I realize that a certain amount of reverence is required when MJ comes into conversation these days. Apparently it is sacrilegious to question the morality of the “King of Pop” when he so recently took up his place amongst the choir in the clouds, but excuse me for being curious–when did Michael Jackson regain his status of “greatness?” Somewhere among the bankrupcy, child molestation charges, bizarre public displays of child endangerment, naming his “children” things like “Prince Michael Jackson” and “Blanket,” Neverland Ranch, and the mouseketeer attitude, I distinctly recall the words “weirdo,” “creep,” even “Bizarro” (a take off of his nickname “Jacko”). “Great” certainly wasn’t a part of the MJ vocabulary any more.
Now I’ll grant the fact that the child molestation charges were never fully proved. That he was a little boy without a childhood who sought to recreate it in his adulthood…but come on. If he weren’t Michael Jackson, international superstar who created the moonwalk and “Thriller,” he would have suffered an OJ Simpson times ten. We don’t take kindly to men who possibly want to touch our little kids. And if my memory serves, MJ did suffer a huge public downfall. At least here in America. Overseas his singles were probably still being frequently spun on dancefloors (since Europe curiously seriously digs old American pop music) and since Europeans tend to laugh hysterically at our outdated puritanical ideas of what deserves rotating 15 minute spots on CNN, Fox News, HLN, etc, I’d bet MJ prefered to spend some time abroad. He still had it over there.
I was in London this summer studying abroad. Posters were everywhere for Michael Jackson’s concert event at the O2 Stadium. It was a huge deal. I even saw a small British child start crying hysterically when his mother told him the concerts were sold out. I was born in ’85 and even I have only been able to listen to Michael Jackson as a relic of the 80s and early 90s. But this kid…KID…really wanted to go. These posters were slathered all over doubledeckers, tube stations, tourist merchandise…it was the show of the century in the UK. Even I admit it would’ve been a cool experience to see him live. But that was more out of a desire to see if he could still dance his ass off…I have to say, in recent years I wondered if he was still able to sing and groove. He always seemed so frail. Not to mention he hadn’t performed since I don’t know when.
I was in Paris when MJ died. The first day in Paris we took a bus tour of the city. MJ was still alive and the shows were still big news. Our guide decided to give us a “special treat” and take a detour from the usual route to show us the hotel where Michael dangled Blanket over the balcony by his (her?) ankle. That night, apparently, he was pronounced dead. It was strange because the whole time I was studying abroad, I never once saw a TV. I relied on my Yahoo! home page for keeping up with the most serious of stories…I had just wanted to disappear for a little while. So, instead of news coverage of his death–which I hear was crazy extensive here in the US–I just heard “Beat It,” “Billie Jean,” and “Man in the Mirror” everywhere I went. Italian restaurants…french bakeries…pubs…Hyde Park…Harrods. Instead of Sherlock’s yellow fog, London was haunted by white gloves and crotch grabbings. It was weird.
I cannot deny the man’s contribution to music. He is a legend. Even today he is a major influence for performers. In the same vein as Madonna (another icon I just can’t understand), MJ did something for music that is still trembling just below the surface. He has donated millions of dollar to charities like any good celebrity, and has always been an advocate of children and minority rights. He has certainly given tons of kids rides at Neverland Ranch (yes, he has actual amusement park rides) or let them pet whichever animal they’d like (at his zoo), but come on. Michael has gotten more positive press than he has in a decade and the wave of sympathy is akin to Princess Diana’s death, and she was a freaking international humanitarian and former royalty.
Were we really still that in love with Michael Jackson? When’s the last time anybody busted out “Bad” at a party? When is the last time somebody didn’t snicker when you watched one of his music videos (“You are Not Alone” anybody?!)? Who hasn’t had a conversation about whether he has a real nose or a prosthetic? When is the last time you didn’t see an interview with him and just think what a sad, sad man he must be because he was forced into stardom by a pushy father and then suffered a very public series of personal oddities–mostly brought on by himself and the only-too-eager media. It always suprised me how little he chose to comment on his actions. In interviews he breaks down and you can see how emotional it made him to talk about the treatment the press gave him. But he wasn’t giving us very much else to go on…
I completely understand remembering the guy. He deserves to be remembered. He is an intregal part of culture not only in the US, but internationally. I guess he was a bit like an Elvis…but only in hindsight. We love to poke fun while we still have the punching bag, but the minute it deflates, we set it in a gilded frame on a high wall right over our mantles like a prized posession. Michael Jackson’s coffin is made of gold, by the way.