Monday, June 13, 2005

Michael Jackson

Well, he is legally not guilty on all counts. As we say in Minnesota: ya, you betcha.

I'm proud to say that I haven't posted one blog post about this trial. For some reason, I was riveted on the O.J. Simpson case in college. But I couldn't find anything in me that cared much about the Jackson trial.

So here it is: my first and last post on Michael Jackson--the entertainer who has created himself to be neither black nor white, neither male nor female, neither young nor old. (For more, see here and here.) One thing that we can all agree on, I think, is that he is one strange person.

I thought that Andrew Sullivan's blog post summed things up pretty well. Here's an excerpt:

The way in which celebrity has become, after money, the ultimate American poison is illustrated in a particularly poignant way by the case of Michael Jackson. Forced into unimaginable exposure as a pre-pubescent boy, hounded by a brutal father, denied any natural childhood or adolescence, Jackson became the hideous caricature that pure celebrity spawns. Like Gollum with his ring, young Jackson became twisted into unrecognizable malignity by celebrity itself. No one ever said no; no limits helped secure reality for this boy in the media bubble; parents were part of the problem; and money on a mind-boggling scale kept any sanity or balance at bay.

Some may find it hard to feel pity for someone as wealthy as Jackson, but if you view wealth, as I do, as a potential prison of pitiless isolation, then the damage to the man's psyche and soul must have been and still is immeasurable. And damaged people damage others - even in the pathetic, sick way in which Jackson obviously wounded some of the children who foolishly came into his care. The parents of these boys should have known better, but they too were mesmerized by the fantasy of eternal wealth and youth. What you see in this case, then, is the cold, heartless core of American celebrity: a Faustian trade-off between instant, fathomless attention and the maintenance of any sort of psychological or spiritual perspective.

Meanwhile, fame moves on. No one cares much about Jackson's music any more. No one cares about his soul or those of his alleged victims. What the culture of celebrity builds it also destroys - casually. In this case, the wreckage is a husk of a human, the detritus of a culture that feeds on exposure and then, bored, moves on to the next victim. It is because we do not want to look at this too long that we finally look away. The world that created Michael Jackson is also the world that will happily forget him.