can’t help but watch this documentary and think about how wrong it is for children to be put in the position of performing for the soul purpose of pleasing adults. It’s such a slippery, dangerous, often abusive slope. #LeavingNeverland
— Amber Tamblyn (@ambertamblyn) March 4, 2019
— go find yourself (@BlairImani) March 4, 2019
A Wrinkle in Time director Ava DuVernay said she had received a flood of angry responses from fans after she shared an article about the film.
Michael Jackson super fans are really going hard in my comments for simply sharing an article by a cultural critic who shared his opinion on the doc. This is one of the kindler, gentler comments. I mean, Annie, are you okay? ‘Cause this is a lot. 🥺 https://t.co/GWQIIPiyKa
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) March 4, 2019
Allegations of sexual abuse by Jackson first arose in the 1990s and followed him for several decades.
Read more: Trailer for Leaving Neverland
He was acquitted in court of a number of allegations in 2005, prior to his death in 2009 at the age of 50, just weeks before his farewell tour This Is It was due to take place.
The second part of Leaving Neverland is due to air on HBO tonight, with its UK bow coming on 6 March and 7 March courtesy of Channel 4, which co-produced the film with the American network.