The documentary Leaving Neverland presented a disturbing picture of Michael Jackson as a child molester, but the negative publicity hasn't greatly diminished the King of Pop's image or the enduring popularity of his music.

Backlash to the documentary that aired in March prompted radio stations in Canada and New Zealand to stop playing his music and the producers of The Simpsons to remove an episode that featured Jackson's voice.

But that's been the most visible extent of the backlash. There's been no rescinding honours, as happened to Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein, or mass movements to stop playing Jackson's music, as R&B singer R Kelly has faced.

Jackson's music is still featured in commercials and is a part of a Cirque Du Soleil show in Las Vegas. Museums keep images and artifacts of Jackson on display, and his memorabilia continues to sell.


"He still commands prices compared to most any other celebrity," said Darren Julien, president and CEO of the Culver City, California-based Julien's Auctions. He said his auction house has sold about US$15 million ($23m) of the superstar singer's property including his white glove, which went for US$480,000 in 2009, and a jacket, which was recently bought for US$75,000.

"He's the only celebrity where we would have lines of people to get in whenever we had stuff of his to auction," he continued. "There's only one person that compares to Marilyn Monroe in collectibility, and that is Michael Jackson."

Billboard senior editor Gail Mitchell isn't surprised by support for Jackson. She and a colleague recently interviewed about 30 music executives who believe the singer's legacy could withstand the Leaving Neverland controversy. "Some saw the film, others didn't want to," she said. "Many said that [Jackson] is not here to defend himself the way R Kelly is. The jury is always probably going to be out. But all of the execs said his legacy will be fine."

"There was an aura about him," Mitchell said of Jackson. "He had an energy in terms of his talent and the dancing, and I still think that aura still exists to a point. I know it's been tarnished, but there is no denying what he brought to the table."

Michael Jackson died 10 years ago today. Photo / AP
Michael Jackson died 10 years ago today. Photo / AP

Jackson died at the age of 50 from an overdose of the anaesthetic propofol on June 25, 2009. In an instant, his popularity surged after years of being tarnished by sexual abuse allegations and a 2005 child molestation trial, which ended with his acquittal. Then Leaving Neverland was released.

The documentary focused on Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who denied Jackson abused them when the singer was still alive. Both have said having their own children forced them to face the truth.

Jackson acknowledged befriending numerous children, including some he invited into his bed, but denied he molested any of them. His estate has also vigorously denied Robson and Safechuck's allegations, calling the documentary a retread of proven falsehoods from men seeking money. A lawsuit was filed against HBO.

Jackson's music streaming numbers continued to soar, according to Ian Drew, consumer editorial director at Billboard. He said Jackson's estate has been smart about keeping his music relevant, but it could be diminished over those being "creeped out" by allegations.


Jackson's nephew said his legacy will never be destroyed.

"No lie can destroy what was given to us as a blessing from God, and that's what my uncle was," said Sigmund "Siggy" Jackson, son of Jackson's eldest brother, Jackie Jackson. Film producer Jodi Gomes said the family had been working on a documentary on The Jackson 5's 50th anniversary but a network, backed out after Leaving Neverland.

"It was a celebration of what started the whole entire Jackson brand. And now, that has gotten lost in the shuffle," said Gomes.

Siggy Jackson said his uncle's legacy will continue to win despite the "haters". "I don't fault anyone from backing off. But my uncle's legacy will never go away. Our family will make sure of that."

- AP