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Suits filed by James Safechuck and Wade Robson, who allege Jackson abused them as children, have been brought back

Two lawsuits filed against Michael Jackson accusing him of sexual abuse have been revived by the appeals court in California.

James Safechuck and Wade Robson, the focus of last years documentary Leaving Neverland, allege Jackson abused them when they were children. The trial court originally dismissed their lawsuits as they had not been filed before the pair turned 26. But a new law, which came into effect on 1 January, raised the age to 40.

On Friday, a panel of judges within Californias second appellate district reversed the initial ruling.

Were glad the appellate court recognized the very strong protection that California has for kids, and we look forward to litigating these cases to trial, said the pairs attorney Vince Finaldi.

The suits target Jacksons companies MJJ Productions and MJJ Ventures. Howard Weitzman, the companies attorney, has criticised the ruling, referring to the allegations as false and suggesting the lawsuits absurdly claim that Michaels employees are somehow responsible for sexual abuse that never happened.

Safechuck and Robson had also tried to sue the Jackson estate, but those suits were also dismissed because of the statute of limitations. They have not been revived as part of the new ruling. Finaldi said it was important to target the companies as these people that surrounded him enabled and facilitated this abuse.

The Emmy-winning documentary premiered at Sundance in January 2019 and detailed graphic claims from Safechuck and Robson about the alleged abuse inflicted on them at Jacksons Neverland ranch. We cant change what happened to us, Robson said after the first screening. The feeling is what can we do with that now.

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After another smash hit year at the box office, the next 12 months promises more of the same … with added controversy

The lights are bright on Broadway. Blinding even. With 35 plays and musicals now running, Broadway looks likely to have grossed over $1bn in 2019, having played to more than 8 million people. National tours have become de rigueur for every musical that doesnt absolutely flop and satellite productions pop up across the globe.

But with big business comes big risk. Running costs remain steep. Most shows fail to recoup. A few New York not-for-profits (Roundabout, Manhattan Theatre Club, Second Stage, Lincoln Center Theater) have Broadway houses, yet even those companies rarely program shows without the reassurance of a well-known star or creator. Both the not-for-profits and the for-profits have been busily making wagers on which known quantities and out-of-town successes will attract New York audiences and the tourist trade. 2019 was fairly lively Slave Play, What the Constitution Means to Me, Choir Boy, Freestyle Love Supreme, American Utopia, a recuperated Oklahoma!, Hadestown, Gary (a miss, but still a big swing). But looking ahead to 2020, most of those wagers appear conservative, probably too conservative. Subtract the star casting and only a few plays and musicals will generate much excitement.

Of the musicals so far announced, six are new (or newish) and four are revivals. Two jukebox musicals are promised, one relatively innovative and one baffling. In Girl from the North Country, which had a successful run at the Public Theater two years ago, Conor McPherson transposes the songs of Bob Dylan to Depression-era Duluth. Why the playwright Lynn Nottage and the director and choreographer Christopher Wheeldon are charging ahead with MJ, a biomusical based around Michael Jackson, remains a mystery, but it seems telling that the production has revised its former title, the innuendo-available Dont Stop Til You Get Enough, with the more innocuous MJ.

Queens, princesses, an unlikely drag act and an unlikelier acid trip inspire the other new musicals, such as Six, the hit London power-pop musical about the wives of Henry VIII. It joins Diana, with music by Joe DiPietro and David Bryan, a biomusical about the peoples princess. Following in the high-heeled footsteps of Tootsie comes Mrs Doubtfire, an adaptation of the Robin Williams movie about a divorced dad who puts on a dress to get closer to his children. Perhaps the most original entry is Flying Over Sunset, a new musical with a book by James Lapine and music by Tom Kitt that details the mid-50s LSD experiments of Cary Grant, Clare Booth Luce and Aldous Huxley.

If that doesnt sound like enough of a trip, Katrina Lenk, a Tony winner for The Bands Visit, will star in Marianne Elliotts gender-flipped Company, and Hugh Jackman, that great showman, will lead a revival of The Music Man. Ivo van Hove returns the Sharks and the Jets to the stage in a new version of West Side Story, with choreography by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker. Sharon D Clarke will reprise the title role in Caroline, or Change, in Michael Longhursts celebrated revival of Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesoris underrated blues and klezmer musical.

