Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson

Almost everyone who has access to a television or radio now knows that Michael Jackson has died. Normally the death of such a mega-star would bring out an unmitigated outpouring of love and sorrow. And on television we are seeing that happen for Jackson. But what I keep hearing over and over again from those individuals being interviewed is a guilty remorse or a qualification of their sorrow. There seems to be almost a need to split Jackson into two different people to make it acceptable to mourn.

I understand this. No one wants to be seen as showing sympathy to the man who has been tagged in pop culture as Wacko Jacko. He’s been the subject of multiple law suits over the years and has done things to outrage, shock and distress people all over the world. There was the flat out weird behavior reported on in the late 80’s and early 90’s. He slept in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber. He bought the skeleton of the Elephant Man. He and his chimp Bubbles made headlines for a long time. Then there was the devastation of the child molestation charges of which he was cleared. We can blame this on Jackon’s fame and money, but the legal reality is he was presumed innocent of charges and those charges were never proven. Then there was the plastic surgery that seemed to go to a level that rebirthed questions of Jackson’s sanity.

But I propose it is perfectly okay to mourn all of who Michael Jackson was. If the stories of his childhood that have come out from those around him, including his sister LaToya, are true, then our hearts should grieve for the little boy who never grew up and the man who faced our world in isolation, fearful of the people around him. It’s okay to feel sorry for Wacko Jacko, because we know there was great pain behind the making of that man. He suffered from battered child syndrome we know, and there are speculations he also suffered from anorexia nervosa and a mental disorder resulting from the pressures and abuse of his early life that affected his ability to adjust to change and to grow and mature as a normal adult should have. He had confirmed medical issues such as vitiligo, which goes beyond just effecting his skin pigment and can effect a suffers autoimune system and make it painful for them to be exposed to the sun when severe, and lupis which is usually fatal.

When pressed about the truth of the rumors, Jackson once told a reporter: “Why not just tell people I'm an alien from Mars. Tell them I eat live chickens and do a voodoo dance at midnight. They'll believe anything you say, because you're a reporter. But if I, Michael Jackson, were to say, 'I'm an alien from Mars and I eat live chickens and do a voodoo dance at midnight,' people would say, 'Oh, man, that Michael Jackson is nuts. He's cracked up. You can't believe a damn word that comes out of his mouth.’”

But if you need to separate them, then do so because the world owes its sympathy and mourning the Michael Jackson the artist. No one has changed and impacted music, film, dance and pop culture as much. Maybe not even Elvis. I know that’s an inflammatory comment, but I believe it’s true.

Michael Jackson had been making music and commanding attention for his seemingly unlimited talent since before I was born and he’s only 7 years older than me. I grew up watching the animated Jackson 5 Saturday Morning show. I remember playing the Off the Wall album (yes, this was in the days when we actually had albums) and dancing around with my young cousins Ben and Kevin while babysitting them. (I’m sure both are thankful there was no one about with a camera for these events as they tended to be dressed in their Batman pajamas at the time.) I remember Thriller as the first album my younger sister ever purchased for herself. I remember the guys in my high school with the modified Michael Jackson jackets. The moonwalk was the dance to do at high school dances. In the years that have passed his dance and singing styles have opened the door and are mirrored in the moves and music of many of today's popular artists.

So may his family, especially his children, feel the effects of the prayers and good wishes of those whose young lives their father touched.

1 comment:

Molly Daniels said...

Well said, Jae:)

I used to be able to moonwalk, ha ha!

Do you remember the cartoon of the Jackson 5?