I just won’t turn on a television for a week now that we’ve learned that Michael Jackson has died. I’m not sure I can stomach the insta-documentaries and the faux-mourning. Indeed, not to be too horribly cynical, but I’m quite sure that all those who spoke ill of Jackson in the past, including all the media outlets and anchors will leap headlong onto the Saint Michael bandwagon now that he’s departed.
I’ve always thought Jackson’s story was a sad one. He obviously had many, many mental issues. I was never a fan of his music, but I was always sad that anyone could be so uncomfortable in their own skin.
But beyond that, I think he was a deeply troubled person who – regardless of the fact that he was never charged convicted of any crime – I would certainly not want my daughter around. That parents let him sleep in the same bed as their children is beyond disturbing. The whole story, from childhood to manhood, of Michael Jackson has been strange and sad and frightening. All that wealth, and what came of it but a slow descent, both mentally and physically, into something less than human?
He was the artificial man, plasticized and dehumanized in a bizarre attempt to become forever childlike. And the press loved it. And somehow he was able to continue hosting children at his ranch, throwing elaborate sleepover parties. He’s been ridiculed for decades, by the same people who will now sing his praises.
Watch as the pop-beatification process begins. I don’t mean to sound unsympathetic. I just haven’t had a change of heart now that he’s dead. I don’t know if he was guilty or not, but my gut, for what it’s worth, certainly tells me that he was. That’s not fair, I know, but I can’t help it. And beyond that, I’m also pretty certain he was a miserable person, whose sadness had withered him from within.
In some cases death is a mercy.
Apparently Jonah Goldberg feels the same:
Every cable network (including Fox, for the record) used the word “icon” to describe him as if this was some sort of safe harbor, a word everyone could agree on. “Love him or hate him,” the implied logic went, “he was an ‘icon.’”
Yes, well, maybe so. But that doesn’t let you off the hook. Even though the term sounds neutral, it isn’t. An icon, technically speaking, is a religious symbol deserving of reverence and adoration. The networks may not have intended to use the word that way, but they certainly showed an unseemly amount of reverence and adoration for the man.
I think part of it is the narcissism of our celebrity culture. Here was a guy so many of “us” read about in People magazine for so long. His passing, therefore, isn’t a loss in the sorrowful sense of the word, but in the selfish one. It’s a loss of an interesting subject, a creature to gossip about and to fill a few minutes on E! or Entertainment Tonight….
Calling Michael Jackson an icon doesn’t let him off the hook for anything. But to listen to the news anchors you’d think it absolves him of everything. I say: Who cares who his famous friends were? Who cares what a “fascinating” person he was? If you want to talk about his death as an end of an era, have at it. But that’s not what the Barbara Walters set is doing.
I know that Michael Jackson wasn’t convicted of the despicable crimes he was accused of. And that’s why he never went to jail. Three cheers for the majesty of the American legal system. But in my own personal view, he wasn’t exonerated either. Nor was he absolved of his crimes because he could sing, moonwalk, or sell 10 million records. (Though many of us suspect the money and fame he made from those things is precisely what kept him out of jail).
And, while I merely think he was a pedophile, I know he was not someone responsible parents should applaud, healthy children emulate, nor society celebrate.
And while we’re at it, his relatively early death wasn’t “tragic.” He was one of the richest people in the world. He spent his money on perpetual childhood and he was perpetually with children not his own….
If anything, Michael Jackson’s life, not his death, was tragic.
Andrew has a short round-up here.