Laura Linney during the My Name Is Lucy Barton photo call. Photograph: Walter McBride/Getty Images

Its difficult to discern much of a melody in the varied roster of new plays. Two of them, Martin McDonaghs Hangmen, now starring Dan Stevens, and Stefano Massinis The Lehman Trilogy, with Simon Russell Beale, arrive after successful runs both in London and Off-Broadway. Two solo shows chronicle the stages of a womans life, Elizabeth Strouts My Name is Lucy Barton, adapted by Rona Munro and starring Laura Linney, and Noah Haidles Birthday Candles, starring Debra Messing. Grand Horizons, the Broadway debut of the celebrated off-Broadway writer Bess Wohl, centers on a golden-years divorce. The not-so-happy couple: Jane Alexander and James Cromwell. Tracy Letts, who brought Linda Vista to Broadway in 2019, returns with The Minutes, in which he also stars, alongside Armie Hammer and Jesse Mueller. Directed by Steppenwolfs Anna D Shapiro, it charts a town council meeting in real time.

When it comes to play revivals, producers have stuck to American properties, all of them penned in the last 60 years. It hasnt been long since Whos Afraid of Virginia Woolf and American Buffalo were on Broadway. But here they are again, with Laurie Metcalf (who can never, it seems, not be on Broadway), Rupert Everett, and Russell Tovey attached to the former and Laurence Fishburne and Sam Rockwell to the latter. (One might have anticipated that after Bitter Wheat, the theater might want a David Mamet breather. Not so much.) Paula Vogels How I Learned to Drive was recently revived off-Broadway, but it has its keys in the ignition again, this time with its original stars, Mary-Louise Parker and David Morse, attached.

Star casting will also gin up anticipation for Kenny Leons revival of Charles Fullers wrenching drama A Soldiers Play, now starring David Alan Grier and Blair Underwood, and Richard Greenbergs comedy-drama of baseball and sexuality, Take Me Out, with Jesse Williams and Jesse Tyler Ferguson. Husband-and-wife Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker star in Neil Simons Plaza Suite, playing two couples and one near couple, all occupying the same hotel room.

Want to place bets on which shows will still be running this time next year? Ante in.

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Standup comedian also takes aim at callout culture that sees public figures held to account by audiences

Dave Chappelle has come under fire for his latest Netflix special in which he claims he does not believe Michael Jackson sexually assaulted young boys, and makes jokes at the expense of Jacksons accusers.

In a standup set that seemed designed to provoke precisely the backlash that it was critiquing, Chappelle took aim at a prevailing callout culture that sees celebrities being held to account by audiences and in the media for perceived or actual crimes and for the offensive things they say.

He talked at length about the allegations of sexual assault against Jackson, who died in 2009, made by James Safechuck and Wade Robson in the HBO/Channel 4 documentary, Leaving Neverland.

Chappelle described the allegations in detail before complaining about the graphic descriptions in the documentary itself, and then said he didnt believe Jacksons accusers because actor Macaulay Culkin, who also spent time with Jackson as a child, hadnt made accusations of his own.

Acknowledging that he was saying something that Im not allowed to say, Chappelle also joked about how making such statements made him a victim blamer.

If somebody come up to me like, Dave, Dave, Chris Brown just beat up Rihanna! Id be like, Well, what did she do? Dave! Michael Jackson was molesting children! Well, what were those kids wearing at the time? he said.

But you know what, even if he did do it its Michael Jackson. I know more than half the people in this room have been molested in their lives. But it wasnt no goddamn Michael Jackson, was it?

Chappelle also compared the Jackson allegations with those made by multiple women against singer R Kelly, which he said he did believe.

Robson and Safechuck, Jacksons accusers, responded to the comedians set, with Robson saying: He can say whatever he wants. It reveals him, not us.

Robsons lawyer Vince Finaldi said of Chappelle: Its unfortunate that he has chosen to use his platform to shame sexual abuse victims, and spread his ignorance of sexual abuse and the way it is perpetrated upon children, in an attempt to resurrect his career.

Sticks & Stones is Chappelles third Netflix special, the first two of which were also widely criticised for their apparent homophobia and transphobia.

Chappelle appeared to predict the backlash to Sticks & Stones, which was released this week, suggesting in the set that such backlash was the reason his public appearances were few and far between.

Thats why I dont be coming out doing comedy all the time, he said. Im goddamn sick of it. This is the worst time ever to be a celebrity. Youre gonna be finished. Everyones doomed.

Later, he said: Doesnt matter what I say. And if you at home watching this shit on Netflix, remember bitch, you clicked on my face. Celebrity hunting season. Doesnt matter what I say, theyre gonna get everybody eventually. Like look, I dont think I did anything wrong, but well see.

