Monday, July 13, 2009

On worshiping false idols

I really don't feel any sense of loss with the death of Michael Jackson. Not because I was never a fan of his music, or was never able see the cultural impact of his work. I mean, what would the world of pop music be without the sonic mastery of Britney Spears or Justin Timberlake!

You cannot convince me, however, that the man behind the star: the father, "babysitter" or general "friend of children," the man that had nicknamed his child "blanket" and nearly threw the infant off of a balcony as a cute publicity stunt, will leave his family any less off as he shuffles off the 'ole mortal coil. The same man who was tried on multiple counts of child molestation and conspicuously settled for outrageous sums of money, who readily admitted to sleeping with children and showed not one ounce of remorse or fear of judegment; the same man who even named his daughter after himself and, by all accounts, did not have a sexual relationship with his children's mother and most likely was gay and attracted to young boys. I am sorry to those who want to indulge in '80s nostalgia and listen to his songs now made bittersweet, but I will never accept the notion that an artist's place in the course of pop history could ever cancel out gross abuse of children in any way, shape or form. And it is no less than absurd that, when I bring these issues with Jackson up to any of my friends, they feel the need to point out his "loss of childhood" as a prepubescent superstar. As if it were an adequate excuse to molest children as an adult.

And the Reverend Al Sharpton, the nerve of this cretin to latch on to the sensitivity of the fans and family that seiged downtown Los Angeles by inventing a half-baked conspiracy that the media was out to tarnish his dear saint's image! What a show! What an act of pure revisionist drivel! Sharpton has a fabulous flair for the dramatic--they don't call him a reverned for nothing:

"I am here because of the disgraceful and the despicable way some elements of the media have tried to destroy the legacy and image of Michael Jackson. You have had other entertainers that have had issues in their life. But you [the media] did not degrade and denigrate them...Show the same respect for Michael and Michael's family that you showed Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley. I don't think the media understand who Michael was. I don't think they have any cultural significance."

Right. Because we all know that Elvis and Sinatra also slept with children at their ranch full of roller coasters and chimpanzees.

And how does the media respond? In typical fashion, by hearing no evil and speaking no evil. They reap his childhood for accounts of child labor and exploitation, swoon over his steady rise in the world of pop music, and quickly tip toe over a few "controversies" here and there. The day MJ died, the MSM died yet another death. Here we have it, folks, CNN reduced to playing this "E! True Hollywood Story" on repeat.

NYT columnist Bob Herbert wrote a brilliant peice on how the media's treatment of MJ's death is a fair analogy or reflection of this age of denial, the one in which American prefers the reality of "reality" television--that is, fiction masquerading as reality, to that of, well, actual reality.

Reality is unforgiving. There is no escape. Behind the Jackson facade was the horror of child abuse. Court records and reams of well-documented media accounts contain a stream of serious allegations of child sex abuse and other inappropriate behavior with very young boys. Jackson, a multimillionaire megastar, was excused as an eccentric. Small children were delivered into his company, to spend the night in his bed, often by their parents.

One case of alleged pedophilia against Jackson, the details of which would make your hair stand on end, was settled for a reported $25 million. He beat another case in court.

The Michael-mania that has erupted since Jackson’s death — not just an appreciation of his music, but a giddy celebration of his life — is yet another spasm of the culture opting for fantasy over reality. We don’t want to look under the rock that was Jackson’s real life.

As with so many other things, we don’t want to know.

And if you think I'm out of line here, consider this: seven US troops died in Afghanistan on the same day that Michael Jackson overdosed on pills. Seven men went through significant pain in the line of duty, while a neurotic pop star overdosed on pills. But who cares about those guys right? None them could moonwalk, or dated Lisa Marie Presley, or hold any Guinness Book of World Records titles in cosmetic surgery.

Off into obscurity go the sacrificial lambs...


Sean Wraight said...

Well done Amity. You have encapsulated perfectly my feelings on what has become a three ring media circus. My heart sank on the day of his death when CNN's focus switched from the attrocities in Iran to the all encompassing Jackson spectacle.

Your writing gives me hope though Amity. That the great writers (yourself included) see past the sham that passes itself off as responsible journalism to expose the more accurate reality. The truth.

What a concept.


amityb said...

Thank you so much, Sean! I later found out that some members of the House of Reps were actually trying to pass a resolution to honor Jackson! I mean, I realize he was a great humanitarian and all, put you gotta wonder where America's priorities are if our politicians actually take the time to pass resolutions to honor dead pop stars as the nation slides into economic chaos.