Sunday, July 12, 2009

In loving(?) memory of my favourite predator, Michael Jackson

The passing of Michael Jackson has presented a lot of interesting reactions from the public and I am not excluded. My feelings about him had been soured in recent years, having spent all of his 2005 molestation trial glued to the TV in a somewhat unsavoury fashion, waiting for his conviction to come through. Even though I was convinced of his guilt, if not for the 2005 case, at least for the 1993 one, I certainly wasn't delighted to learn that he was dead.

I wasn't sad though. At first it was weird mixture of shock and I shamefully admit some confused excitement over all the mania going on around it. I realised, as many others also have that the Michael Jackson we loved has been dead for a really long time. He may have been an incredible narcissist as far back as Off The Wall and Thriller, but if he was, he managed to control it somewhat until the time between Thriller and Bad, at which time when he began the obvious part of his transformation from black man to white woman and was allowing his PR team to keep us focused on him in any way possible and soon all that began to outshine the most important thing: the music.

He was well and truly freaking us out when he re-emerged for Bad, but after the initial shock of his newest surgeries and whiteness wore off, we forgave him and resumed the embrace. Some feel his musical legacy was drying up as far back as Bad, though I will extend my appreciation through to Dangerous. The '93 molestation accusations changed things forever. Though many stood behind him, myself included, many did not and the fact that the whole thing came up at all was more than a little icky. People tried to accept his innocence, but they did not forget.

Without knowing much about the details of the case at the time, I was pretty sure he was innocent. I had virtually nothing to base that on, but simply on the grounds that I didn't want to believe it and couldn't believe that sweet Michael Jackson would do such a thing. A soft spoken voice and pet chimp dressed in clothes will go a long way in shaping people's perceptions. Sure Michael Jackson was a little nutty, but it was actually kinda nice to buy into the idea that he preferred the company of children, having been robbed of his own childhood. Even my parents, so paranoid for our safety and fearing rapists and kidnappers around every turn, were charmed by the idea of an innocent, child-like man, even while not particularly interested in his music. Michael's innocent nature was missing in our culture so we all desperately wanted to believe a grown man could be that way without any ulterior motive.

Even though I had defended him initially, there was a little doubt a couple of years after the allegations surfaced. I couldn't resist responding to a pro-MJ message written on the desk in my Literature class with a retort in white-out "Michael Jackson is a paedophile". I looked up and saw the teacher standing before me. "Clean that off." she scolded before walking away. "Did I spell it right?" I sheepishly enquired. She didn't answer, but I wondered if her lack of punishment indicated her agreement with my sentiment. Clearly doubt was starting to creep into mind.

Devoted fans at the courthouse, convinced of MJ's innocence

So many times when people retort to unsavoury allegations about someone they know personally or care about I've heard responses like "I've never seen anything like that." Since when did molesters openly offend in front of their friends and family? 

Dear Diana,
Michael Jackson cordially invites you to a celebration of the 100th molestation by Michael Jackson. Guests will be served wine in soda cans and copious amounts of candy while we watch Walt Disney's 'Fantasia' before retreating the Neverland's basement for the grand finale. Nephews welcome.
All my love,

It's as though people really do expect a written invitation to believe any wrong doing may have occurred. From a fan perspective, there isn't even any personal experience for people to base their opinion on. After the 1993 allegations came up, I was a little concerned, but pressed on as a fan, even seeing Michael Jackson in concert in 1996. There was a lot of talk about the accuser having drawn pictures of Michael Jackson's genitalia and subsequent photos being taken for comparison. As the accuser ended up dropping the charges, whether or not those images matched was not widely discussed. I attempted to believe in him, but I always wondered about those photos.

In 1998, I read the shamefully titled Michael Jackson Was My Lover by Victor Gutierrez, an account of the 1993 case with much detail that had gone unreported in the media. With a title like that, it seemed destined to be a bunch of tabloid junk and hearsay, but it actually contained much information that was on public record and filed with the District Attorney in Santa Barbara. After reading that, I was convinced of his guilt. Unlike before where I made a decision based on my own preference, now I was somewhat informed and that information led me to believe he was guilty, an opinion which I hold to this day.

And still, I have a soft spot for him.