John Branca, an executor of the Jackson estate, told TMZ he agreed with Chappelle.

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Michael Jacksons sister gives interview ahead of 10th anniversary of his death

Janet Jackson has said her brother Michaels musical legacy will continue, but refused to comment on enduring allegations of child sexual abuse.

Two men, James Safechuck and Wade Robson, made detailed allegations of sexual abuse by Michael Jackson in a documentary, Leaving Neverland. The singer died 10 years ago this month.

Janet Jackson, 53, supported her brother throughout the child sexual abuse allegations, which he denied before his death. The two siblings also sang a duet on the 1995 hit Scream, a track that retaliated against media coverage of the claims, which had first emerged two years earlier.

When asked about her brothers legacy in an interview with the Sunday Times magazine, she said: It will continue. I love it when I see kids emulating him, when adults still listen to his music.

It just lets you know the impact that my family has had on the world. I hope Im not sounding arrogant in any way. Im just stating what is. Its really all Gods doing, and Im just thankful for that.

Members of the Jackson family, including Michaels brothers Tito and Marlon and his nephew Taj, resolutely denied the allegations made in Leaving Neverland, which was directed by Dan Reed. They drew a mixed reaction from the singers friends and fans, some of whom claimed the programme, which aired in the UK on Channel 4, was all about the money.

Discussing growing up in one of the worlds most famous families, Janet said her father, Joseph, had insisted his children had music careers and refused to allow her to study business law because he saw musical talent in her.

When parents see something in their children, I guess they guide them in that direction, she said. Especially when youre talking about children who grew up in that urban area. Music was a way to keep us off the streets.

My father saw a way out for his children. A better life. And thank God for that.

Janet Jackson went on to sell millions of records and become one of the most successful female solo acts of all time. She will make her Glastonbury festival debut next weekend.

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The director of Leaving Neverland on the polarised reaction to his landmark film

Leaving Neverland has been seen by his many wild-eyed defenders as a jaccuse aimed at the legacy of Michael Jackson. It is not. It is a detailed, four-hour study of the psychology of child sexual abuse, told through two ordinary families who were groomed for 20 years by a paedophile masquerading as a trusted friend. Its a mask that is often used by predators, whether a priest, a teacher, an uncle. This time the man behind the mask just happened to be Michael Jackson.

I had only a foggy idea about all this before starting work on the film. The complex, counter-intuitive and repugnant truths of child sexual abuse that Wade Robson, James Safechuck and their families have courageously unravelled on camera came as a shock to me.

In particular, the repellent but undeniable fact that a powerful attachment often forms between the predator and the child, who experiences the adults sexual advances not as abuse, but quite the opposite: as love. Equally disturbing to any parent is the childs subsequent urge to shelter the abuser from parents or police. This misplaced loyalty often persists into adulthood, even though the adult knows by now that child sexual abuse is a crime. I felt anointed, as Wade puts it.

And then theres the fear of consequences. Michael told me wed go to jail for the rest of our lives, said Wade, describing a conversation that he had at Neverland when he was seven, but was repeated many times. The combined weight of love, shame and fear can lead to a lifetime of silence. The psychological strain of keeping the secret corrodes the soul, resulting in depression, feelings of worthlessness, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts. And the victim doesnt connect these symptoms with the childhood sexual relationship. I am no psychotherapist but this all started to make a dreadful kind of sense to me. As James observed poignantly in a recent interview: Your whole childhood is a lie.

Michael Jackson fans protest against the film. Photograph: Dingena Mol/EPA

And here is the saddest truth of all. We trust our children to warn us of any unwelcome physical contact by an adult. But what if sickening though it sounds they do enjoy it, and do feel special? Oprah Winfrey, herself a survivor of child sexual abuse, goes so far as to say that child sexual abuse is a misnomer; it should be called child sexual seduction. When Wade tells his mother that Jackson molested him, she turns to him: How could you not have told me? Wade chokes up as he describes this. Thats a really complicated question, is all he can manage to say.

Wade was in love with Jackson and cherished that relationship even more than the bond with his mother. That situation persisted for years. It wasnt until after he became the father of a little boy that Wade woke and began to look for a way out of the accursed mental Neverland hed entered 22 years earlier.

