Today is the 1 year anniversary of Michael Jackson's death. I was flipping through the channels and I happened upon the swaying snake of ABC's Michael Jackson special...
I was a fan of MJ's when he was a kid and I loved the "Thriller" album. I liked "Black and White" when it came out, but I was not interested in his strange antics and weird relationships with child stars. I thought his obsession with the weird was a sad symptom of being one of the most uber-famous people ever. Like Elvis and Marylin, MJ never really had a chance at a normal life - that is sad to me, but he (they) also had enough money and autonomy to surround themselves with some normal (and helpful) people. He chose a different path. Still, I never considered him the "King of Pop" or anything else - he was a sick, talented person who wasted his gifts because he had some kind of mental illness.
I don't know what is true or not true about his life other than the fact that is seemed very weird and he seemed like a lonely and severely disturbed human being.
I found it frustrating as I watched the special because it reminded me of the short memory span we have as a culture. A year before MJ died, most of the world had rejected him, mocked him, suspected him of unspeakable acts against children. He was broke, he owed money, he was odd and he was raising his three children oddly. Most people wouldn't buy his albums, most people didn't want to really listen to his music or see him on television. He was persona non grata and anyone who was still a big fan of his music did not generally admit it. He was vilified in the press and a joke to most - an admittedly talented man, but considered a punch line by most. But now that he is dead - suddenly everyone forgets all the reasons he was in the position that he was in.
I don't think MJ has to be hated or vilified any longer, but I also don't think that we should just suddenly embrace all that he was and not look critically at what our "celebrity culture" can produce. He is dead BECAUSE of the way he lived and the way he was treated. Elvis was the same way. Imagine not being able to walk down the street without getting mobbed and grabbed and having people sob at your feet and faint. It is crazy.
MJ was talented, but he was the product of sickness, as well. He could dance, yes, but that doesn't take away from the fact that he was accused of the sexual abuse of children on more than one occasion. If we saw a story on the news about a swim coach or a soccer coach or a teacher accused of molesting their students/athletes MORE THAN ONCE, we would assume guilt and we would not allow them to be around children if we could help it. Why is this different? Because he is famous? Because he is talented? Do we abdicate our responsibility to children in the presence of someone we consider to be "gifted"? Why isn't their safety protected with a celebrity in the same way that we protected children from other accused predators? If a grown man asked if your child could come spend the weekend with him and share his bed, would you let him if he were just "Bob Down-the-Street"?
On the flip side, why is it acceptable to vilify someone, to hate them and mock them and then suddenly, when they are dead, turn them into a demi-god? It is so sick. Now that he is dead, people say, with straight faces, "Michael was misunderstood." "Michael WAS the beat." "Michael was my idol, my inspiration." "Every pop/R&B singer today has been influenced in some way by Michael Jackson." I don't buy it. He was a man. Talented, flawed, sick. He was loved by his family, as he should have been. It is too bad no one loved him enough to get him back on the path of mental health.
Rant over. Thanks for playing.