I am agnostic about Michael Jackson the musician and entertainer. It’s not that I particularly dislike his music. That isn't the case, but "Billie Jean" (and that killer bass line) is honestly the only song of his I've ever felt any real connection with. Still, there's no doubting his raw talent and the great appeal of his art to many people. His work has just never really been my kinda thing.

It’s necessary to start any talk about HBO's documentary Leaving Neverland with one's thoughts on Jackson the entertainer, because this documentary unlike any I've ever seen has really forced some raw emotions to the surface.

It seems two camps have really entrenched themselves, one firmly against the other, in Leaving Neverland's wake. One camp seeks to minimize Jackson's contributions to pop culture and the zeitgeist with the incredibly detailed sexual accusations made against Jackson in the film. He was obviously a pedophile, ergo we must purge him from the popular mind like Stalin and the Soviets purged their political opposition, goes this line of thought. We're already seeing evidence of it with some radio stations refusing to play his music and The Simpsons summarily shelving the episode he was in (which will undoubtedly make people want to see it more).

On the flip side of this, you have fans of his who are frankly fanatical (the Daily Beast has rightfully called them "truthers"). There's no way possible he could've done anything his plethora of accusers said he did, why don't you leave the dead alone? Some on this side have even said this documentary is racist and irrelevant – not because of faults in its information or method, something we'll get into below, but because of look at what Trump or the white establishment is trying to distract you from. Yes, I honestly saw people making this argument in my Twitter feed.  

While yes, those in positions of governmental power undoubtedly like a distracted populace, to relate this in any way to the crimes described in Leaving Neverland is sheer, unabashed whataboutism and should be discounted as the intellectually dishonest – and question dodging – trope it is. What does it say about us as a culture that some people are willing to table accusations of the most disturbing sexual acts (over a child no less) with a lame excuse that essentially equals "look over here"? Even the crappiest children's birthday party magicians can't get away with that.

No, the truth here has to be somewhere in the middle. To find it, one really needs to look at what happened in the lead up to HBO airing Leaving Neverland and some of the points made by both sides regarding that.

Before Leaving Neverland even aired on HBO, Michael Jackson's estate hit the network with a $100 million lawsuit (read a PDF of the full suit here), calling the documentary a "reprehensible disparagement of Michael Jackson".

The accusations detailed by the two men in the film (Wade Robson and Jimmy Safechuck, who met Jackson separately and under different circumstances when they were both children) are extraordinarily and grossly detailed and even include a mock wedding when Safechuck was 11. If you are easily squeamish over such things, do not watch this film.

Yet, what is perhaps most disturbing in the whole thing is how Jackson bought off the parents of both boys with expensive plane tickets, trips, stays at the opulent Neverland Ranch and the like – even as he is sleeping in the same bed with their kids. Leaving Neverland shows that propensity that sadly exists in so many people to ignore the manifestly obvious when these sorts of glitzy things are dangled in front of you and you believe the celebrity in question is above reproach.

The lawsuit against HBO by the Jackson estate does make a fair point about the documentary’s methods. Namely that there is no rebuttal presented. Director Dan Reed could have – at the very least – included a statement from Jackson’s estate because it's not as if a rebuttal or evidence that suggests the contrary did not exist here.

There is also the issue that Robson was a witness for Jackson's defense in his 2005 sex abuse trial. Of course, we now often know that these kinds of abuse (where the abuser was – to some degree – trusted by the victim) are quite psychologically messy in so far as very often victims can feel conflicted about their abuser, memory itself gets messy, and things happen in a manifestly weird order.   

What does Leaving Neverland suggest to us that we shouldn't have already known? Michael Jackson has been accused of this before, but never in such detail – and never in the #MeToo era. This leaves us with a reckoning of his celebrity status going forward.

This reckoning is surprisingly easier when talking of say a Harvey Weinstein who is involved as a producer. It is never merely one person who makes a movie what it is. Movies are always a collaborative endeavor.

But with music or acting, what happens when you cannot separate out the abuser from the art the abuser has created? Kevin Spacey is an example from the movie world, sure films like Glengarry, Glenn Ross and Se7en are fantastic, but you can't exactly absorb the art of a movie actor without looking at him (and all the psychological associations entailed in that), just like you cannot separate out the art of a singer like Michael Jackson without hearing him.

So, these are the questions going forward with such a definitive, yet flawed documentary as Leaving Neverland. Perhaps the best advice in wrestling with them came from HBO programming chief Casey Bloys who said, "The one thing I would say about this documentary is I would ask everybody to watch it and make their judgments after seeing it."