Strange days indeed, huh?

Posted: June 25, 2009 in Threat Quality
Tags: , , ,

Then again, it’s Michael Jackson – all his days were strange.Michael Jackson

Like (I imagine) most people, I have some mildly conflicting feelings about Michael Jackson’s death. I do respect the impact he had on pop music and nobody with at least one good ear can tell me his 70’s-80’s output wasn’t awesome. But I’m not terribly broken up by the death of – come on, let’s face facts here – a child molester. Or, if you would like to ignore the many horrible accounts to come out of his civil trial and just focus on the documentaries of the 90’s, at the very least a deeply disturbed man no parent in their right mind would allow their child to spend  unsupervised time with.

But mostly, I feel some sense of relief, both for the ultimate legacy of the man, and my own mental health for not having to sit through what would have been next sad phase of Jackson’s life – the one where he ends up penniless and friendless, pathetically attempting comeback after diminishing comeback.

Because anyone who opened up a web browser or turned on cable TV today can agree, we would’ve seen every damn detail. The one thing media enjoys more than celebrities is celebrities in the decline. If you don’t believe me, do a quick Google image search of Peter Falk and tell me his disheveled, alzheimers-afflicted self running down the street isn’t on the first results page.

I consider it a point of pride that I’ve never seen an episode of “Jon and Kate Plus All Their Poor Therapy-Junkies-In-Waiting,” but it’s impossible in this day and age to avoid somehow absorbing the ongoing drama. Even if I hadn’t recently been over a friend’s house during what turned into a marathon viewing of E! (thank god, at least, for “The Soup” – and I’m convinced the E!xecutives have no sense of irony, that they allow that show to air on their network), I would’ve taken in the details against my will the last time I waited in line for a prescription at CVS and had to stare at rack after rack of tabloids filling me in (either I look at that, or I look at Ryan Reynolds on, like, “Men’s Health” and wonder if maybe he’s hitting the gym a little too much).

It is virtually impossible to dodge events in the so-called pop-culture sphere, whether you give a damn or not.

Now, the story of Michael Jackson’s death isn’t over yet – 50-year-old men don’t just have heart attacks and die (except when they do). David CarradineExpect a lot of further uncomfortable investigations into the cause of death, and brace yourselves for the worst. Because the media will happily tell you alllll about it. Remember how bad you felt when you heard David Carradine hung himself? Remember how weird you felt when it trickled out that the hanging was accidental, and part of a (needlessly elaborate, I should think) auto-asphyxiation scenario?

Just…pace your emotions, is all I’m saying. There’s still plenty of time for this to get strange. It is, after all, Michael Jackson we’re dealing with here, and it’d be ironic (in a completely acceptable sort of way, I hope) if his death turned out to be mundane.

Ultimately, searching my feelings, this is what I got: how shitty is it that Farrah Fawcett died the same day as Michael Jackson? Any other day of the year, tributes to her career (such as it was) and battle with cancer would’veFarrah Fawcett dominated cable programming for days. But by 5pm this afternoon, her death was already a B-story to a “bigger” celebrity death.

I don’t really believe in any kind of afterlife where a consciousness remains, so I can’t imagine she really gives a shit, but still. Seems unfair, in the cosmic sense, to live your life in the public eye and not even count on your death to be the top story for more than six hours.

Also: I was at a wedding last weekend, and when the DJ took a final request, the dance floor happily shouted for “Thriller.” And that was the last time I’ll be able to dance to that song (badly, at that – I could never get the lurch/clawed-hand combo down) without that vague, “Oh, he’s dead now isn’t that sad” vibe. Or, alternatively, without someone on the floor making a bad joke about a Michael Jackson zombie.

I can at least promise that it won’t be me.

  1. Jeff Holland says:

    That IS a very good point. There were some facts in here that may have been strange and/or interesting.

  2. braak says:

    I don’t know about this stuff. I just let all of the pingbacks go through because who knows, right?