Everything about child sexual abuse is complicated, but thats where the documentary form comes into its own. Ive always believed that less is more and shorter is better, but what I realised as the talented editor Jules Cornell and I put together the story over many months was that this anatomy of two families ordeals demanded a far bigger canvas than any other story Id tackled in my years of presenting complex stories of trauma through intimate personal testimony. This one takes four hours to tell and, until youve watched all of it, youre in the dark about whether to believe James and Wade or not. Few who have watched it without prejudice are left in any doubt by the end.

By contrast, the counter-narrative from the Jackson camp has been aggressively reductive. Its all about the money, they intone every time a new accuser emerges. This time though, theres a second cudgel their legal and propaganda machine is using to beat the children that Jackson raped.

Wade was the first defence witness in the 2004/5 criminal trial of Michael Jackson. His testimony helped to acquit the King of Pop of molesting Gavin Arvizo, a child cancer survivor. Wade states in my film that he had perjured himself because he could not bear to see Jackson, the man he loved, go to jail. Telling the truth was out of the question. He had never told a soul, not even his mother. So the Jackson camp now call him an admitted liar. This argument falls apart when you apply even the merest dusting of common sense. Was he lying then? Or is he lying now? You cant have it both ways.

The evidence of perjury of course comes from Wade himself. Part two of the documentary leads all but the most hard-bitten fan to an understanding of why he lied then, and is telling the truth now.

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What we know about Michael Jackson’s history of sexual abuse allegations video

The charge that James and Wade are in it for money is equally flimsy. In 2013, Wade (joined later by James in a separate, but similar case) launched a lawsuit against Jacksons estate, claiming that Jacksons business associates knew he was molesting little boys but turned a blind eye. Their cases were dismissed on technical grounds, but the judge made no ruling on the validity of the abuse claims. The cases have both gone to appeal.

So where will this gold come from? The answer is that Wade and James would have to win it in a hotly contested court battle. A jury would have to weigh up evidence of which there is plenty and decide that their claims were valid. And damages would then be awarded against the Jackson estate. Some people would call that justice. The most extraordinary thing in all this is that no one denies that Jackson took little boys to his bed, night after night, for many, many years. What did his family and business associates think he was doing with these little boys behind a locked door? Did they believe he was actually a child in the body of a man and therefore somehow needed to sleep with little boys? That makes no sense if you think about it for more than a second.

Why has it taken 30 years for Jackson to be unmasked? Here in the UK we were all asking the same question after Jimmy Savile.

The answer has something to do of course with the dazzling glare of celebrity and our instinctive deference to talent and wealth. But it also has a lot to do with collective ignorance. Joe Public that includes me before making this film has no idea what grooming by a predatory paedophile looks like. Why didnt the kid go running to mummy as soon as he was groped? This is partly why so many victims take their shameful secret to their graves.

Leaving Neverland is a humble attempt to change that, and light a beacon for those who, when the time is right, may wish to break their silence and confront their abuser, alive or dead.

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After graphic allegations against the star shocked the world, we hear from those queueing for the Thriller Live stage show

Should you still listen to Michael Jackson? In the days following the broadcast of Leaving Neverland, a four-hour documentary uncovering detailed allegations of child sexual abuse against Jackson, the question was posed repeatedly online. For diehard fans, however, it seems the answer is very much yes.

Crowds queuing outside Londons Lyric theatre for Thriller Live, the Jackson musical now in its 11th record-breaking year, were upbeat the day after Channel 4 aired the first part of the film by director Dan Reed. Leaving Neverland documents in disturbing detail the stories of James Safechuck and Wade Robson and their relationships with Jackson.

People will receive the documentary based on what theyve always believed, said Holly, 54, a black American who called herself an admirer rather than a fan. Holly was in town on business and was joined by her husband. They had turned up to the West End on the off-chance that tickets might still be available; the evenings two-hour-and-45-minute performance eventually sold out.

Some people who think [the accusations] were over-exaggerated or false will continue to believe that, she said.

So what did she believe? I think he was amazing and a genius, but he had issues. He had a mental illness. It is very difficult to be that famous, that wealthy, that adored, exposed and praised as Michael Jackson was from since he was a tiny child and to be normal, she said. Then again, she added with a shrug, he had some weird, quirky, innate desires that he then fulfilled.

Such a view may be profoundly difficult to understand for many who heard the allegations detailed by Safechuck and Robson in Reeds four-hour opus: accusations that they were groomed by the singer as children, frequently separated from their parents and sexually abused for years. For many, any attitude that shrugs off Jacksons behaviour as quirky is to sweep shocking allegations of child abuse under the carpet. Some may feel uneasy even about appreciating Jacksons music.

