Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Public Outcry

I am in shock that Michael Jackson died. It's like a piece of my childhood died with him. I remember playing house in the basement, pretending I was President living in the White House with my husband Michael. I would hold my baby doll and tell the imaginary reporters that he would serve as an International Ambassador with his music. My sister Cate was even more obsessive. Every wall of her seven year old room was covered. For a time she insisted we all called her Michael and did her version of the moonwalk everywhere. Really though, it was just retarded backwards walking. We made money telling people she was one of Jerry's Kids.

While I am saddened by Jackson's death, I am also fascinated by the reaction to it. There is something about public grieving for a celebrity that is so interesting and so bizarre. It's like true emotion seen through a kaleidoscope. It looks real, but it's overblown, and flashy, and I can't stop believing that all the tears and statements of public grief are just final attempts to cash in on Jackson's celebrity. For instance, all the people standing outside of Jackson's home this morning, aren't looking at the home, but at the cameras. Oh, and the people who have come out of the woodwork to make "personal statements." I mean, do we really care how Corey Haim feels about this? And does he have to do his grieving live on the Today Show?

I think there is something cathartic about grieving for a celebrity. It's like everyone can take a minute to feel sorrow, and let out some emotion, without feeling a real impact on their lives. I was living in D.C. when Princess Diana died, and for days did live shots outside of the British Embassy. You should have seen the lines of people, and the piles of flowers. In fact, so many people came to pay their respects that flower vendors set up on the corner. None of these people actually knew Princess Diana, they wouldn't miss her in their day to day lives, but they were still taking time to feel her loss, even if it wasn't personal. Actually, I think especially since it wasn't personal. The same thing will happen now. People will cry, but the tears won't really be for Jackson. They will be for lost youth, or life's disappointments, in order to belong to a crowd, or for a little attention. Then we'll all go on, having taken a minute for national emotional release.

Now, if you'll excuse me I am going to go watch the "Thriller" video. The long version.

17 comments:

Jules said...

It is very interesting to see how the public reacts to a celebrity's death. At least Princess Di was doing great things.... Michael had the music of my childhood. But it seems that he's hurt a great many people also. I find this public grieving to be a bit strange for me. Sad but strange...

LB @Wait, She Said What? said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dana's Brain said...

I also agree. Let's face it, he was amazing - a long time ago. Maybe he would have been again, but I think the bizarreness factor has really overshadowed everything he has done in the past 5-10 years.

It all just seems so odd.

Yellow Trash Diaries said...

I have a lot of mixed feelings about this one. I LOVE his music (the earlier stuff especially), and I can feel some sympathy for an obviously tormented and warped mind, but mostly I feel wrong celebrating a child molester, no matter how talented he was. I mean, if that creepy guy down the street molested boys but was a brilliant artist, would we be singing praises about him? If a murderer is a great writer, do we make him a best-seller? Would you shake OJ's hand?
It's definitely a conundrum.

Okay, all of that was just so I could use the word conundrum.

LB @Wait, She Said What? said...

Totally agree. It's a bit odd to watch the reactions to Michael Jackson's death. Celebrities are posting on twitter (seriously?) with condolences and how he impacted their life and others are taking every interview they can. It does seem a bit like they're just seeking attention.

I think it's sad that his death is taking the attention away from Farrah Fawcett's death. I realize his was sudden and hers expected, but I think it should be more of an equal share of tributes.

(I had to re-do my comment as I mis-typed Farrah's name and just couldn't leave it that way.)

*Akilah Sakai* said...

The celebration odd?
What you have to realize is that everyone does not think he was guilty. They do not believe the payoff was accepting guilt, but to make people finally leave him the hell alone. They do not feel they are celebrating an acquitted monster at all so that's why you will see loads of hate on message boards, as well as grief from people who think otherwise.

Shannon said...

Personally... I am just glad we have his music that lives on despite all of the things he has done in recent years. What I remember is the music and it's impact and influence on pop music today. If he really did do all of the things of which he's been accused - he will answer for them and it's not my place to judge!

melistress said...

I think you have it exactly right. He was very overshadowed by many issues in the last decade or so, but that doesn't negate the impact he had on our generation and our generation's pop culture.

I am old enough to have had Farrah's impact on our culture and it wasn't nearly as big. She was a poster to me and one season of Charlie's Angels and she was a woman who went back to a man who beat her. Not exactly a poster child for all that is good in the world either.

Death is sad. It is sometimes easier to mourn the death of someone you didn't know. In both cases it was a part of my childhood that died yesterday.

Jonathan said...

his music was miraculous. so was his dancing. however, he's about as innocent as oj. he preyed on kids and used his immense position of wealth, power, and celebrity to do so. i'm not grieving his death. nor am i celebrating it. i can always listen to his music, watch his videos, and enjoy it, all the while not thinking about him as a person.

Rassles said...

I honestly believe that he never had any sexual intentions with those children. I don't think he was a pedophile or a molester. Maybe that makes me naive. Whatever, I don't care. He was mentally and emotionally disturbed. But think about this: the guy was probably the most well-known person in the entire world. Jackson's fame is Elvis times a million.

It's nuts.

Snotty McSnotterson said...

Better memorize that routine, girl. It will change your life.

Miss Yvonne said...

Last night Ryan Seacrest and that turtle-face Julianna or whatever her name is on E were doing live minute by minute coverage.....this just in! Still dead! And then the most awesome and pathetic thing happened. They got Arsenio Hall on the phone to talk about MJ. Arsenio Hall? Really? Hi, you were relevant over a decade ago...who cares.

Lorna said...

I too am with the folks who believed Michael was innocent. Who believe he was at heart a child who didn't quite get the whole grown-up world he was in. He was a music genius, massively talented, which he was gracious enough to share with the world. When he performed, he gave everything he had. And that may be why is loved and missed.

Lulu said...

Yessss! Your blog is exactly what I want to say about celebrity deaths in general - there is a collective need to grieve that is almost orgiastic in nature.

God I sound pompous. Sorry. :)

But - what is with it with leaving flowers in front of buildings to commemorate the death of a celebrity?? Why do we all need to feeeeel the emoooootion together??

Aliceson said...

MJ's life was such a mixture of success and tragedy. Sadly the media and b-list celebrities feel the need capitalize on his death. I will miss his music and his dancing but thank goodness for youtube.

Phil said...

Yes, but where is the public outcry over Billy Mays death? I'm heading down to the Loud T.V. Pitchman Embassy to leave flowers and grieve for the cameras. Of course I'll do that right after I Oxi Clean my favorite shirt for the occasion.

Janine said...

Michael Jackson was obviously a very disturbed man to say the least. Between the very questionable parenting, the child star syndrome and whatever else, the result was a very lonely man uncomfortable in his own skin determined to hide in a imaginary childhood. His very sad life was the worst part of his death. I guess I still like to believe in happier endings.

Abrupt subject change: Libby, do you still want me to do a guest post? I need an email address - my email is on the blog!