Jun 30, 2009
Uneasy Lies the Head That Wear a Crown
I have been biting my tongue on this whole Michael Jackson postmortem for so long now that I am starting to taste blood. It was my intention to give Michael's numerous followers the chance to grieve a bit before stepping into the arena. My good friend and co-editor Ken Shropshire asked me to be cool and so I have been trying to follow his wishes. But enough is enough, I can't take it anymore. I've gotta represent.
Michael Jackson was at one point an incredibly talented transitional phenomena. He was the King of Pop, in no uncertain terms. Though some have objected to the fact that Michael bestowed this title on himself, it was a most appropriate title however he came about acquiring it. It should be pointed out however, "uneasy lies the head that wears a crown" as Shakespeare once noted.
Michael's time on top was eons ago now. He has not made a significant album since George Bush 41 was the President. In all, Michael did his damage over four solo albums that spanned the years 1979-1991, not counting his early career as a incredible child performer with his brothers in the Jackson Five. Off the Wall, his best work, was the jump off in his unmatched solo career, Thriller transformed the whole culture, Bad got over off the fumes of Thriller, but by Dangerous, homie was clearly starting to run out of gas. By this point he was in the news as much for his outrageous lifestyle as he was for his music. Dangerous is also the album that featured the dreaded single Black or White. How could a black man in his right mind ever utter the line "it don't matter if you're black or white"? I mean, seriously? If it "don't matter" why did he go about changing his own skin color then? Whatever!
Anyway, the insanity started years earlier though. Here's a cat who once took Brooke Shields to the Grammy Awards, but who was more interested in playing with monkeys and Emanuel Lewis. At that point I had seen enough. Between the nose jobs, skin peels, elephant man's bones, hyperbaric chamber, and all the other nonsense, it was clear to me that Dude was the living embodiment of one flew over the cuckoo's nest.
If someone not as famous and wealthy as Michael had done all the outlandish things that he did, this person would have been committed to an insane asylum or sent to the penitentiary long ago. But with Michael, he was so famous that his fans began to apologize and make justifications for this behavior. These same apologies and justifications have typified the conversation since his death.
There is nothing wrong with celebrating his music and his legacy, but to ignore that Michael was a deeply sick person is to engage in the worst, most destructive kind of denial that could ever be imagined. If you looked at Michael Jackson's ever evolving skin color and accepted that vitiligo story, then you are perhaps as crazy as he was. If you think that a grown man's home should double as an amusement park and zoo, then you should be sentenced to hard labor and forced to clean up after those animals he kept in that zoo. If you thought that he actually sired those children, I've got news for you, spit don't make no babies!
I noticed that a number of people have turned this into anti-media crusade, suggesting that the media is somehow being disrespectful to Michael's legacy in their coverage. What is all this media bashing about? Why are some people so mad at the media for reporting all the things that Michael himself did? There is no media bias here. Michael's triumphs are as much fair game as his tragedies.
And let me set this straight before I go any further. All this crying and gnashing of teeth over Michael "not having a childhood" begs for a clarification. It is obvious that Joe Jackson was much less than an ideal father. I do believe that he abused his children, while, in essence, putting them on the hoe stroll as well. This notwithstanding, it must also be pointed out that Michael did get paid. Not that this justifies the abuse and exploitation, not at all, but Michael did make a ton of money off of his talent.
There are a lot of kids in this country who "don't have a childhood," children who get abused, molested, and treated as though they are less than human. Most of these people don't get the chance to make millions and millions of dollars singing and dancing, most of these people don't get to travel the world or be greeted by adoring fans. Most of these kids don't go on to become global icons. Most of them simply have to live with the physical and emotional scars that they have accumulated. Many of them are in the pen, or homeless, or suffering some other unspeakable fate. Many of them cannot afford psychiatrists whose skills might help them at least cope somewhat with the unfortunate hand that life has dealt them. Most of them don't have dope dealers with doctor's credentials, who can write whatever prescription they want so as to keep them high on their own supply. I can go on, but you get the point.
Michael lived a life of luxury. Like many who become rich and famous, Michael had leagues of people surrounding him who were there to cater to his every need. He was indulged and pampered and coddled beyond belief, all because he was rich and famous. None of us control the hand life deals us in the beginning, but Michael made it out of Gary Indiana, he made it beyond his abusive father, he had the chance to change his life, but instead he choose to get intoxicated off the drug of fame to the point that he became a pathetic dope fiend.
Michael represented the best and worst of this nation. He rose to the top of the heap, shocked the world and changed the game, yet not long after his rise, he quickly fell into a bottomless pit of dysfunction, all aided and abetted by his fame and fortune. Though he died on June 25, he had been walking dead for a long time.
Let me say again, Michael's fans have every right to celebrate his music. I understand that he served as the soundtrack to your childhood. I recognize that his music made you happy and made you want to dance, shout, and shake your body down to the ground. I recognize that you appreciate his eccentricities. Yes, though I don't share your admiration, I do feel you on all of this. We should all have the right to pick our heroes. Most of the figures that I have love for were deeply flawed people too. But to act like Michael Jackson was a fully functioning member of sane society whose many demented flaws shouldn't be mentioned is just ridiculous.
When will people accept that their heroes are human beings too? Michael was no one's saint. He was a very disturbed individual who may finally have found peace in the land from which no traveler returns. I was not a fan, but I can respect his accomplishments and more importantly what he meant to others. What I can't respect is this attitude of denial about who he really was though.
Michael Jackson is a figure who we won't soon stop talking about. But I just hope that as time passes, people stop acting like he was a deity. Wake up from the denial, move away from the lies, and start recognizing the real. Michael Jackson was a great artist and a especially troubled and tragic man, all at the same time.