Friday, June 26, 2009

Quote du Jour: The Death of Michael Jackson

Today's quote du jour comes from Michael Lazzaro aka Hunter at Daily Kos:

I can imagine no worse curse to afflict someone, in America, than dying while famous.

And I can imagine no worse use of ridiculous hyperbole than that statement - one that minimizes any American afflicted with the agony of being tortured, maimed, murdered; affected by mental or physical illness, extreme poverty or so many other life circumstances that make the so-called "curse" of "dying while famous" the absolute least of all concerns.

I admit that there's no love lost between me and Michael Jackson. I appreciate his musical genius but stopped being a fan when he morphed (physically and emotionally) from being a cute little black boy to a crotch-grabbing, disco-loving (call it "pop" if you want to - I still found it nauseous), narcissistic, Peter Pan impersonating parody of himself.

Oh - but he was abused as a child - that's why he was so tortured. Well, guess what? So are millions of other people. At least he could afford therapy - a luxury many other sufferers don't have.

And don't get me wrong, I'm all for eccentricities, but when they include speculation (and a privately settled lawsuit) of child abuse on his part, the line from odd to unacceptable has been crossed.

Did he live a tough life? Sure. Could he have helped himself if he'd wanted to? Yes. The truth is that the cult of celebrity that he not only grew up with due to his parents' prodding but that he metamorphosed into an art form of its own with delusions of grandeur that led him to don epaulettes and a crown surely took on a life of its own. But wasn't he really above controlling it to some measurable extent? Was the roller coaster really as inevitable as some would have you believe? And how much does society demand those delusions that snowball so often into tragedy?

Some people online question if it's not too soon to "bash" the superstar. I'd respond that discussing the truth about his life is far more valuable for society than eulogizing him (as Lazarro did) as the ultimate tragic figure. When we do that, we minimize the suffering of those who have few or no options - unlike Jackson.

His death was certainly sudden and shocking but let's not dress up his life as he dressed himself - cloaked in images of royalty, pomp, and mega-importance. To do so only enables the blind star worship that elevates those who are famous as being more human than the rest of us.

As Bill Maher said of Barack Obama recently, "He's...not your boyfriend".

Neither was Michael Jackson.

And, for the record, I wasn't a big Elvis fan either. Make of that what you will.

“Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.”

- Henry David Thoreau

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