Without getting into the nitty gritty, few adults can say they would feel comfortable with an adult who even suggested, let alone went ahead with, sharing their bed with exclusively boys, not to mention boys aged 10-13, all with sandy coloured hair and an olive complexion. Jackson certainly had a type. His supposed love of all children was pretty limited when it came to crossing over into his bedroom. The abscence of any women in his life, aside from the seemingly strategic marriage to Lisa Marie Presley hot off the heels of his 1993 accusations, coupled with his intimate relationships with specific types of boys, cannot be ignored and deemed innocent. If it were an average person claiming the same innocent interests, it would be considered an outrage, no question about it. To hear people who knew him talk about him, I believe he probably was a kind, loving and generous person. That doesn't necessarily mean that such a person could be without an unhealthy predilection toward young boys.

All this brings me to two things. Firstly, the desire to find him innocent, despite all the red flags, is overwhelming among his fans. I haven't talked about my disbelief in God for a while, but that all came about from me challenging what I knew, what I was used to and what was most comfortable. I guess it became uncomfortable for me not to examine things critically and as a result, I came out no longer believing. I am someone who is more comfortable with seeking the truth rather than accepting what is easier. If so many people wont even begin to challenge the innocence of Michael Jackson, I think it's a real testament as to the validity of people's belief in bigger issues such as politicians shaping their lives on earth and after that, their eternity with God. I am not saying everyone who believes is wrong, but that the majority believe out of their desire for that outcome, rather than a desire for truth. Challenging Michael Jackson would be a hell of a lot easier than questioning God and so many people are completely unwilling to entertain that notion. I think it's a sad commentary on the human mind and its desire to delude itself.

As it is, when it comes to Michael Jackson, even as a case where we can see the proof right before us since we have lived through it, we still get people talking about him breaking down racial barriers, declaring him the most successful artist of all time and even woefully asking what we are going to do for music now. Michael Jackson did not break down any racial barriers. Motown was well established and successful before the Jackson 5 were signed. There were numerous iconic black entertainers before him such as Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, Richard Pryor and Sammy Davis Jr. While Michael Jackson may have reached heights of popularity never known by any of them, he did not break any racial barriers along the way. I heard a couple of times commentators say "He was the first black artist ever to be played on MTV." That is not a testament to Jackson's barrier breaking, but a testament to MTV being behind the times. Blacks were welcome on TV and Michael Jackson had already appeared on the Ed Sullivan show over a decade before, so all that means is that MTV was a racist holdout. We already knew they were fucked, so that's no surprise.

As for the claim that he was the most successful artist and still the King of Pop, aside from Thriller still being the biggest selling record of all time, his is still beaten, nay, TROUNCED by Elvis and The Beatles and even Mariah Carey for having the most number one and top ten singles. For the "King" his output was incredibly low and thankfully a number of journalists do not fail to remind us that his title of King was self proclaimed.
As for what we'll we do for music now, give me a break. Music overall has been declining since the mid 90s (in my opinion) and Michael Jackson, the "King of Pop", has done nothing to help the cause since then. Again, for the "King" his reign was incredibly short. These are just a few examples of easily disprovable claims about Michael Jackson which are easily ushered aside by those who want to believe what they want to believe. Delusion is an epidemic, it would seem!

The Michael Jackson we loved was truly gone once he started presenting us with giant statues of himself. What happened to the meek guy who was a lover, not a fighter?

Secondly, for those of us who do believe he is guilty, so many of us are still able to embrace the Michael Jackson that we loved. So often we've seen families of suspected child moleters and murders on TV and have questioned the unflailing support amidst mountains of evidence. I hope you have never had to suffer someone close you having committed or accused of any such heinous crime, but this has taught me a little something about the forgiveness and family support that those people may have. Here, in Michael Jackson, is someone we don't know personally, but have a strong bond with through his art and our childhood memories. All these feelings we share with a complete stranger enable us to admit "Yeah, I'm pretty sure he molested those kids." and then crank up Off The Wall on our stereos. He said we couldn't stop until we got enough and apparently we haven't, still able to indulge (if it really is that) in the musical triumphs of someone who would later appear to be committing unspeakable acts. We are able to watch all the coverage about his death and feel some sympathy and loss. He was a fucking lunatic and possibly a criminal, but we loved him before all that and those feelings are lasting. So must be the case for families of criminals. All we see is the crime, but they have a whole host of love and memories that can be hard to shake for those close to them, no matter what the person did. Surely we can forgive someone for standing by a criminal loved one if we are so determined to enjoy our plastic surgerised, personal theme park owning, rat ballad singing, moonwalking Michael Jackson.
Dancing the 'Thriller' dance simultaneously around the world. Count me in.
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