But most of those outside the Lyric last week remained determined to enjoy the show. Several groups of German tourists joined the queue. One couple, Karl and Sofie, had arrived from Dsseldorf and were ecstatic. I am very excited. People are saying bad things about him, but we love the songs, said Sofie, 20, who had bought the tickets as a birthday gift. Karl, 23, was unfazed by the battle for Jacksons legacy. We grew up knowing Michael was the biggest pop star.

Having paid upwards of 35 each, most fans were keen to have a good time. Jolene, studying at Queen Mary University of London, had bought her tickets that day, despite watching the documentary the night before.I dont care too much about his personal life or that news, she said. I dont think that influenced his music. My memories around him are good.

The estate of Michael Jackson, which strongly denies the accusations, engaged in a furious PR battle all week, including advertising on London buses with a campaign sloganed: Facts dont lie, people do. Still, Anne Hudson, from London, admitted performing mental gymnastics to separate Jacksons work from the most damaging allegations levelled against him.

I wouldnt be surprised if it was true, but [Thriller Live] was made because of his music, not his personal life. This music is part of history now, there will always be artists influenced by him. He made so much of music what it is today.

Michael Jackson fans protest outside Channel 4, which aired the Leaving Neverland documentary, in London. Photograph: George Cracknell Wright/Rex

The Lyric theatre declined to comment on the future of the show, but in a statement on Facebook, Adrian Grant, the creator of Thriller Live, insisted Leaving Neverland was part of a smear campaign. I have been advised by some not to get involved with this debate, he wrote. But I cannot do that. It would be as morally wrong for me to remain silent as it is for the media to convict Michael without a fair trial or evidence.

In the UK charts, Jacksons Number Ones album climbed 44 places in the past week to reach number 43, while The Essential Michael Jackson sat at number 79.

Mother and daughter superfans Sue and Leyla Demirel were dressed in Thriller bomber jackets and dismissed any accusations made against their idol. They had watched the documentary the night before. I just dont think Michael was capable of doing something like that, said Sue. He was just very childlike and he spent his time playing with children because he was the boy who never grew up, thats why he was nicknamed Peter Pan.

Personally, I think that if the accusers story was more solid, Id believe it more, but they keep changing, said Leyla, who was seeing Thriller Live for the 34th time. Asked where she stood on the #MeToo movement, Leyla was supportive. Im 100% pro any form of allegations where people come forward, its really important and its great that people are speaking up, she said.

Did she not see a contradiction in her support for Jackson?

If it was genuine, their parents would have said something. The two accusers defended him when he was alive and they are known to have lied in the past, she said.

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This relentlessly spare documentary confines itself to the testimony of how two boys were groomed

Another day, another slew of allegations, and another reckoning with the private behaviour and public legacy of a feted man previously considered untouchable.

In the wake of #MeToo, and the growing utterance of previously unspeakable truths, the mighty are falling fast.

Now its Michael Jacksons turn to come under scrutiny. The two-part, four-hour expos Leaving Neverland was built round the testimony of adults Wade Robson and James Safechuck who allege that they were abused as children by a man they worshipped. Like the participants in the recent documentary Surviving R Kelly, they have met with hostile incredulity from diehard fans who claim they are lying in the pursuit of compensation payouts. For non-diehard fans, it is hard to watch either documentary and not feel that it would be easier to make a buck in almost any other way imaginable.

Robson was an Australian dance prodigy and superfan who first met Jackson when he won a dance competition at the age of five. He says the abuse began two years later, after Jackson befriended the family to such an extent that his mother moved half the family to Los Angeles. To the boy, it was like having a magical best friend. After theyd finished playing with toys and watching movies in bed, what could be more natural than doing whatever his friend wanted, to demonstrate the special love they shared?

Leaving Neverlands director Dan Reed (centre), with Wade Robson and James Safechuck. Photograph: Taylor Jewell/Invision/AP

Safechuck wasnt a Jackson superfan, but he and his family became devotees when he was cast in Jacksons 1987 Pepsi commercial. Like the Robsons, they found themselves swept up and seduced by the stars kindness, generosity, charm and glamour. Safechuck says his abuse started when he was 10. His hand shakes when he pulls out the box full of jewellery Jackson would give him in exchange, including the ring that was used in the mock wedding he says Jackson had them take part in. It barely fits over his fingertip now.

