Mark Hunter (ozma914) wrote,
Mark Hunter

next week's column: The King of Pop, Trapped in His Castle


I’ve been following the fuss over Michael Jackson’s death with a combination of fascination and disgust. I don’t begrudge the media making a fuss over Jackson’s death – he’s been a major star and a cultural icon for four decades, and it was big news. I do find fault in the way they scrambled over each other 24/7, to the detriment of stories that are much more important to the average American, such as the cap and trade energy bill and President Obama’s vicious attacks on innocent flies.

That’s part of the disgust part. Another part is the all too predictable bottom feeding, in which any and all wild stories and innuendoes are dug up in the hopes of profit taking off whatever mud can be thrown on Jackson’s coffin. Jackson was on drugs! Jackson’s kids will be fought over like carrion on the African plains! Jackson’s doctor got his medical degree in the Caymans!

Another part of the disgust is the suddenly grieving people coming out of the woodwork to call themselves Michael Jackson’s best pals. Where were they when he was going through his legal and financial problems? A lot of them headed for the hills as soon as they realized they couldn’t ride his coattails anymore.

It may be MJ was never convicted of any child molesting charges, but at least the people accusing him of being a pedophile are saying the same things now that they were saying before he passed away.

All this is also where the fascination part comes in. Lots of people want to know why there’s such a fuss over MJ’s death, and they’ve got a point: Ultimately he was simply another entertainer. He was undeniably talented, but is his passing really any more important than the death of a soldier, firefighter, or domestic violence victim? For that matter, is his death more important than the death of Farrah Fawcett, who from a remembrance standpoint had the bad luck to die the same day? She was surely talented in her own right, and has her own place in pop culture history.

But even those complaining about it couldn’t help glancing at the headlines, and making those passing comments as Jackson turned from an amazingly talented black kid to an amazingly talented white kind of adult. The press hounded him for a reason. If people stopped snapping up scandal rags and looking at those collapsed nose pictures, the editors would have looked for different ways to sell their magazines. “Aliens kidnap Obama’s dog!” “Rush Limbaugh falls on Nancy Pelosi!” Maybe if people became interested in real news, the media would step up their reporting of real news.

Ultimately, the media does indeed give the people what they want. Silly people.

Look, I don’t know if Michael Jackson was a pedophile – nobody does, except those directly involved. Sure, he was accused. But in a country where people are supposed to be considered innocent until proven guilty, I can’t help pondering on the possibility that some parents and their lawyers may have seen this weird rich guy, focused on the rich part, and made the necessary leap to financial satisfaction.

Do I know that’s what brought on MJ’s child molesting charges? No. Do you?

What I do know is that Jackson was one odd cookie. That doesn’t necessarily make him evil, or criminal. Just odd.

And who can be surprised by that, considering his life? At a time when most of us were struggling to get past basic spelling in elementary school, he was a world famous singing star with – again, allegedly – an abusive father. He was in the spotlight from the beginning, and never really got out of it.

By all accounts, he loved the singing and dancing part, which is great. But you have to think that at some point he rebelled against the results: the constant public scrutiny, being under the microscope, unable to ever go out without being chased by hordes of photographers. Could he trust his handlers, who needed to keep him producing to get their percentage? Could he ever even walk down the street to the vending machine, or go to the movies?

The irony of Michael Jackson is that he became so famous that he couldn’t have a life anymore, not to speak of. The things we take for granted, major and minor, were impossible for him. He couldn’t date, couldn’t take a drive, couldn’t walk in his back yard without a helicopter swooping down.

Is it any wonder, then, that once he had the power to do so he elected to skip the whole adulthood thing?

Well, that’s my theory, anyway: That not only do adults eventually hit their second childhood, but that adults who never had a childhood to begin with dive into it with gusto.

I think (and again, what do I know?) that Michael Jackson was desperately trying to get that childhood he was deprived of. That’s why he turned to surgery to erase every trace of aging; that’s why he built a carnival at his own home; that’s why he turned to kids of the same age he wanted to be, people so young they didn’t care about coattails or profit taking. And that’s why he didn’t understand when people started gossiping about all the time he spent with those children.

I suppose there might come a time when we have proof of that theory, one way or another: A diary, pictures, something. Until then I’m prepared to give MJ the benefit of the doubt, not only because he had a childhood as weird as his adult life, but because we as a society have become way too eager and willing to think the worst and cast blame.

Whether I’m right or wrong, Michael Jackson was undeniably weird; he was undeniably talented; and his death on the eve of what might have been an Elvis-Presley-in-Las-Vegas style comeback was undeniably tragic.

Now I’m waiting for the start of the rumors. You know, the ones where he’s still alive, and faked his death to increase album sales.
Tags: column, new era, slightly off the mark
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