Brow Beat

Oh No, Barbra Streisand Has Thoughts About Michael Jackson!

Barbra Streisand speaks onstage during the 91st Annual Academy Awards.
Send in the clowns. Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Barbara Streisand is planning to perform at “Barclaycard Presents British Summer Time Hyde Park” this summer, and to promote her appearance at the depressingly-named festival, she gave a long, chatty interview to Ed Potton of The Times. Over the course of about forty minutes, the legendary singer, songwriter, actress, and director dished on working with Sondheim, her new life as a grandmother, and one of the least discussed and most tragic aspects of Brexit: exchange rates have made Modiglianis less affordable than ever. She also offered her opinions on Leaving Neverland, the HBO documentary alleging that Michael Jackson used his wealth and power to subject young boys to years of sexual abuse. Although she believes Wade Robson and James Safechuck were telling the truth about what Jackson did to them, she doesn’t believe that what he did to them was really all that bad, and anyway you have to consider all the thrilling things he did for them:

His sexual needs were his sexual needs, coming from whatever childhood he has or whatever DNA he has. You can say “molested,” but those children, as you heard say, they were thrilled to be there. They both married and they both have children, so it didn’t kill them.

This is mostly offensive garbage, but Streisand does makes one good argument: Michael Jackson does not seem to have murdered Wade Robson or James Safechuck, inasmuch as they both outlived him, and that is undeniably a point in his favor. Streisand went on to say that she blamed “the parents, who would allow their children to sleep with him,” but felt bad for both Michael Jackson’s victims and Michael Jackson himself. Then Streisand, a woman who cloned her own dog, expressed bafflement that Jackson used his own money and power on what she characterized as frivolous self-gratification, asking, “Why would Michael need these little children dressed like him and in the shoes and the dancing and the hats?”

At this point, you are doubtless wondering if Streisand had any thoughts on the Me Too movement. As a matter of fact, she did! Although Streisand thinks the movement is “very powerful,” and vividly remembers the sexism she faced in her own career as a director, she also thinks it could have unintended consequences, warning Potton, “Unfortunately, it’s going to cause a lot of women not being hired because men are worried that they’ll be attacked.” It must be horrible to have to worry about being attacked in the workplace! What happened to the socially conscious, politically active Barbra Streisand of the 1960s and 1970s, the woman who hired John Bubbles to sing an Al Jolson song in a Bert Williams costume for The Belle of 14th Street and flanked herself with black backup singers to perform as “The Oreos” for her version of A Star Is Born?

But as outrageous as Streisand’s comments are, they don’t represent a moral failing so much as a systemic one. People with unimaginable wealth and power reflexively identify with other people who have unimaginable wealth and power, even if those wealthy, powerful people are using their wealth and power to sexually assault their co-workers or rape children. It’s enough to make you question the idea of letting anyone acquire unimaginable wealth and power in the first place!

Update, 4:15 p.m.: Barbra Streisand has released a statement clarifying her remarks:

To be crystal clear, there is no situation or circumstance where it is OK for the innocence of children to be taken advantage of by anyone.

The stories these two young men shared were painful to hear, and I feel nothing but sympathy for them.

The single most important role of being a parent is to protect their children. It’s clear that the parents of the two young men were also victimized and seduced by fame and fantasy.