Goodbye Neverland

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imageAs this article by Zack Greenburg shows, Michael Jackson’s Neverland Valley Ranch is in the process of being sold.What does Michael Jackson’s Neverland mean to you? A place of juvenile regression, a place of wonderment, a place of lies?

For me, Michael’s ‘Neverland’ bore little resemblance to J.M. Barrie’s. I always found Peter Pan to have a little too much of the sadist and hedonist in him, sharing far more with the vampire Lestat than any children’s character should.

No, for me, aged five-and-a-half, watching ‘Neverland’ come to life on Oprah Winfrey’s 1993 interview, it was a place of immense beauty, a secret haven, an open temple and a sanctuary. It had the same aura of Santa’s grotto and it gained even more significance when I was eight and realised that Santa could not possibly be the one bringing the presents every year.

As a young adult Michael Jackson’s Neverland became a dream-like place, Jackson had conjured reality out of fiction. I did the same writing stories. At thirteen I already knew I wanted to be a writer. To me it made perfect sense that there was a real place young people could go and stay young forever. I imagined myself there… it became a meditational escape.

As an adult though, Neverland became a symbol of tragedy and innocence destroyed: Michael’s own innocence. When the world’s press and the American judicial system created a tarnished fiction of Neverland they made it synonymous with madness and malady. They refused to accept it for what it was: a refuge for its maker and a gift he kept on giving to those he loved.

Neverland became, after Michael’s death, a physical, allegorical, symbol of loss. We, the fans, lost Michael Jackson and Michael in turn lost Neverland. It’s particularly dramatic and metaphoric, those lights going out one by one, the Ferris wheel and the Zipper being switched off and carried away, all those weeds strangling beautiful flowers, and of course, the rattlesnakes.

I read somewhere that Neverland is now full of rattlesnakes. One has to be careful in the main house. It’s dangerous.

Who said life doesn’t imitate art?

Neverland must be mourned. By the end it was both Cavalry and Golgotha. It, and the memory of it, became, finally, another victim of the fallout from a vicious racist celebrity culture.

So finally, when Neverland is no more, what will there be left to remind us of the real Michael, the one who built a little world dedicated to children he wanted to be around and save, who was undone by the parents of those selfsame children and who invested millions in a place he could share with those he loved and who were less fortunate than himself?Goodbye Neverland.

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