I had the unfortunate honor yesterday of writing an obituary-style piece for tv.com about Michael Jackson (and about Farrah Fawcett, for that matter). To sum up not only my opinions but, theoretically, the opinions of the company in a short article was no easy task but I did it. However, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking over the past two days and I’m still in shock. I don’t think I’ve gotten it all out, and for some reason I feel compelled to share just how I feel about Michael Jackson.
“Black or White” was the first song I ever memorized. I mean, besides “Home on the Range” and the more popular aspects of the Rogers and Hammerstein canon. As a kid, I obviously didn’t know what the song meant. I probably thought Jackson himself was confused, as I did know he was black at one point and was now magically white. But that song has stayed with me. I even had a dream about it, when I was still in the single digits. I dreamt that I was at my local mall and the sky got all sunset-y and a UFO appeared and Michael Jackson jumped out of it and busted out with “Black or White.” In the dream, I was standing next to a Kindergarten classmate who was black, and during the chorus part of the song he pointed at each of us accordingly. Other celebrities then appeared, perhaps as a rudimentary homage to the actual music video, but that dream is the most vivid one I’ve ever had. Of course, I’ve always tried to squeeze some sort of profound meaning out of it, but to no avail. It’s still important to me. Maybe that’s when I became one of those kids that loved Michael Jackson unconditionally.
For me, Jackson was a celebrity I’ve spent my life trying to figure out. Obviously, due to the fact that (a) I don’t actually know him, (b) I’m not a psychologist and (c) It’s literally impossible to distinguish lies from truths in every media report ever written about him, I don’t understand him. But despite that, I always felt like I kind of knew the guy. I never made up my mind about the child molestation allegations, but I got why he was fascinated with kids. I would be, too, if I never had a real childhood. That would be pretty fucked up.
It makes me sad to think that such a brilliant man will remain so mysterious. A large part of that, honestly, is due to the surgeries he had on his face, which gradually removed his ability to emote and turned him into a smiling, shiny caricature of himself. He grew so reclusive and exclusive by the end of his life that it will be impossible to, again, separate the lies from the truths, both of which will inevitably surface now that he’s gone.
I don’t agree with a lot of stuff he’s done. I think he should have stopped the plastic surgery at Dangerous. I mean, he shouldn’t have had it, but it’s a compromise. I think the “Rock With You” video was really weird. He should not have had kids at his house. And he definitely should have kept his baby on solid ground.
But his was a tragic life. Most people who enter showbusiness are not only talents but personalities. Michael Jackson was not a personality. He was a talent of the highest level, one of probably a small group that wasn’t into large amounts of interaction with other people. He got into it too young and it became his entire universe. He was also a pretty odd guy. So when you combine intense shyness and eccentricity with intense media fascination, you get a huge fucking problem. He felt the pressure, unlike many celebrities, and he did some pretty weird shit to cope with it. He probably would have been this weird if he hadn’t been the most recognizable person in the world, too. He may have not had the money for it, but he would have found ways to express himself.
It’s morbidly comforting to know that he’s at peace now. I’m not a religious person, but I can’t help thinking he’s finally content. No more pressure. Let’s let him be.