Friday, June 26, 2009

Be Careful Who You Love

Yeah, I'm well aware it's been a good four months since I've touched this thing. A lot's gone down in that time and I may get to it at some point...

However, you may have heard about a pop singer that died recently. I decided that I had something to say about it, and 411 gave me the platform to do it. The original can be read here.

Let’s start back about 18 years ago. 1991.

Before then, Michael Jackson could do no wrong. He’d sold more albums than many of the general populace can count. He was adored worldwide. No act since the Beatles had commanded as much love and attention. Never mind that he had a near-obsession with grabbing his crotch every time he danced, or that he kept a monkey as a pet or even that he surrounded himself with child television stars – Michael was on top of the world. The same one he wanted to heal, but that would come a little later.

Then, at the apex of his popularity, this happened—

The original ending of the “Black And White” video aired only once. Ever. There was too much of an uproar about Michael breaking stuff and grabbing his crotch (though people never seemed to mind before). And the violence! My God, he’s smashing windows! No one noticed, at the time – or maybe even now – that those same windows contained phrases like “nigger go home” or symbols such as the swastika (check around the 2:00-2:15 mark). All anyone noticed was that Michael wasn’t being Michael. So much stink was raised about it that the footage was forever banished to bootleg tapes, never to be seen on television again.

It was then that people started to notice something could be wrong with the perfect pop star. It was two years later, when Jackson was accused of sexual abuse by 13 year-old Jordan and father Evan Chandler that people were up in arms – and then reached their arms around to pat themselves on the back for being right. “I knew something wasn’t quite right about that guy!” Everyone had condemned Jackson as a pedophile. The media, his own sister, Latoya...everyone looked down their nose at the pervert.

Only thing was, it came out that it all boiled down to extortion. Jackson settled a civil suit filed by the family (except Jordan’s mother, who maintained that there was never any wrongdoing) and, after doing so, the child refused to cooperate with the criminal investigation, which was halted for – get this - lack of evidence. Michael even told us the truth himself—

—and no one listened. Nope, he was guilty. He had to be. There's no way anyone that weird could not have done something like that. The interview with Oprah a year earlier? The one in which he when he admitted to being lonely and admitted his childhood was itself abusive and non-existent? Forgotten. Any other evidence that Jackson was simply out to have the childhood he never had because he now could? Ignored.

Especially a decade later, when Jackson would be formally charged with seven counts of child sexual abuse and two counts of administering an intoxicating agent – all against 14 year-old Gavin Arvizo. This all came after a “creepy” (a wonderful little buzzword used to color people of unusual habits and paint them into the same corner Jackson could never paint his way out of no matter how hard he tried) documentary about Jackson aired over in Europe. Once again, all the evidence was in place that Jackson merely wanted his childhood back. An evaluation by Dr. Stan Katz concluded that Jackson had become a regressed 10-year-old and did not fit the profile of a pedophile. In addition to all of that, Jackson was later fully acquitted of all charges.

But, the damage had been done. Jackson’s career was over, not to mention his residence in the US because he could no longer show his face. Jackson was found innocent of all charges – hell, Jackson was found too innocent for his own good, period! But yet, there everyone was, decrying his guilt and calling for him to be locked up for being a pedophile. Jackson was vilified, decried, and made the butt of every low-class kid-toucher joke that anyone could think of. He was a laughing stock. A source of ridicule and shame.

An innocent man whose innocence would not be accepted because, while the court of law had acquitted him, the media conducted their own trial and the court of public opinion found him guilty.

Jackson went into hiding. Then, because the money pit had dried up (which tends to happen when a man can’t work in his chosen field), everyone with a glint of green in their eyes came after Jackson looking for a payoff. A handout. They wanted their piece of Jackson, and they wanted it now! SO what if they kicked him while he was down? He was a pervert anyway, remember?

Then a funny thing happened. In the midst of a comeback staged because Jackson had found a set of financiers to bail him out of his personal debt, Jackson blindsided with the ultimate career move – he died when no one saw it coming. No one even knows how yet, let alone why. Maybe the stresses of a life no one would wish on their worst enemy. Or years of prescription medication abuse (to which Jackson himself has admitted to several times) catching up to him. Hell, between the debt and facing a world that hated his guts, it may well have been deliberate. Putting aside a lot of unanswered questions, the world stopped for a moment and realized that an immense talent had left this earth, never to be heard from again.

Then, the world did something really strange. It forgave him. At long last, everyone believed his stories of being abused as a child, and how he was just a simple kid at heart who only ever wanted to laugh and play with other kids like he never could when he was a child himself. Everyone talked – after 18 long years – about how talented of a musician he was, and how that gift and the music it produced would never be forgotten despite the fact that it had been almost two decades since anyone remembered that fact in the first place.

Phrases were thrown around the internet like how “THE DEATH OF MICHEAL WAS LIKE 9/11 EVENT IN WORLD TRADE CENTER”. And that was just the beginning, as those very same people that mocked and condemned the one-time King Of Pop now stood among those who voiced their desperation and sadness that Jackson had suddenly passed away. Hands were held and people sang the praises of one of the greatest careers in music history and bemoaned the star-crossed life that Jackson lead, feeling pity for the man they had once derided so openly.

Why the sudden turn of public opinion on Jackson now that he has died – and why society at large has forgiven a man they never would have otherwise – is well-nigh befuddling. Are they joining the chorus of their friends and family, afraid of being a dissenting voice? Are they even more afraid of being as insensitive of “creepy” if they bid a “good riddance” instead of an “RIP”? Are they letting the opinions of their other celebrity “heroes” dictate how they feel? Do they even know how they really feel? Or are they too caught up in what a media-saturated world tells them what they should think lest they be seen as a dissenter that society should shun them like they once did Jackson – even right up to the moment he died?

Or, is this really how people feel at all? We’ve already seen the permeation of the “thank God all the 8 year-olds are finally safe!” comments by those that are either looking to rankle the rank-and-file or simply taking this moment in time to be “rebellious”. It’d be curious to see how many of them were around when Jackson was electrifying a planet with a single album. Or one (of many) of the catchiest songs ever committed to tape. Or with a performance, televised or not, that epitomized the art of live showmanship and entertainment. Hell, it’d be curious to see how many of them were even around when Jackson went through his first wave of abuse allegations. How many of these kids remember this stuff? Or are they just as force-fed as their older and supposedly wiser brethren, letting the taint of charges that never stuck shape their opinion of a man whose popularity once knew no bounds or no rival?

Looking in from the outside, it certainly seems a strange turn of events. Michael Jackson’s death – and the 180-degree turn it has brought about, resulting in an appeal granted by the court of public opinion – should bring hope and a message of Forgiveness that should touch the hearts of even the most jaded. It probably would were it not common knowledge that, had it not been for a sudden turn of events, most of the world would still turn away from the Man In The Mirror because, after hearing and seeing so many of other peoples’ opinions, they have no idea what that man even thinks or believes anymore.