  3. Christine says:

    Last night after we heard the news I said something to the same effect… Thriller was the last song played at our wedding just the other day… wouldn’t be the same now… actually kinda creepy. I feel very similar to all your points… thank you for expressing them for me! 🙂

  4. Amanda says:

    For what it’s worth, MJs comeback (I hear) was already sold out. I assume you’re referring to the 50 concerts he agreed to do {somewhere- I can’t remember}? Yea, they were saying they’re all sold out…So, that’s not really that pathetic of a comeback…

    Now I’m not attesting to the question of whether or not he would actually have made it through those concerts, but still- we shouldn’t speculate. As of this point in time, he had 50 sold out concerts coming up…..

  5. Braak says:

    “Pathetic” is, of course, relative. Is it sold out because it was going to be good? Is “successful” the same thing as “popular”? Did he sell out fifty concerts to grim rubberneckers, eager for the chance to see him freak out and melt down on stage?

    YOU are speculating now!

  6. Amanda says:

    I’m not speculating, I’m stating a fact: his concerts are (were) sold out.

  7. braak says:

    And speculating that this is some kind of marker that his comeback would be successful. You’re excluding the possibility that the comeback will be pathetic.

    Oh but the world is all illusion! Who can say that he suffers no illusions, and is not a liar?

  8. Amanda says:

    I just meant that you really shouldn’t assign him forthcoming doom simply because his personal life was insanity, just as much as I shouldn’t assign him forthcoming success just because of his legendary past.

    I’m saying he ended with 50 sold out concerts and if you ask me, that’s not too shabby- it’s respectable, nonetheless, for the sheer possibility of success after being dormant for so long. Regardless, “pathetic” is a very strong word to assign to someone who’s death has inspired followers to come out en masse in tribute to his accomplishments…If you ask me, that’s not an indication of gawkers, but supporters.

  9. Mr. Jackson’s “comeback” concerts may have been sold out, but anyone expecting to see the MJ of his prime was sadly mistaken. I don’t think he would have held up under the strain of the tour; many stronger performers have had to cancel or abbreviate tours.

    I’m glad he’s gone. No, I’m not glad he died, just that he is now one less thing to clog up the news in the future. No more child molestation charges, no more paeans to his talent, no more weird and outrageous behavior, no more “friends of Michael” going on-and-on about him.

    The fact is, this was coming for a long time. His father dominated him, controlled his career, took away his childhood, which Michael spent the better part of his life trying to get back. It turned him into a talented but flawed, and ultimately pitiable, person. He had no coping mechanisms for dealing with getting older, had no guide to see him through the waxing and waning of his career, and was surrounded by people only interested in having some of his fame (and fortune) rub off on them. Weirdest part of the coverage so far: CNN talking to Uri Geller, crank, charlatan, and pitiable person in his own right, who was babbling about his relationship with Michael.

    And on a side note, let me say that while Farrah may not now care, the fact that she was shoved aside so rudely by this, that even Anderson Cooper couldn’t spare her story more than a minute-long montage at the end of his show, is deplorable. Just my opinion.

  10. Katastic says:

    Well, an awful lot of this is END OF AN ERA shock and nostalgia. This isn’t really about Michael Jackson, it’s about a couple of million people thinking “My God, I’m getting so old.” It would’ve been much the same reaction, no matter how decrepit he got.

  11. Jeff Holland says:

    Amanda’s right, here, his concerts were indeed sold out, so it’s entirely possible that he would have dug himself out of his massive gaping debts. It might be wrong of me to speculate. Not “take down the post” wrong, but “acknowledge that it is not without its logic flaws” wrong.

    That said, given the the last ten years have been him starting and halting several abortive “comeback” albums or tours or whathaveyou, I don’t think I’m proposing the most radical of potential futures.

    But I could be wildly underestimating the fervor of fans like the ones screaming and clutching at Jackson on his way into a trial to fend off child molestation charges. Now THAT’S loyalty.

