I didn’t find out that Michael Jackson died until I went to the gym this morning and saw the news splashed across the CNN monitor above my elliptical climber. I was still in a state of disbelief at a point in time when everyone else had seemed to formulate their thoughts and opinions on the situation. That’s given me an interesting perspective, so I’m writing about it here.
As I expected, some people had no remorse for a man who they viewed as nothing more than a pedophile. Fortunately, I didn’t talk to any of those people today (just read their comments online). All I can say about Michael Jackson’s bizarre and disturbing sexuality – his bizarre and disturbing anything, for that matter – is that we all know exactly where it came from. Fame has ruined many a soul, but how many people become superstars at age 11 and stay that famous until the end of their lives? Not to mention the very public disaster that is his family. Despite all his creepiness, I can’t see that it’s so difficult to have compassion for the man.
Then there are comments like this one, posted by a dude named "Rich" on the Allmusic Blog, in response to another commenter who referred to Michael Jackson as “an awesome musician”
"awesome musician?…well ive never seen michael with a musical instrument in his hand… however he was a talanted singer/artist….yes he will be missed buy his fans but quite frankly, who gives a toss…his career was over by the end of the last century…RIP…credit where credit is due i suppose"
Rich perfectly fits my definition of a hipster – a person who cares more about taste than passion or kindness. Again, I’m glad that I didn’t talk to this sort of person today, though I am sickly fascinated by all this flippant commentary. I admit that I actually reactivated my Facebook account just long enough to read comments from people on my friends list. I immediately re-deactivated my account, and remembered that such unconsidered blather is exactly why I can't stomach Facbook.
On the other hand, I was verklempt when I saw photos of all the vigils and shrines. It’s nice to know that there are places in the world, even a few corners of America, where people aren’t suffocating from irony. I’m reminded of this really nice Tunisian guy I worked with 12 years ago. We went to see “Titanic” together, and when he picked me up from my house, he was a little embarrassed by the copy of HIStory sitting on his dashboard. He said “Americans don’t like Michael Jackson, ‘cause… you know, little boys”. But, when MJ put on a show in Tunisia, it was the cultural event of this young man’s lifetime. He told me that it was, by far, the biggest public gathering that had ever happened in his country.
I’m amazed that an artist can be so widely enjoyed. How many people have ever loved “Billie Jean”? It’s a beautiful thing, really, that a song can resonate with so many millions of individuals. I like to think that if we had a time capsule for Earth, we could all agree that “Billie Jean” should be included in it.
But what a tragedy that Michael had to sacrifice his peace of mind and his sanity to share his gifts with so many of us. I don’t think someone can be that famous and not be completely fucked in the head. I’ve always been able to separate the personae from the music, even when I listen to the Jackson 5. How lucky for me. That child’s voice is one of my favorite sounds! But now that he has died, I can’t help but hear it in the context of that tragic and truncated life. I mean, I knew the guy had no chance of redemption. But ultimately, I find this mourning, this outpouring of love for his art, very depressing because it’s too late for him to relish it. And maybe it would have brought him a little more joy.