Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson, 1958 - 2009

I was sincerely shocked and saddened to learn that Michael Jackson died yesterday. Some of my earliest memories are of Michael Jackson in his hey day – the era of Thriller, the sparkling glove, the steps lighting up in the “Billie Jean” video, and my brother owning the “Beat It” zipper jacket.

All of the eulogies include a bit about the inescapable fact that Michael Jackson became increasingly weird over the years. The internet is filled with a sense of profound loss over the death of Michael Jackson, many with the caveat that his scandals should not diminish the memory of his greatness.

I have read disagreement, as well, with something I believe to be simply and obviously true: Michael Jackson was a genius of the performing arts. As for his scandals, I think that he deserved the courtesy of their context. For one thing the way overblown “dangling baby” incident. Would my parents, for example, have been the subject of an international outcry for all the times I rode in the bed of a pick up truck, or for all the times I was literally flung into the air and caught on my way down?

Overshadowing his marriage to Lisa Marie Presley (who posted a very sweet blog on her MySpace about his death), his weird names for his kids, his baby-dangling, and his extreme physical transformation over the years were of course the child molestation allegations.

I am one of the few people on the Earth who still give him the benefit of the doubt over that. I of course was not there and do not know, but my perception has been that Michael was still searching for his lost childhood – he said as much on numerous occasions and even in song – hand that he was not a predator but infantile, asexual. Being a “weirdo” and unfathomably rich would make him a target for such accusations – and in many ways he set himself up for those accusation by allowing kids into his home, perhaps creepily acting as if he were one of them, and seeming to fail to grasp the concept of what made other adults uncomfortable with his interest in young boys. All that said, accusations of being a sexual abuser stick, true or not. And, true or not, it’s sad that those accusations will always be a part of his biography.

I am a little surprised by how sad I am over the death of Michael Jackson. He has been a bonafide superstar since before I was alive, well into my adulthood, with his pinnacle happening around the time I was becoming aware of my own identity. He was too young to die, yet too old to be rehearsing for his upcoming mega-shows in London. As someone else wrote (can’t find my source), he didn’t get a childhood or an old age.

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