Saturday, June 27, 2009

Michael Jackson: dignity in death

I wonder if it's possible to have not yet heard about the passing of Michael Jackson. Seems as if we have all been shocked by his death. Early reports were spread like a wildfire of rumors on Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking sites, with people holding out and refusing to believe it was true until further confirmation. News and networking sites were overwhelmed by sudden traffic of people looking for more information and many, many of them shut down.

And the outpouring came; everyone around the globe began to share their sadness and feeling of tremendous loss at this news. And I don't mean those hard-core crazy fans that are still pictured crying at the site of him, I mean 90% of the people I know on Facebook; ordinary people, not obsessive crazies.

Did I miss something?

Isn't this the same guy that has been vilified, ridiculed, and shunned since the 90s? Since when did he become a hero again? And why, now that he's dead, is it suddenly ok to admit you're a fan? Sure, there are a couple of people out there reminding us not to celebrate him because of the alleged attrocities of which he was never convicted, but they are in the extreme minority.

It's nice to see I suppose. Nice for his kids. I became quite sad when I heard that the new concerts he was preparing for were for his kids, so they could see him perform. But perhaps, if one can find a silver lining in death, this is showing them something he never could have shown them in life. He had become a freak show in the last 15 years of his life, to a point where it was getting harder and harder to remember how amazing, influential, and inspirational he was. But in death he regained a kind of dignity he probably never could have in life. And his kids are able to see him now as one of the most beloved and respected figures in all of history. Wait? Am I still speaking about MJ? The guy often called Wacko Jacko?

But the reaction is undeniable. Yesterday, congress had a moment of silence for him, Obama and Mandela were among the myriad influencial people and pop culture icons who released statements about this loss. MTV surprised us all by playing music videos again, his videos of course.

And his music is it again. Yesterday the top 15 albums sold on were ALL Michael Jackson albums. Of the top 100 songs sold on iTunes, 40 or 50 of them were MJ songs! Memorabilia prices went way up on eBay and a side industry of memorial t-shirts has sprouted up.

This is unprecedented!

As far as my reaction, I'm still figuring it out. For those of you who don't know me well, or didn't know me until my 20s and 30s, I should tell you that if this had happened 15+ years ago I would have been receiving phone calls of condolences from friends and family. So deep was my obsession for Jackson. I did absolutely idolize him. And looking back now, his influence on my life is maybe a little extreme, even disconcerting.

My admiration for his dancing is what steared me towards my "profession" as a dance instructor. It's what also made me want to be with a dancer. Not that I ever desired Jackson, but that I was in love with dance and it made me feel such passion that only another dancer could understand and share that. Now I may have come to this passion for dance without Jackson. My idol before him, after all, was Fred Astaire (I was a strange kid), but I didn't come to it without him, and it was while watching him that I began to try my own little spins and body movements.

The Wiz was the last movie that scared me. My parents explained it wasn't real and I completely got it. Yet they continued to question my ability to watch scary things even as I got older.

It's undoubtedly because of Jackson that I began my love of horror and the macabre. I saw Thriller on German TV when it first came out, my sister let me watch it, much to my parents' chagrin. I was a bit too young to say the least.

It's because of MJ that I studied film. No joke. I remember seeing Thriller, but it was the Making of Thriller that really rocked my world. Wow! Someone pulled back the curtain of the magician and showed me how magic was made! At first I wanted to do horror make up, and that plan stuck with me through most of high school. Then I decided I wanted more and I set my sights on directing.

I may have chosen these paths anyway, it's impossible to know. It's impossible to know what our lives would have been without him. My friends, my husband, my pastimes, my education, my profession may all have been different. At the very least my music library would be very different, and darn near empty in pubescence.

But I did let go of my adoration for a long time. The allegations made it too confusing, and his eccentricity and appearance made it embarassing. When someone in college (in film) asked me, why film? I answered honestly, but it felt almost shameful. So when he died, I was in disbelief, but didn't feel the strength of loss that I would have because I had distanced myself so much from that part of my life.  Then, when it started to be legitimate again to be a fan, I felt sad.  I feel especially sad for him.  Imagine how awful his life must have been.  Abuse through childhood, no real experience of childhood, isolation and worldwide ridicule as an adult, and let's just imagine that he was innocent and charges made against him were all lies.  His life and career were ruined!  Imagine how meaningful it would be to him now if he could know that people still loved him and that his death, so far, hasn't been about ripping apart his life in ridicule and reiterating his flaws and alleged actions, but about honoring the passing of a genius of tremendous influence.

I just wonder how long this will last.  When will the digging and disgracing begin?

-- Post From My iPhone

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