  12. Carl says:

    Several worthwhile thoughts in this post. Fame is a bizarre, consumptive, and in many ways (from my admittedly removed perspective on the topic) dehumanizing phenomenon. I have to say that I share a sense of relief in the guy’s passing— not for me, but genuinely for him (my take on the Great Beyond being, of course, different than yours). He was unthinkably, unspeakably talented— really, a giant of a song-writer and performer. And what a grotesque thing idolization made him into. The obvious irony is that despite being ‘adored’ his entire, life he was consistently denied any true, balanced, loving, human interaction. And from the time he was a teen there were simply no “No”s in the guy’s life, which counter-intuitively seems to frequently emotionally cripple the wealthy-and-successful. No one close enough to him to say, out of love, no. “No, Michael, forty-five plastic surgeries are too many— you’re nose is falling off. No, Michael, sleep-overs with twelve-year-olds (which I am not entirely convinced were actually episodes of sexual misconduct) is not appropriate for a 35-year old man. No, Michael, don’t piss this money away— you may need it down the road.” No limitations personally or financially to help him establish and boundaries for perspective about what matters. Nothing limiting him and so no possibility of growth in conquering those limitations. All plastic, passing, skeletal human experiences until he came, bizarrely, to embody all of that before our very eyes. And it ended exactly as we all knew it had to— in an early, ugly, and presumably lonely fashion. If the soul is, in fact, eternal, then resquiat in pace, Mike. God knows you deserve some peace.

    (I have to admit that I too was ruminating on the relative focus being given to the two deaths. Farrah waged this very public, vocal war against her cancer in the last few years but she is lost in the hugeness of Jackson when they are seen only through the prism of celeb-culture fame. When human beings are reduced to commodities in that way her personhood doesn’t matter. A dead Michael Jackson sells more magazines, more ads between news segments, and generates more web-traffic than a dead Farrah Fawcet, and that’s all that matters. Reminds me of when Mother Theresa and Princess Diana died within twelve hours of each other. The effect was even more pronounced in that case.)

  13. braak says:

    Man, I don’t get any of these people.

    For god’s sake, he was a performer. So he was good at it. So? Lots of people are good at their fucking jobs. Lots of people are the best at their jobs.

    Someone send me an e-mail when three thousand people show up at the house of the recently-deceased World’s Greatest Electrician.

  14. Amanda says:

    Hey! I’m not saying that *I* subscribe to the frenzy and support of these hundreds (millions?) of people! In fact, I doubt he WOULD have made it through even one of his concerts. But I do acknowlege his talent and what he did for music and pop culture. I liked his stuff from before he got weird, but his final manifestation made me uncomfortable and every time he was in the news I wished he would just go away.

    Basically my point in these comments is that it’s not fair to trash talk someone after they’ve died, especially not if thier life was (at some point) full of legendary and history-making accomplishments. There is a thin line between genius and insanity: that statement has become a cliche for a reason. MJ’s contributions deserve a sad rememberence at his death: both because he is gone, and because of what he turned into at the end. I asked we avoid negative speculation simply due to that age-old adage: Innocent until proven guilty. MJ was a mess and he was trying for a comeback, but now that he’s dead he just deserves the benefit of the doubt- for his accomplishments and for the fact that he was still trying to do something up until the very day he died. Everything else is unimportant. There is nothing sadder than the deterioration of greatness. But there is nothing more inspiring than getting yourself together enough for another go around (re: RDJ).

    I think your post was excellent – especially because it highlighted all the ridiculously incredible high profile deaths we’ve had this past week. Take it down? Pish tosh! Who am I? Sarah Palin? (NO OFFENSE TO ANYONE *wink*).

  15. Amanda says:

    @Carl: Just read your post after my latest and I wanted to say: so eloquently written. Bravo.

  16. braak says:

    Amanda: “Innocent until proven guilty” isn’t an age-old adage, it’s the principal of the American judicial system. It’s not even true in other countries!

    I don’t think it’s trash-talk to suggest that there’s a decent likelihood that an increasingly unstable-seeming celebrity was going to have a pathetic, or at least embarrassing comeback tour, regardless of how many people bought tickets in advance. And I also don’t think that people who have done impressive or legendary things should be any less subject to scrutiny than anyone else.

    I’m also not even sure that I think it’s so bad to speak ill of the dead. I mean, if there’s one group of people that can’t be harmed by gossip, it’s got to be dead guys.

    However! I will respect your desire to look at the positive aspect of his life, and confirm that the sense of relief that I felt is really just the relief that the omnipresent media is no longer going to be constantly drawing my attention to the weird shit.

