10 Years After His Death, Michael Jackson’s Complicated Legacy Is Dividing His Biggest Fans

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It’s been 10 years to the day since Michael Jackson died at the age of 50, leaving fans, critics and onlookers worldwide completely stunned.

The star – still an icon, albeit a troubled one – had been preparing for a 50-date run of concerts at London’s O2 Arena, which was set to be his big comeback after years of hitting headlines for financial woes, abuse allegations and rumoured health issues.

His untimely death – which was itself marred in controversy with doctor Conrad Murray later found guilty of involuntary manslaughter – abruptly brought Hollywood and the music world to a standstill.

In the decade since, the nature of his legacy has become increasingly unclear, as while his music is for the most part still celebrated, allegations about his personal life have persisted, having never fully disappeared following a 2005 trial, which saw him acquitted on all counts of child molestation.

Having debuted at the Sundance Film Festival (where a small group of protestors gathered), the controversial documentary Leaving Neverland aired on HBO and Channel 4 in March, shining a light on allegations from two men who separately claim Jackson sexually abused them when they were children.

The Jackson estate vehemently denied the claims, describing the four-hour long film as a “public lynching” but their statement did little to stem public interest. In the wake of the documentary airing, radio stations in Canada and New Zealand issued blanket bans on Jackson’s songs.

Here in the UK, plays on many stations have decreased, with Jackson’s five most popular BBC Radio songs now relegated to occasional plays on regional stations, rather than the main national ones, Radio 1, 2 and 6Music.

So now, 10 years on from Jackson’s death, what state is his legacy in? How do fans feel? It’s complicated.

A Twitter callout on the topic resulted in hundreds of replies – in the form of both public posts and private messages – within 24 hours.

The majority of public ones protested Jackson’s innocence and some came from accounts dedicated to doing this, featuring his face as their profile picture and usernames including #JusticeForMJ, MJ4Ever and #MJInnocent.

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