Monday, July 20, 2009
The Deification of Michael Jackson
Hopefully enough time has passed for me to post this commentary without coming off as callous or insensitive, not that I haven’t been called those things before. But death is a pretty touchy subject so I’ll be walking a fine line here. That being said… ah fuck it, pretty much nobody’s gonna read this thing anyway so what do I care? Here goes nothing.
Michael Jackson was a pop culture icon for over four decades. He broke down racial barriers, transformed the art of the music video, and paved the way for modern pop music in the United States and abroad. He’s one of just 11 artists to have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, and his achievements include multiple Guinness World Records—including the "Most Successful Entertainer of All Time"—13 Grammy Awards, 13 number one singles, and the sale of over 750 million records. He was also a notable philanthropist, donating millions of dollars to the 39 charities he supported, and raising more through his own Heal the World Foundation. In short nobody could ever make the argument that the man wasn’t talented, influential, and generous, because he was all of those things and then some. But the problem with death, especially when a person dies young, is that it becomes all too easy to only remember the good stuff about them. And for the better part of the last three weeks all we’ve heard about on the news is how great a person Michael Jackson was, and about how many lives he touched, and about how much he changed the world, blah blah blah.
While I won’t argue that Michael Jackson did have many good qualities I think it’s about time for a little reality check, Quinsey Blog style. Seriously, dude dies and overnight he goes from “Wacko Jacko” (yeah, remember that?) to Saint Michael. When he was alive it was plain for all to see that Michael Jackson was a deeply troubled, flawed, and downright bizarre individual. But in death so soon we forget. What’s that? You think I’m being callous and insensitive? Okay, then let’s take a little trip down memory lane. Hmmm…where to begin?
First there was his ever changing appearance starting in the early 1980’s. Although he swore to the day he died the only plastic surgeries he’d ever received were two minor rhinoplastic procedures and the surgical creation of a cleft in his chin, he went from looking like a normal black dude with a regular sized nose in the late 70’s to a freakishly androgynous white dude with a hole where his nose used to be in the early 90’s. When asked about the change in his facial structure he attributed it to a number of things including puberty, weight loss, a strict vegetarian diet, a new hair style, and even stage lighting (okay Michael, whatever you say). And when asked about the paling of his skin he attributed it to a rare disease called vitiligo, although vitiligo is a disorder that causes depigmentation of the skin in patches, not the entire body (nice try, MJ). In short I think we can all agree that Michael Jackson went completely overboard on cosmetic surgery and was in a deep state of denial about the whole thing. Disturbing? Yes. Strange? Sure. But did this obsession harm anyone but himself? No. So let’s move on.
Next there were the multiple allegations of child sexual abuse starting in 1993, when Jackson was accused of sexual molestation by a 13-year-old boy named Jordan Chandler and his father, Evan Chandler. Jackson denied the allegations but decided to settle out of court with the Chandlers for $22 million, under the advice of his legal advisers who didn’t think he could handle a lengthy trial. A vile act of sexual molestation or simply a case of opportunistic greed? Only Jackson and his accuser will ever know the truth. Jackson was again accused of child sexual abuse in 2003 by 13-year-old Gavin Arvizo, who appeared with Jackson in the creepy documentary, “Living with Michael Jackson”. Jackson again denied the allegations and said it was normal to have children he didn’t know sleepover at Neverland Ranch in his bed with him (normal? I can think of many words to describe this scenario but normal is certainly not one of them). During the investigation, Jackson was examined by mental health professional Dr. Stan Katz; the doctor also spent several hours with the accuser. Katz concluded that Jackson was a regressed 10-year-old, and did not fit the profile of a pedophile. The People v. Jackson began on January 31, 2005, in Santa Maria, California, and lasted five months. Jackson was acquitted on all counts. In summary the worst possible scenario is that Michael Jackson was actually a pedophile (although this was never proven in court), and the best possible scenario is that he was a regressed child who liked to hang out with other children and have them sleepover in his bed. Either way it’s some pretty fucked up shit.
There were also the drug problems which allegedly started the first time Jackson was accused of child sexual molestation. He started taking pain killers to deal with the stress of the allegations and by the fall of 1993, he was addicted. His health deteriorated to such an extent that he canceled the remainder of his Dangerous World Tour and went into rehab in London for a few months, dramatically disappearing from public view. He eventually emerged but the drug addiction was something he would battle throughout the remainder of his life. At the time of his death he was reportedly on as many as three different powerful narcotic pain killers including Demerol, Dilaudid, Vicodin, Zoloft, and Xanax. I’m no pharmaceutical expert but anyone ingesting a drug cocktail of this magnitude is likely using to escape something. In Michael Jackson’s case it was his troubled life.
Next came the financial problems, which are hard to grasp considering the dude made so much damn money (at the time of his death Jackson was making as much as $75 million a year from his publishing partnership with Sony alone, and there were many years when he earned far more than that). Reports of Jackson’s financial problems became frequent in 2006 after the closure of the main house on the Neverland Ranch as a cost-cutting measure (poor guy had to slum it in a $100,000 a month rental in Bel Air). When Jackson died it was reported that his debts totaled approximately $500 million. Which begs the question how does one go $500 million into the red while earning at least $75 million a year? Apparently the guy was even better at spending money than he was at making it. Wow.
And finally there was the just plain weird shit that was a constant in Michael’s controversial existence. He had a brief, two year marriage to the daughter of Elvis Presley, Lisa Marie, from 1994 – 1995. Although the tabloid media speculated that the marriage was nothing more than a ploy to prop up Jackson’s image in light of prior sexual abuse allegations. He then had a second marriage to dermatology nurse and money grubbing whore Debbie Rowe, which lasted for three years from 1996 – 1999. She bore two children during the marriage, both of which may or may not be Michael’s biological children (if you ask me they sure as hell don’t look like the children of a black man). Rowe has admitted on more than one occasion that she wants nothing to do with the Jackson children, yet she’s sold her parental rights over to the Jacksons three separate times for a cash total of over $20 million (bitch found a money train with stupid written on the front and has no intention of getting off). Michael later had a third child (this was the baby he infamously dangled out the window) born to an unidentified surrogate using donor sperm, as if bringing two children into his chaotic circus of a life wasn’t enough. The names of Michael’s three kids? Priceless – Prince Michael Jackson I, Paris Katherine Michael Jackson, and Prince Michael Jackson II aka Blanket. Did you expect anything less? Other head scratching events in the life of Michael Jackson included an attempt to buy the bones of Joseph Merrick, the “Elephant Man”, for $1 million (allegedly), sleeping in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber to slow the aging process (we all saw the pictures so it must be true), and living with a chimp named “Bubbles” who he trained to use the toilet and clean his own bedroom (makes perfect sense to me).
In summary I’m not trying to be disrespectful to the dead. All I’m saying is let’s not romanticize our memories of Michael Jackson just because he’s dead. Instead let’s remember him for what he was - a talented yet troubled human being whom the world will not soon forget. No better or no worse than anybody else. Only his problems were of a scope and scale that you and I could never relate to. I honestly feel sorry for the guy in a way, as much as you can feel sorry for a world famous pop star who earned over $1 billion in his tumultuous career. Wherever you are MJ, rest in peace (while the vultures you left behind pick apart every nook and cranny of your crumbling estate).