Friday, June 26, 2009

All Michael Jackson, All The Time

The news today is all about the death of Michael Jackson, and who am I to buck the trend?

Michael Jackson was a supremely talented entertainer. His work touched billions of people, and I well remember the time when he was the world's number one entertainment celebrity. He performed in a genre that is not my personal favorite, but even I enjoyed his best work and appreciated how important it was in popular culture.

Still, even at the moment of his death, I find it impossible to separate his work from the strange features of his life, most prominently, his decision to surgically transform himself from a perfectly handsome man to an almost freakish monstrosity, his strange relationships with children, his own bizarrely child-life affect, and his inability to keep himself solvent -- despite his tremendous financial success, at the time of his death his net worth may well have been negative.

I suppose that I have little appreciation of the pressures that led to these behaviors. Jackson played an important role in getting mainstream audiences to accept black artists, and when I question his decision to have so much surgery, I am looking at his original face with cultural eyes that are now accustomed to appreciating black facial features. I'm sure he faced tremendous pressure to conform to what audiences expected at the time of his greatest stardom. Also, I have no idea what it would be like to experience so much fame in childhood, and I'm sure his strange adult life must be related to his very unusual upbringing.

So perhaps we should not be too critical. Still, Michael Jackson, the idol of millions, will forever be a mixed and somewhat tragic figure.

No comments: