Michael Jackson dying is the best thing that could have happened to him, as far as his celebrity is concerned. He was going downhill on the wacko express pretty damn fast for a number of years, arguably since the minute he first saw daylight, but that’s nothing he could control given he was born into a pretty insane family. Wallace Stegner wrote “I grew up poor in a rootless and spectacularly dysfunctional family” in which “stability was never more than a vague dream”. Applicable to Michael as well, and perhaps even more so.
He was presented throughout his lifetime with remarkable opportunities but also required to make remarkable sacrifices. A rigid and tragic dichotomy. A star at a young age ridden hard by a controlling and abusive father. A solo career with the best selling record of all time coupled with the isolation that life under the microscope mandates.
It makes sense, considering the leaches that must flock to prominence, that he would desire seclusion and seek to surround himself with the simplest and most genuine; children that didn’t judge and threaten or have ulterior motives.
It makes sense, considering that he never had a childhood, that he would fantasize about one that didn’t end. The unknown of which he was robbed. Those never-ending afternoons with lemonade stands and sticky, dripping popsicles and skinned knees from games of kick the can with the neighborhood kids that went late into summer evenings with mosquitoes and lightning bugs and “ollie ollie in come free” once the light has finally acquiesced to the evening. Is it wrong to want every child to have that as long as they can? Especially if you realize just what you paid for your fame? Part of me likes that ideal. The pureness and simplicity of it.
But, unfortunately, it isn’t that simple despite how much I want to leave it there and think happy thoughts. So much of Michael Jackson for me is not about the music or his artistry. And had he died years ago and joined the 27 year-old club, perhaps my memories would be about his genius and less about the creepy self-imposed biracial guy who so clearly hated who he was and where he came from surrounded by rumors of child abuse, plastic surgery, drugs, and other abnormal eccentricities.
I wish he had died after releasing BAD. When things were starting to really derail, but he was still a genius and defendable. Outlandish, but respected. Before Lisa Marie and Prince Michael, the masks and the child abuse allegations. Because it’s hard to see a childhood idol fall. And it’s disappointing to realize they are a bit off. And it’s depressing to see them flailing, dangling their son over a railing, grasping for the adoration they took for granted, feeling entitled to special treatment, understanding and acceptance of bizarre and erratic behavior.
The beloved became the exiled. The hero became the beast.
This much we know, although the depths and reasoning are unknown. And something tells me even Michael didn’t know or understand himself, his actions or his reasons. His self loathing ran so deep that he eluded even himself.