The camera flies high above the palm trees of Hollywood, soaring north and west, all the way to the suburb of Simi Valley, where it slows down to seek out a certain street, and then slows some more until it finds a particular house. It hovers above it, and then swoops down, pushing in all the way to the doorstep, where it rests, impatient. It is the house where James Safechuck, one of the two men at the center of Leaving Neverland, an HBO documentary, grew up, but in a way it might as well be the Darlings’ house: “Peter Pan chose this particular house because there were people here who believed in him.”
But the Safechucks are not the only people who believe, because here is another suburban house, and here again is that seeking, searching intelligence, the camera pushing closer and closer. It is the house in Brisbane, Australia, where the other subject of the documentary, Wade Robson, grew up. The implication is clear: Michael Jackson could have any little boy in the world; all he needed were parents who would serve up their sons to him.
The two mothers, Stephanie Safechuck and Joy Robson, interviewed at length in the film, are a remarkable pair. Their eyes glimmer with excitement as they talk about hotel suites, meeting movie stars, the lavish guest rooms at Neverland Ranch and its excellent wine cellar. (“That was just something I really enjoyed,” Stephanie says in a matter-of-fact way, as though describing a nice feature of a resort.) They tell us that living in the orbit of Michael Jackson was a “dream,” a “fantasy,” even as one of them admits that she spent a lot of her time at Neverland alone, playing with the chimps, because Jackson and her son avoided her all day long. Most damning is the women’s tacit and unexamined admission that the central proposition upon which their fantastical stories depend—that it never occurred to them that Jackson might pose a threat to their sons—is false. Here is Stephanie pressing her ear against a hotel bedroom, trying to hear what is happening inside; here is Joy, realizing that a new boy appears every 12 months.