Both men describe their experiences at Neverland in private rooms behind several closed doors rigged with a warning system of bells in similar and similarly harrowing detail: that Jackson told them they would go to prison if anyone found out, and that parents, and especially women, were evil. Their accounts of what they were required to do, of the psychological processes at work (in the second part of the documentary especially, when Robson talks through his inability to tell the truth during the Jordan Chandler investigation or at Jacksons 2005 trial) and of their mental unravellings since, are so finely grained it is difficult to believe they are confected.

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Watch the trailer for Leaving Neverland: Michael Jackson and Me video

Journalistic and legal standards require neutrality be observed, but as a viewer its hard to escape the conclusion that the star who openly admitted he slept with boys in his bed, and was trailed by accusations of child molestation for the last 15 years of his life did exactly what these men say he did.

Whatever the truth, as a documentary it is an astonishing piece of work. Relentlessly spare and unsensationalist, it manages better than any other in its genre not to let its attention wander from the survivors testimony. Footage of Jackson is confined almost wholly to that of him with the boys themselves on stage, private calls between them and family snaps. He is never allowed to overwhelm the story. And the story the men tell is one familiar to anyone with any experience, direct or indirect, of child abuse; only the scale is different. Grooming comes with a gift of the Thriller jacket and entire theme parks booked for you, rather than bags of sweets or a longed-for toy. You are made to feel special by being played unreleased music by your hero, rather than being allowed to stay up late. But at its heart it is the same. And the heart is black and through its veins runs poison.

Let us hope Leaving Neverland, and the changing times that have created space for it, are part of a deep and lasting purge.

Leaving Neverland continues tomorrow at 9pm on Channel 4.

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I accept that great art is often made by terrible people but sometimes it is necessary to draw a line

Nothing should interfere with my personal listening pleasure. Nothing at all. Great art is often made by terrible people. These truths I have held to be self-evident. Certainly, as a woman, you have to get over yourself a lot of the time because the canon of literature, of cinema, of art, is the canon of lauded misogyny and in order to function critically, you have to inhabit it.

Hannah Gadsbys wonderful comedy show Nanette includes a takedown of Picasso, but it doesnt work for me. I like Picasso too much. I cant not look at his paintings. Just as I cant not wonder at the words of William Burroughs, who killed his wife (accidentally, we are meant to believe).

Hey, look at me and my wonderful ability to compartmentalise! Then I find myself in a minicab and Billie Jean comes on. Everyone still plays Michael Jackson and the songs he sung about being wronged, and my heart starts to beat a little too fast.

The idea of Jackson as an abuser is not new. In 1994, he made a financial settlement of $23m with the family of Jordan Chandler. Everyone knew he had young boys sleeping in his bed. This was not normal, we said but we had decided it was not sex. Oh no. When every big case of predatory paedophilia breaks, we rush to say it was obvious all along, but somehow we looked away.

Jackson turned himself into a monster in front of us in Thriller, yet he was also always the victim. As more and more awful, awful details emerge of boys who claim he abused them from the age of seven, I dont know what box to put his music in any more. It doesnt matter. Sometimes we draw lines and it is way too late, but it has to be done. That is how cultural shifts happen. They happen when we say: no more. Enough.

How sad is it that I might not listen to Jackson any more, that this investment in my own past is so morally rotten? In the scheme of things, not so sad. There is so much magnificent music in the world; I wont go without. He is properly dead to me now.

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Michael Jackson’s Thriller is a 14-minute horror-themed music video that was released in 1983, but comedian Roy Wood Jr. recently found a way to view it in a way nobody has likely thought of before. “What if ‘Thriller’ actually happened & Michael Jackson’s date Ola Ray tweeted about [it] the next day,” Roy rhetorically asked his 156 followers on the social network. He then proceeded “narrating” the events as if he was the girl, and people couldn’t get enough of it. Scroll down to check out the hilarious homage to the classic that was the MTV’s first world premiere video, and let us know in the comments if you’d go out on a second date after one like this.

Even though Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ is 35 years old, but one comedian has just come up with a hilarious way to watch it as if you haven’t seen it before

People were having the best time while reading it

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As the Prince of Pops skin got lighter his music became more politicised, and 1991s overlooked album encapsulated this radical moment in music

For a figure as enigmatic as Michael Jackson, one of the more fascinating paradoxes about his career is this: as he became whiter, he became blacker. Or to put it another way: as his skin became whiter, his work became blacker.

