First I have to say, it’s beyond creepy that I write an entry in which I profess my great admiration for Michael Jackson’s work, and then five days later he dies.
But that’s Michael Jackson. The enigma. Strangeness personified.
I’m feeling pretty conflicted about all of this. And before I talk about MJ, I have to say that it’s unfortunate and uncomfortable that Farah Fawcett died on the same day. You hate to make the joke, but she picked the wrong day to die. Not that this message will in any way make it to her friends and families, but condolences – that was one brave woman who just left this Earth. I hope I have that kind of courage when I meet my end.
Back to MJ, though…I am feeling conflicted. I wrote this on 5/20, on an entry listing the 10 most influential songs of my childhood (#1 of which was MJ’s “They Don’t Care About Us”):
Michael Jackson was hands-down the defining artist of what I consider my childhood. Resisting urge to make joke. Hey, how could we know how he’d turn out? Still, I try to separate the present day tabloid magnet Michael from the Michael who made incredible music. And he did make incredible music. I think that fact gets drowned out by all the unfortunate crazy shit he’s done in his washed-up years. Some of the stuff Michael put out there…well, without it, we wouldn’t have some of the stuff we have today (for better or worse.)
And my thinking then was: wow, what a great artist. What an influential arist. To not only create as many possibilities for music out of his own career, but to create so many possibilities for future generations of musicians. To do what he did – the complete package – singing, dancing, writing…performing. And to do it to the degree of perfection that he did.
All those things, and all that stood witness to them were the tabloids. That’s what I thought then, as recently as 5/20. I thought that it was a shame such a supremely talented individual would go down in history as pedophile and not the star that he was.
But now I’m not so sure.
First – I have to wonder where all this MJ was before. Everyone just made MJ jokes all the fine. And that’s fine and all, but what, were they closeted MJ fans? Did no one want to admit it? One of my best friends and I have been bumping MJ our whole lives, even at IU. I’ve always admitted to being a huge fan, even with the controversy associated with the man. Where was everyone else – who apparently were also huge fans – during the controversial years? They weren’t parading their fandom.
It just feels kinda bandwagon-y to me, that suddenly everyone is such an MJ fan. But whatever. What doesn’t feel bandwagon-y these days?
What’s interesting to me, today at least, in light of his death, is that I think the media coverage has actually been too lenient. Everyone wants to remember MJ for the star he was. Which is exactly what I was hoping for on 5/20. But I don’t feel that way anymore. For some reason, now that all this has happened, I feel differently.
I think an interesting and important read is the 5-page sworn declaration of an alleged 12-year-old victim of MJ’s molestation, found over at The Smoking Gun.
And let’s face it – MJ did it. He’s guilty as hell. If not here, then somewhere along the line of sharing beds with pre-pubescent boys and getting them drunk off Jesus Juice. He’s the OJ of the kid-diddling crowd, except instead of an incompetent jury and judicial process, there were just a ton of bank notes exchanged between MJ and the offended parties.
(An old favorite scenario we brought up at IU was always: come on, wouldn’t you let MJ fondle you if you knew you could score a couple million outta the deal?)
Another tangent entirely is how selfish it is that most of these kids’ parents effectively sold out and settled these cases out of court, if only because it just enabled MJ to keep doing it. Which fueled the downward spiral that ended with his death at 50 years old. But that’s another tangent entirely, so I’ll try to avoid the discussion of parental responsibility.
What I’m thinking today is that MJ was probably a bad dude. He did some good things with his fame and his fortune. He made great art. But he also did some really bad things, things that can and almost always do scar a kid for life. I don’t think we should “overlook” that in his death. I know I said something different as recently as the last entry. But I don’t think we should just forget his transgressions due to this notion that, because he is now dead, we should only perpetuate “honorable” memories.
MJ was a very complicated person, and in the end, that was his undoing. I don’t know what the autopsy is going to reveal, but I think there’s a fairly clear culrpit – stress. The man was weakend to the point of nearly dropping below 100 pounds. He’s lost most of his worth in the past few years and spent the last decade in various court rooms trying to convince the world he didn’t have his hands down any young boy’s pants. He’s had a love-hate relationship with his family and a hide-and-seek relationship with the media. More than anything? He suffered the same fate as Elvis in that everyone lined up asking him to line their pockets. I think all those things, compounded by his strenuous effort to prepare for a comeback concert in London, just crippled him. And he died, as mysteriously as he lived.
He died one of the greatest musicians of all time.
But he died with his bad side, too. And after hearing about how great he was for the past few hours, I’m now thinking that it’s important that we remember his dark side too.
If nothing else, as a cautionary tale.