    Also, just so we’re all clear: Holland wrote the post. So, Carl, I don’t know if his perspective on the great beyond is any different from yours.

    Also, also: hey, it’s Carl!

  17. Amanda says:

    Would that be a Carl G. that I too know? Why was there not equal celebration when *I* came to this blog? Hmmmm…..

    And I know that’s the principal of our judicial system! I know it’s not relevant to other countries! But would you disagree, then? Would you say that people are not innocent until proven guilty? It was not a silly thing for me to say, no matter how you treat my statement.

    I just think it’s BAD KARMA to speak ill of the dead. It’s not what I would want people to do for me, I can tell you that. And if you’ll read my comments, I am equally skeptical that he would have reached his previous levels of greatness.

  18. braak says:

    Would I not agree? No, not really. If we accept that the act of committing a crime is a real thing, then a person is guilty regardless of whether or not they are ever proven to be guilty. The condition of innocence is the condition of not having committed a crime–not the condition of not having been convicted of a crime.

    Do you mean that I should presume that someone is innocent until they have been proven guilty? I think there’s reasonable debate about this. Presuming guilt catches more criminals. Presuming innocence makes the state less fascist. However, in this particular case I’m not sure it applies–I am, after all, willing to presume that he’s probably not a child molester (though, am not, in fact, presuming his innocence–I’m simply refraining from making an assumption either way).

    But speculation about how things will work out in the future isn’t the same thing as presuming that someone is guilty of something. It is, generally, fairly useless, which is precisely what makes it harmless.

    As to whether it’s bad karma to speak ill of the dead, I’m not entirely satisfied that that’s how karma works. However, if I had to choose between people speaking ill of me when I was alive and lauding me when I was dead, and people lauding me when I was alive and speaking ill of me when I was dead, I’d probably pick the latter. After all, once I’m dead, why should I care what people say about me?

    I was happy to see the thing from Carl, because I practically never hear from him, anymore.

  19. Amanda says:

    I just meant that he didn’t screw up his concerts yet, so why should we be negative about his future!?! I meant that he was “innocent” of being “pathetic” until he ACTUALLY made a fool of himself (and only then would he become “guilty” of a failure)! I don’t care if it was a slight malapropism of a sentence (if there is such a thing)! I think you all knew what I meant.

    So it IS Mr. Carl G. of Villanova. I could have guessed by the eloquence and kindness of his post!

  20. Jeff Holland says:

    All right! Carl! From Villanova!

    Who’s Carl from Villanova?

    Whatever, hey there, and thanks for a thoughtful post!

  21. Amanda says:

    And thank you, Jeff, for a thought-provoking blog!

  22. Jeff Holland says:

    Eh, it was either this or blathering about twitter, so no problem.

    Next week: Blathering about Twitter!

  23. Amanda says:

    You mean like how ALREADY on Twitter a stupid Disney show starring the same old tween superstars, called “Princess Protection,” has overtaken both Farah Fawcett AND Michael Jackson as trending topics?
    Can’t wait for that one.

  24. Jeff Holland says:

    I…no, I hadn’t meant that. BUT I DO NOW!

  25. Jeff Holland says:

    And while I’m not a fan of getting into the semantic minefield often enjoyed in comments sections, I feel I should clarify: I meant “pathetic” in an emotional sense (feeling pathos, pity for someone), rather than any statistical way. Watching a previously-beloved, now often-ostracized entertainer work overtime to cash in on past successes always fills me with a certain sense of dread for what potential implosion might result.

    I always envisioned Jackson’s later years as being somewhat akin to Marlon Brando’s. And I don’t think anyone felt very good about his late period.

  26. Amanda says:

    No, I too DEFINITELY was extremely uncomfortable even seeing pictures of MJ in his later career/life- as I said earlier in my comments.

  27. Erin says:

    @Holland: This is easily the most intelligent thing I’ve heard anyone say about Jackson’s death. Bravo.

    @Braak: Quit yelling at everyone!

  28. braak says:


  29. Amanda says:

    Carl! I need your email address! Write me:

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