An unflinching new documentary on paedophilia accusations againstMichael Jackson, which was aired by the US cable network HBO on Sunday,has shattered the glittering veneer around the late King of Pop, presenting in lurid detail the stories of two men who say he sexually abused them for years as minors.
Leaving Neverland, a four-hour film by British director Dan Reed, is considered so potentially devastating that counselling was made available at its Sundance Film Festival premiere in January.
Reed said he tried to include "sexual detail in a very measured way, so it wasn't done for shock value."
"We tried to make it graphic enough to be eye-opening and for people to be confronted with what it means for a little child to be seduced and raped by an adult paedophile," Reed told AFP.
Jackson's estate has vehemently defended the late star, suing HBO for US$100 million over a "posthumous character assassination" it says breaches an agreement made not to disparage the icon, a condition for airing one of his concerts.
The star faced accusations in 1993 of sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy and settled out of court, with Robson and Safechuck saying at the time that Jackson hadn't touched them.
For pop culture scholar Robert Thompson of Syracuse University, the release in today's #MeToo context is key: Jackson's trial was relatively recent, but "in so many ways, consciousnesses have been raised."
"A documentary this far out could completely change his legacy," Thompson said.
Reed said the timing of the film's release with #MeToo was unplanned but fortuitous.