On Sunday, despite the best efforts of Michael Jackson’s estate, HBO released Leaving Neverland, the four-hour documentary in which two men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, allege that the late pop star sexually abused them when they were children. (The singer denied similar allegations that arose before his 2009 death, and his estate continues to assert his innocence.)
Upon the film’s premiere, for as many people who took to social media to share their shocked and horrified reactions to the allegations, seemingly just as many came forward to defend Jackson and delegitimize his accusers, including several of his family members. This dichotomy has been mirrored in the impact of the film on Jackson’s legacy: While a handful of radio stations have banned his music from their airwaves (as many did after another documentary this year similarly exposed R. Kelly’s own alleged history of abuse), that very music will be celebrated in an upcoming Broadway musical about Jackson’s life, which is reportedly still moving forward despite the new allegations.
Here, a list of the repercussions—and lack thereof—that Leaving Neverland has had on Jackson’s legacy so far.
The Music Bans: Major broadcasting conglomerates in both New Zealand and Canada have announced that they will no longer play Jackson’s music. “We are attentive to listeners’ comments, and last night’s documentary created reactions,” a spokesperson for Montreal-based media company Cogeco said in a statement on Monday, confirming that Jackson’s entire discography had been pulled from airwaves that morning. Leon Wratt, radio content director for New Zealand’s MediaWorks, echoed these sentiments in an interview on Wednesday, noting that in banning Jackson’s music, the company isn’t “deciding whether Michael Jackson is guilty of pedophilia or not; we’re just merely trying to make sure that our radio stations are going to play the music that people want to hear.”
On Tuesday, Hollywood DJ Michelle Pesce penned an essay in which she described her own decision to stop playing Jackson’s music, despite her previous motto of “If all else fails, Michael Jackson.” “This is bigger than any one person and it is a divisive topic: can you separate the artists from their amazing art? I can’t and I’d encourage my fellow DJs to follow,” she wrote.
The Non-Bans: Corus Radio, another Canadian media conglomerate, issued a statement on Sunday stating that it “currently [has] no plans to pull the songs but [is] monitoring the situation closely.” And after reports surfaced that the BBC had instated a ban of its own, the British news service denied the claims, saying, “The BBC does not ban artists. We consider each piece of music on its merits and decisions on what we play on different networks are always made with relevant audiences and context in mind.”
Major American broadcasters and U.S.-based streaming services have yet to announce guidelines of their own. Cumulus, one of the country’s largest radio networks, said in a statement that such a decision would be up to each of its more than 400 stations. “Cumulus Media is never in favor of censorship,” a spokesperson said. “This is a local market decision where the company is allowing local Program Directors to make the right decision regarding airplay for their communities.”
The Broadway Musical: Last summer, it was announced that a Broadway musical about one year in Jackson’s life, entitled Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough, would debut in New York City in 2020. Over the weekend, a spokesperson for the show confirmed that it will, indeed, go on. “Yes, the Michael Jackson musical will open on Broadway next summer,” the rep told Esquire. “The musical is set in 1992, as Michael and the team are rehearsing for the Dangerous World Tour.”
Ironically, as the outlet notes, it was during this tour that the first allegations of child molestation were brought against Jackson. He ended up canceling his remaining tour dates in November 1993, and soon after settled the case for a reported $25 million, while continuing to deny the allegations.
The Art Exhibition: As of Tuesday, the Bundeskunsthalle museum in Bonn, Germany, is still planning to open the Michael Jackson: On the Wall exhibition on March 22 as planned. “The allegations are shocking, but the process [of verifying the victims’ claims] is not yet completed and has become much more difficult since the death of Michael Jackson,” the museum said, per ARTnews. “[The show] reflects on the cultural effect of Jackson, but does not elaborate on his biography.”
The exhibition first debuted at the National Portrait Gallery in London in 2018 before moving to Paris, and features Jackson-inspired work from dozens of contemporary artists, including Andy Warhol and Louise Lawler. After its stint at the Bundeskunsthalle, On the Wall is scheduled to travel to the Espoo Museum of Modern Art in Finland, which has not yet announced whether those plans will be affected by the allegations.
The National Football Museum Statue: Not long after Jackson’s death, the then-chairman of London’s Fulham Football Club, Mohammed Al Fayed, commissioned a statue of the singer to be placed outside the team’s home arena. It was later moved to the National Football Museum in Manchester, but as of Wednesday, per the BBC, it has been removed from the museum. “Plans have been under way for a number of months to remove the Michael Jackson statue from display as part of our ongoing plans to better represent the stories we want to tell about football,” a museum spokesperson said. “As a result of this, the statue has now been removed.”