Saturday, July 11, 2009

Meant to post this last week.

But I've been busy. There are a few lingering things I wanted to say about Michael Jackson. For posterity, I guess.

I was a kid in the 1980s, when Michael was at the (post-pubescent, anyway) height of his stardom, back when his fey elfin qualities seemed cool and not creepy, and before his obvious taste for facial plastic surgery went beyond affectation and into the realm of disturbing self-mutilation. My father bought "Thriller" (on cassette tape!) the day it was released and played it relentlessly. Like many black kids of the 80s, Michael Jackson was an icon of my youth. So the news of his untimely passing should have been more striking to me than it was.

But it failed to elicit more from me than a sense of confusion, that such a character, a creature made entirely of tabloid photos and courtroom allegations, would die so suddenly. One half expected a 90-year-old MJ to have himself cryogenically frozen alive, awaiting a future where new noses could be grown from stem cells and doctors had discovered a cure for vitiligo. To die of cardiac arrest at age 50 didn't seem *weird* enough. But it wasn't sad, per se. I think what happened is that the cool, slick Michael of my childhood died long ago, right about the time Elvis's daughter dumped him and he started naming children he conceived via surrogate after himself. The Michael that influenced Usher and Justin Timberlake was already long gone.

That is, until the final moments of his circuslike, televised funeral service, when his eleven-year-old daughter began to cry for her lost daddy, whom she loved so much. Then I realized that Michael was not a lost style icon or misguided pop star, but just a regular human being like the rest of us who left behind a saddened family in the wake of his departure. This is the fate that awaits us all. The transformation of the young, stylish, talented Michael Jackson into the bizarre Norma Desmond-like figure of the latter half of his life was tragic, but it can't compare to the loss of a child's father.

1 comment:

DaisyDeadhead said...

Great stuff, Vanessa.

As a 12-year-old girl, I fantasized openly about being the wife of the lead singer of the Jackson 5ive... as we both aged (and do I need to tell you how unnerving it is when people your own age start dying off? Drugs or no drugs; I had plenty of drugs...) I assumed he would become a soul-music perennial like Stevie Wonder, another ex-child star. As MJ became mega-famous, I felt vindicated in my teenage-idol adulation, proud as hell--"see, I toldya he was great!"--people had said Michael was just a cute kid, but I saw clearly that it went FAR BEYOND mere cuteness, into the realm of amazing precociousness.

And then, he started looking weird.

Perhaps it was the fantasies, but the complete transformation of his appearance, the change in the way he talked (daintier, quietier and more meek, the more famous he got), the marriage to the Scientologist daughter of you-know-who, the whole Neverland thing... and finally, the children... it was like it was someone else completely. The surgically-altered MJ's face bothered me A LOT. He really did morph into Peter Pan. I remember thinking, Peter Pan doesn't grow up; I knew that he would NOT grow up, as in, develop self-awareness, see himself as "naked" as Adam and Eve suddenly did... he was in the perpetual Garden of Eden forever. As an ex-addict, I shoulda known that such an existence requires far more than simple self-delusion for someone as smart as he was (note: anyone savvy enough to bid on the Beatles song catalog was SMART and it was HIS idea)... I now see that there is no way he could have kept that whole fantasy-lifestyle happening in his head without massive chemical augmentation.

Now, it seems obvious, but I didn't think of it at the time.

What is bothering me NOW (and I may blog about this, if I see it continuing) is how the drug addiction is getting spun as all about the Pepsi-commercial scalp-on-fire event. Excuse me, but did anyone TAKE A LOOK AT HIS FACE? Scalp burns are shit compared to REARRANGING THE WHOLE CONTOURS OF THE FACIAL STRUCTURE. This was how the addiction started, obviously, but his family is trying to ignore that fact, as they always IGNORED WHAT HE WANTED and worked him like a fucking dog.


I miss the MJ who sang this, so very, very much. In my private fantasy life, he was such a great boyfriend.