So Michael Jackson died today. He was 50 years old.
And a whole bunch of people are “not upset.”
That’s fine. I understand. I get it. There’s terrible things going on in the world. Iran, the economy…I mean who can blame them for not giving a shit about a pop star, right?
Well, I have a little bit of an issue because this guy’s life was sorta intertwined with mine, and I guess I never really thought about it until his death. When Michael Jackson died today, he pretty much took the remainder of my childhood with him. While that might sound hyperbolic,it’s kinda just how it feels.
I was 5 years old when I bought Thriller. That means that I had just started all that walking, talking, reading stuff a few years earlier. But I was musicking. Woah boy, was I musicking. I was tiny. And I danced around my room to Jackson & McCartney fighting over a girl (“The Girl Is Mine”), sang along to “PYT” and, most importantly, rented the movie. Yup, the movie that introduced me to John Landis, zombies & Vincent Price all in one fell swoop. And I LOVED IT. And to be brutally honest, I just rewatched it tonight after I got home from work, and I dare you to watch this and not see something absolutely incredible. I was totally thrilled to see how amazing it was and, even more importantly, how talented Jackson was in it. I remembered it with fond affection, sure, but…I was not prepared to see a young Michael who was so full of grace, talent and charisma that he essentially truly DID become the King of Pop. I got it.
But I wasn’t alone. And that’s my point. Many kids were just like me. My housemate. Friends I know on Facebook. Kids all over the world. It was a huge part of our childhood, that album. And then his presence expanded for me. To Captain EO at Disneyland.
Skip ahead to 1986, Anaheim, CA. Disneyland puts in a new attraction starring…….Michael! It’s called Captain EO, and it’s in 3D. In many cases, it’s probably the very first 3D film most kids have ever seen. It was probably *mine.*
Coming shortly after the “Pepsi Incident”, Captain EO was written by James Horner, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, and was, at the time, the most expensive film ever produced on a per-minute basis. Beyond that, it was chock full of Angelica Huston as the scaaaaary Supreme Leader, a total Giger-influenced villainess who rocks (and I *desperately* wish I could dress up like for Halloween!!), super awesome and adorable animals, and fantastic music. Again, during the dance scenes, we bear witness to the exquisitely sleek physicality of Jackson and his grace and dance finesse. The subtle movements of his body in unison and conjunction with the rest of his team are mind-blowing, to be sure.
Michael Jackson was like Dorian Gray in a way. Something happened to him, I think. There was a switch, some kind of fucked up something. Really, it seems to me, that he was intentionally trying to make himself disappear, become someone else. I am not excusing any kind of misbehavior that may have occurred. However, when it came to the mental disintegration that caused everyone to laugh and make fun of him, even at his death today, I think it was a bit more Wilde-like than anything. As his face changed, became more plastic and angular; as his pigment disappeared and his ethnicity was altered, he seemed to be trying to get away from that person that he way before.
And you could see it from the videos too. The ones that reacted to the ways that the media turned him into an item to be consumed and not a human, almost more than anyone else on earth. The first example was the video for “Leave Me Alone,” from the Bad album.
And if that doesn’t speak for itself, try the one he made with his sister, Janet, on for size…
He wasn’t happy at the way things turned out. Personally, I think something snapped inside him, and, not unlike Vivian Leigh or Howard Hughes with their own mental instabilities, he was unable to cope. Unfortunately for him, we live in a highly media-obsessed age. moreso than ever before, and it probably exacerbated everything. Many people think that he was never the same after the Pepsi Commercial. Who knows?
Does that part matter? Does any of that matter?
Does it matter to his family?
Does it matter to the people who hold his music dear to them?
I remember when I lived in Israel, moving into my adopted sister’s room on Moshe Dayan Street, in East Jerusalem. The first thing I noticed was wall to wall Michael Jackson. To this day, I remember, more than anything, that Bad poster- the one above my bed. Sneaking a boy in and making out with him, underneath that Bad poster. Falling asleep…underneath that Bad poster. And you know what? It wasn’t even a POSTER!! It was a TAPESTRY, for heavens’ sakes!! Yeah, Israel. 1994. Michael Jackson was a part of my life then, too.
Really, I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything.
And honestly, while I am not surprised at all the snark and hip apathy that has arisen over this, it saddens me. Without Michael Jackson, we wouldn’t have a good amount of the modern dance routines in music we have now. Without Michael Jackson, we wouldn’t have a huge amount of the music we have period.
The internet blew up today with the news of his death. And I think, to an extent, some people were reacting to people’s reactions, and simply being contrarian about it. Or maybe they honestly don’t care. But then others are being intentionally mean, and not in a “I’m an asshole and I recognize his talent, this is just how I joke” way.
It’s just not cool to be snarky. I’m over it. Really. I’m ok with sarcasm, but to be honest? I’m done with snark and especially snarkiness in order to be hip. I have seen too much of that today.
Look- Michael Jackson changed the music world, whether you like it or not. If you don’t think so, you’re either deaf, blind, vegetative, in a coma or lacking in a pulse as well. He also changed the dance world and he was talented as hell.
A friend of mine said it best today when she said this, in regards to the way that Jackson’s death was being handled by certain factions:
“I think everyone deserves more sympathy and respect than that. You don’t have to know someone to appreciate his contributions to the world. Before he became a strange and broken creature, Michael Jackson overcame outrageous hardships to create brilliant music.”
In any case, this isn’t my best blog, in fact I’m not even sure it’s that good. But I’m a little pissed that people can’t separate themselves enough to look at the exquisite talent of a man who shaped a section of the art & music world forever, not to mention a guy who definitely changed my life and that of many people in my generation.
Michael Jackson was integral to my development. As I sit here on my living room floor and MTV rattles on about Sheryl Crow’s quotes and JC Chasez’s dancing experiences with Michael, I have to think about how many offices were pumping MJ today and how his sales are gonna go up and how many people are gonna dust off that VHS copy of Thriller tonight. And I hope that maybe, just maybe, some people can be like me tonight & revisit the songs and items that they thought were simply nostalgia, and find that, perhaps, they are quite a bit more. I thank Jackson for that. I thank him for letting me be able to see him have that amazing physicality and be part of a generation where that was part of our culture, in a sense. Thriller was our album, and Michael Jackson was, without question, one of our cultural icons, like it or not. And of course I have to thank him for introducing me to horror film stuff at a young age…
So, with that, I bid you adieu. I think I’m overwhelmed by all this right now. I planned on this being much better written, but I hope that maybe the dancing that is in the clips I have provided above might be enough to make you consider the way that you consider Michael Jackson, on the whole. I’m not certain that I actually believe all the allegations against him anyways. But who knows. Not sure if it matters anymore.
So talk to me. What do you think?