The reaction to Michael Jackson’s death has been just about perfect; just the right blend of shock, respect for his passing, respect for his great music, reflection over his effect on society, righteous indignation, funny jokes, obvious jokes, funny tasteless jokes, and tasteless jokes so bad as to enlighten you to who is truly an asshole.
But for me it did something different. It wholly clarified the fact that I unabashedly like Michael Jackson.
It’s amazing how many people forget that not only was this guy a megastar, he was the biggest personality on the planet. He simply dwarfed everyone. Madonna didn’t even have half is popularity. He wasn’t just talented. He wasn’t jus a great dancer. He was a great song writer. He was an innovator. He never settled for second rate. He worked harder then everyone else. He pushed the envelope. He was incredibly optimistic. I’ve spent the day watching all his old videos and that’s the thing I noticed the most. He was so, so optimistic about life, even when it was about dark subjects. He wanted people to have fun. He wanted them to conquer demons. He wanted people to be kind. He gave an absurd amount to charity. He embraced working for racial causes. Heck He was post-racial before anyone was post-racial. He popularized MTV. Fuck. Popularized doesn’t do it justice. He made MTV. He set every trend. He came up with entire worlds. He could move like no one else could move. He was shy. He loved involving other stars in his work. And he was a damn nice guy.
The fall of Michael Jackson can be associated with three things in my mind.
1) Them Daddy issues. The abuse he suffered is now well known, but there’s no doubt that these things, plus his becoming famous at such an absurdly young age laid the groundwork of a troubling adulthood. Matt Damon once said you stop aging at the moment you get famous. Michael Jackson was 3… It explains a lot.
2) His skin condition, where the white splotches left him with the option of either leaving it as (probably the right choice. America would have just had to deal), constantly covering with quality black make up, or simply bleaching his skin to match the white spots. Which is what his bad doctors advised for him. It started his whole movement toward looking weird and white.
3) If he hadn’t fallen off stage and broke his nose, he never would have gotten that first botched nose job. Which he then tried to fix and fix and fix because “it didn’t look right.” Coupled with the bleachings to come later. It basically destroyed his face.
And those things affected him. They really did. It sent his introverted nature over the edge because he was terrified of being seen in that sort of light. He had to constantly monitor his appearance. It made him a shut in.
And then it got sad. He had odd sham marriages. The creepy stories about his behavior with children surfaced. He build that Graceland west called the Neverland ranch. He had children stay there. Then the lawsuits came. Look. I have no idea what happened. It sure as shit wasn’t proper. But I’m not sure as shit it was anything insidious either. As far as we really and truly know he was just kind of this weird asexual introvert with arrested development. His Peter Pan like personality (the Neverland ranch, ahem) suddenly became his real identity. And most people just assumed he was a pederast. Logically, there’s great merit to that, I’m not naïve or anything. It was basically impossible to like Michael Jackson in a true sense anymore. He hase made the divide. Whether it is truly legit we don’t really know… Maybe he could just be Peter Pan.
Either way, He stopped making music. He started relating to monkeys more than people. He never learned to be an adult. His public appearances became utterly bizarre. My favorite crazy story is when he went down to the local city hall and demanded they put more Taco Bells near his house… he did this in a spider-man mask by the way… yeah… He basically went crazy. It happens. People just go batshit insane sometimes.
And it kind of sucks it was this guy. But then again that’s possibly how it had to be. The 80s and early 90s were just so fucking weird there was no way what was considered cool then could really translate into the following generations. But still. Those great, great songs and performances will live on.
The thing I don’t get is people saying “what’s the big deal? He was a fucking pederast nutball. Just cause he’s dead doesn’t mean you have to be all nice now. You’ve been just as critical as anyone.” And to a degree that is correct, but how it is wrong is the fact that now that because he is dead we finally have the stopping point where we can sit down with body of work. Everything is on the table. The good. The bad. The ugly. It’s all there. And believe me. Another 20 years of crazy could have made a difference. But now he’s dead at 50, of a rather sad cause too. And when looking at it, all the negative stuff (what we know at least) just doesn’t outshine the truly good stuff he gave to the world.
And if you don’t really see that, that you’re just way too fucking cynical.
Let’s try an experiment:
Watch this video. Remove all negative feelings. Just sit there and think that this could entertain you. And it just might.