To elaborate, we must rewind to a crucial turning point: the early 1990s. In hindsight, it represents the best of times and the worst of times for the artist. In November 1991, Jackson released the first single from his Dangerous album: Black or White, a bright, catchy pop-rock-rap fusion that soared to No 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and remained at the top of the charts for six weeks. It was his most successful solo single since Beat It.

The conversation surrounding Jackson at this point, however, was not about his music. It was about his race. Sure, critics said, he might sing that it dont matter if youre black or white, but then why had he turned himself white? Was he bleaching his skin? Was he ashamed of his blackness? Was he trying to appeal to every demographic, transcend every identity category in a vainglorious effort to reach greater commercial heights than Thriller?

To this day, many assume Jackson bleached his skin to become white that it was a wilful cosmetic decision because he was ashamed of his race. Yet in the mid-1980s Jackson was diagnosed with vitiligo, a skin disorder that causes loss of pigmentation in patches on the body. According to those close to him, it was an excruciatingly humiliating personal challenge, one in which he went to great lengths to hide through long-sleeve shirts, hats, gloves, sunglasses and masks. When Jackson died in 2009, his autopsy definitively confirmed he had vitiligo, as did his medical history.

However, in the early 1990s, the public were sceptical to say the least. Jackson first publicly revealed he had vitiligo in a widely watched 1993 interview with Oprah Winfrey. This is the situation, he explained. I have a skin disorder that destroys the pigmentation of the skin. It is something I cannot help, OK? But when people make up stories that I dont want to be what I am it hurts me Its a problem for me that I cant control. Jackson did acknowledge having plastic surgery but said he was horrified that people concluded that he didnt want to be black. I am a black American, he declared. I am proud of my race. I am proud of who I am.

For Jackson, then, there was no ambivalence about his racial identity and heritage. His skin had changed but his race had not. In fact, if anything his identification as a black artist had grown stronger. The first indication of this came in the video for Black or White. Watched by an unprecedented global audience of 500 million viewers, it was Jacksons biggest platform ever; a platform, it should be noted, that he earned by breaking down racial barriers at MTV with his groundbreaking short films from Thriller.

The first few minutes of the Black or White video seemed relatively benign and consistent with the utopian calls of previous songs (Can You Feel It, We Are the World, Man in the Mirror). Jackson, adorned in contrasting black-and-white apparel, travels across the globe, fluidly adapting his dance moves to whatever culture or country he finds himself in. He acts as a kind of cosmopolitan shaman, performing alongside Africans, Native Americans, Thais, Indians and Russians, attempting, it seems, to instruct the recliner-bound White American Father (played by George Wendt) about the beauties of difference and diversity. The main portion of the video culminates with the groundbreaking morphing sequence, in which ebullient faces of various races seamlessly blend from one to another. The message seemed to be that we are all part of the human family distinct but connected regardless of cosmetic variations.

In the age of Trump and the resurgence of white nationalism, even that multicultural message remains vital. But thats not all Jackson had to say. Just when the director (John Landis) yells Cut! we see a black panther lurking off the soundstage to a back alley. The coda that follows became Jacksons riskiest artistic move to this point in his career particularly given the expectations of his family-friendly audience. In contrast to the upbeat, mostly optimistic tone of the main portion of the video, Jackson unleashes a flurry of unbridled rage, pain and aggression. He bashes a car in with a crowbar; he grabs and rubs himself; he grunts and screams; he throws a trash can into a storefront (echoing the controversial climax of Spike Lees 1989 film, Do the Right Thing), before falling to his knees and tearing off his shirt. The video ends with Homer Simpson, another White American Father, taking the remote from his son, Bart, and turning off the TV. That censorious move proved prescient.

The so-called panther dance caused an uproar; more so, ironically, than anything put out that year by Nirvana or Guns N Roses. Fox, the US station that originally aired the video, was bombarded with complaints. In a front page story, Entertainment Weekly described it as Michael Jacksons Video Nightmare. Eventually, relenting to pressure, Fox and MTV excised the final four minutes of the video.

Cats the way to do it: Jackson and friend. Photograph: Cinetext / Allstar

Yet amid the controversy (most in the media simply dismissed it as a publicity stunt), very few asked the simple question: what did it mean? Couched in between the Rodney King beating and the Los Angeles riots, it seems crazy in retrospect not to interpret the short film in that context. Racial tensions in the US, in LA in particular, were hot. In this climate, Michael Jackson the worlds most famous black entertainer made a short film in which he escapes the confines of the Hollywood sound stage, transforms into a black panther and channels the pent-up rage and indignation of a nation and moment. Jackson himself later explained that in the coda he wanted to do a dance number where I [could] let out my frustration about injustice and prejudice and racism and bigotry, and within the dance I became upset and let go.

