Friday, June 26, 2009

The king is dead. Long live the king.

So I should start this by saying that I did not grow up on Michael Jackson’s music like so many of you. My mom was much more comforted by equal parts silence and television. My life, which is now immersed in audio pleasure on so many different levels, was not graced much by music until my mid-teens. I say all this to point out that Michael Jackson in no way affected me to the same degree he did for some of you.

At the same time, as any self-respecting child of the 80’s, I have a couple of choice MJ memories. I clearly remember thinking how cool it was that he made ‘bad’ mean ‘good’ or that he filmed the “Beat It” video in a train station close to home (Hoyt & Schmerhorn – what what!) and I’ll always have a special place in my heart for the Moonwalker video that Cameron and I must’ve seen a dozen times, but that’s it. It’s not hitting me particularly hard. I’m not sad or shaken or any of those choice emoticons found under the grief heading. *Come see me when Talib Kweli or Aesop Rock dies and I’m sure it’ll be a different story.

I will say that the anthropologist in me is very curious to see what our world of consumer culture will be like in the coming weeks. Mark my words, this’ll prove to be very interesting times. I can just picture all manner of folks coming out the woodwork to either rape his memory or deify him on a level unseen since the Princess lost a drag race to the paparazzi. And of course, every hipster will rock an ironic shirt, one lone glove or a bastardized version of his leather jackets. Exciting times indeed, children.

With that said, in no way did he die in his prime. He’d been reduced to an occasional joke on late night monologues and nothing more. To most of us he’d been dead for years whether we’d like to admit it or not, which is fine. Like any normal child, we outgrow even our favorite toy after awhile. It’s what we do. He fell victim to little more than time and an ever shortening attention span. No one’s immune to that.

So today, we remember the king of pop. And what a fitting figure head he was. A poster-child for plastic surgery, black shame, familial abuse, and indulging every whim you have as long as you can foot the bill. A former child star maladjusted to the world around him. We couldn’t have picked a better tribute to what’s popular in America if we tried.

And as good little sycophants for anything entertaining we let his eccentricities run rampant instead of getting the man the psychiatric help he desperately needed. His best friend growing up was a rat for Gods’ sake. He underwent numerous plastic surgeries to take him as far from black as humanly possible. His children bear no resemblance to him at all, not so much as the oh-so-prevalent ‘Jackson nose.’ These were warning signs that he was not right and we collectively ignored it because he charmed us with the hands-down best minstrel act in the last half of the 20th century. And then when we couldn’t use him any longer we threw him away. We stopped believing in him and that desperate, frightened brain-damaged man-child died of a broken heart, never to walk the moon again.

The king is dead. Long live the king. May he finally find Neverland.

R.I.P. Michael Joseph Jackson (August 29, 1958 – June 25, 2009)

2 comments:

mori said...

K- what a great essay! Im so impressed by your eloquence and i totally agree with your sentiments.

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