“MTV Generation” is a rather dismissive way of referring to the ‘ferociously independent’ – whatever that means – and ‘loud-music loving’ generation of youths with heavily ‘studded’ nostrils, earlobes and eyebrows, and sometimes, well, also the tongue, navel and what not. That, of course, is just one of the impressions that many oldies carry. There might certainly be many other equally, more or less charitable impressions. But neither ‘MTV’, nor the so-called ‘MTV Generation’ would be what it is without the late ‘King of Pop’ – Michael Jackson .
Jackson was not a blinding momentary flash of even the relatively longer-lasting Britney, Shakira or Twain kind, but a dazzling era that not just left a lasting imprint but changed the music industry forever. If statistics tell any part of Jackson’s success story, it is noteworthy that the best selling music album of all times continues to be Jackson’s 1982 release – Thriller – with 110 million copies sold. The distant second is AC/DC’s Back in Black , which stands light years behind with 49 million copies sold. Thriller is also the only music album to have sold not only more than 50 million copies, but to have also crossed the 100 million mark.
But it was not just Thriller alone, for Jackson was no ‘one-album wonder’. His other music albums like Off the Wall (1979), Bad (1987), Dangerous (1991), and History (1995) also figure on the list of the world’s best selling albums ever.
Jackson’s stupendous success brought in tow a substantial number of unpleasant controversies, the most damaging of which were the child sex abuse allegations leveled against him on two different occasions. The scathing experience left Jackson’s psyche bruised, from which the King of Pop possibly never recovered completely.
In 1993, Dr. Evan Chandler, a dentist by profession, and his 13-year-old son, Jordan Chandler, accused Jackson of subjecting Jordon to sexual abuse. The Chandlers demanded money but Jackson refused to accommodate the demand. Jordon’s mother staunchly denied that Jackson violated her son.
On December 20, 1993, the police raided Jackson’s home and subjected him to a strip search that lasted for around 25 minutes. Jordon had claimed that since he had been intimate with Jackson, he could provide a description of the singer’s private parts. He had told the police that Jackson was circumcised. The strip search proved otherwise; he wasn’t. Later, his autopsy would confirm the fact. The investigation was eventually shut and no charges were pressed.
However, the humiliation of the strip search delivered a deep blow to Jackson’s psyche, from which, his friends reportedly said, he could never fully recover.
However, in 1994, an out-of-court settlement was brought about between the Chandlers and Jackson’s insurance carriers for an amount of $22 million with the settlement documents clearly stating that Jackson admitted to no wrongdoing and was, therefore, not liable to the Chandlers. Also, the legal representatives of the Chandlers made it plain explicitly that “nobody bought anybody’s silence”. However, later when the second child abuse allegations were directed at Jackson, his lawyers said that the 1994 settlement did not carry Jackson’s consent.
The second child abuse allegations came after the broadcast of a documentary (on February 3, 2003 in the UK and February 6, 2003 in the US) called ‘ Living with Michael Jackson ‘ made by a British journalist, Martin Bashir. The documentary consisted of the interviews of Michael Jackson conducted by Bashir over a span of eight months, from May 2002 to January 2003.
The documentary showed the 13-year-old accuser, Gavin Arvizo, holding hands with Jackson with his head resting on the singer’s shoulder. He later explained to the court that it was Jackson who held his hands and he rested his head on the singer’s shoulder because Jackson was his “best friend” and he was “really close to Jackson”. There was talk of the arrangements of sleeping over at Jackson’s Neverland, which spurred the allegations of child abuse against the pop star.
People v . Jackson (1133603: The People of the State of California v . Michael Joseph Jackson ), the trial arising out of the allegation commenced in 2005 with Jackson facing charges as follows: Four counts of molesting a minor, four counts of intoxicating a minor in order to molest him, one count of attempted child molestation, and one count of conspiring to hold the boy and his family confined within his sprawling (2,700-acre/11 km 2 ) Neverland Ranch. In addition to that he was also charged with conspiring to commit extortion and child abduction. Jackson denied all accusations, and on June 13, 2005 the jury held Jackson ‘not guilty’ on all fourteen charges.
Jackson felt cheated and betrayed by Martin Bashir. Jackson alleged that Bashir edited portions of the interview to retain only what reinforced the negative image of Jackson that Bashir wanted to portray. The documentary and Bashir’s commentary in it was critical and overly judgmental of Jackson presenting him in extraordinarily unflattering dim light.
Jackson released a rebuttal video in response. The Bashir interviews were simultaneously shot by Bashir’s crew as well as by Jackson’s own cameraman. So, it contains not only the documentary but also the making because Jackson’s cameraman kept recording even after Bashir ordered ‘cut’ to his crew. The video shows Bashir complimenting Jackson on being a good father and for having such a wonderful relationship with children, whereas in his documentary he finds himself ‘uncomfortable’ with Jackson’s relationship with children.
Also, in the video released, the accuser boy Arvizo, his sister Daveline, brother Star and mother Janet deny any inappropriate behaviour on Jackson’s part and also asserted that while they slept in Jackson’s bed, the singer himself slept on the floor always. This was part of the material that Bashir omitted. Following the release of the rebuttal video, several media personalities branded Bashir’s documentary as a piece of ‘yellow journalism’ with New York Times calling it “callous self-interest masked as sympathy”.
Originally written for and published in LAWYERS UPDATE as a part of ‘THE LAW AND THE CELEBRITIES‘ series in July 2011.