The Black or White short film was no anomaly in its racial messaging. The Dangerous album, from its songs to its short films, not only highlights black talent, styles and sounds, but also acts as a kind of tribute to black culture. Perhaps the most obvious example of this is the video for Remember the Time. Featuring some of the eras most prominent black luminaries Magic Johnson, Eddie Murphy and Iman the video is set in ancient Egypt. In contrast to Hollywoods stereotypical representations of African Americans as servants, Jackson presents them here as royalty.

Promised a sizable production budget, Jackson enlisted John Singleton, a young, rising black director coming off the success of Boyz N the Hood, for which he received an Oscar nomination. Jackson and Singletons collaboration resulted in one of the most lavish and memorable music videos of his career, highlighted by the intricate, hieroglyphic hip-hop dance sequence (choreographed by Fatima Robinson). Again, in this video, Jackson appeared whiter than ever, but the video directed, choreographed by and featuring black talent was a celebration of black history, art, and beauty.

The song, in fact, was produced and co-written by another young black rising star, Teddy Riley, the architect of new jack swing. Prior to Riley, Jackson had reached out to a range of other black artists and producers, including LA Reid, Babyface, Bryan Loren and LL Cool J, searching for someone with whom he could develop a new, post-Quincy Jones sound. He found what he was looking for in Riley, whose grooves contained the punch of hip-hop, the swing of jazz and the chords of the black church. Remember the Time is perhaps their best-known collaboration, with its warm organ bedrock and tight drum machine beat. It became a huge hit on black radio, and reached No 1 on Billboards R&B/hip-hop chart.

Jackson on tour in Rotterdam, 1992. Photograph: Paul Bergen/Redferns

The first six tracks on Dangerous are Jackson-Riley collaborations. They sounded like nothing Jackson had done before, from the glass-shattering, horn-flavoured verve of Jam to the factory-forged, industrial funk of the title track. In place of Thrillers pristine crossover R&B and Bads cinematic drama are a sound and message that are more raw, urgent and attuned to the streets. On She Drives Me Wild, the artist builds an entire song around street sounds: engines; horns; slamming doors and sirens. On several other songs Jackson integrated rap, one of the first pop artists along with Prince to do so.

Dangerous went on to become Jacksons best-selling album after Thriller, shifting 7m copies in the US and more than 32m copies worldwide. Yet at the time, many viewed it as Jacksons last desperate attempt to reclaim his throne. When Nirvanas Nevermind replaced Dangerous at the top of the charts in the second week of January 1992, white rock critics gleefully declared the King of Pops reign over. Its easy to see the symbolism of that moment. Yet Dangerous has aged well. Returning to it now, without the hype or biases that accompanied its release in the early 90s, one gets a clearer sense of its significance. Like Nevermind, it surveyed the cultural scene and the internal anguish of its creator in compelling ways. Moreover, it could be argued that Dangerous was just as significant to the transformation of black music (R&B/new jack swing) as Nevermind was to white music (alternative/grunge). The contemporary music scene is certainly far more indebted to Dangerous ( ie Finesse, the recent new jack-inflected single from Bruno Mars and Cardi B).

Only recently, however, have critics begun to reassess the significance of Dangerous. In a 2009 Guardian article, it is referred to as Jacksons true career high. In her book on the album for Bloomsburys 33 series, Susan Fast describes Dangerous as the artists coming of age album. The record, she writes, offers Jackson on a threshold, finally inhabiting adulthood isnt this what so many said was missing? and doing so through an immersion in black music that would only continue to deepen in his later work.

That immersion continued as well in his visual work, which, in addition to Black or White and Remember the Time, showcased the elegant athleticism of basketball superstar Michael Jordan in the music video for Jam and the palpable sensuality of Naomi Campbell in the sepia-coloured short film for In the Closet. A few years later, he worked with Spike Lee on the most pointed racial salvo of his career, They Dont Care About Us, which has been resurrected as an anthem for the Black Lives Matter movement. Still, critics, comedians and the public alike continued to suggest Jackson was ashamed of his race. Only in America, went a common joke, can a poor black boy grow up to be a rich white woman.

Yet Jackson demonstrated that race is about more than mere pigmentation or physical features. While his skin became whiter, his work in the 1990s was never more infused with black pride, talent, inspiration and culture.

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