Thursday, July 09, 2009

Obituary: Michael Jackson

I was just as surprised to see crowds mourning Michael Jackson outside the Apollo Theater in Harlem as I was to see Midwestern suburbanites mourning New Yorkers who died in the World Trade Center: in each case, I thought the mourners had already considered the deceased dead years before.

I know I did. But before I go on about how Michael Jackson stopped being a normal man years ago, or about how (like Prince) he hasn't really made music for more than a decade, I think it's important to draw the distinction between celebrity and individuality.

The celebrity is a public persona, a creation made for and by fandom, media and culture. The problem is when the celebrity, whether it's a Michael Jackson or a Britney Spears, becomes the person; when the personality inside begins to mimic the persona created by the culture.

This, I think, is part of why Michael Jackson mangled his face and his skin. In the end, the creature we once knew as Michael Jackson had more in common with this jungle cat (aka Jocelyn Wildenstein) than his earlier self. Wildenstein was a wealthy woman who slowly transformed herself into something she thought her husband would desire -- at least according to the famous story repeated in the press. She spent $4 million by some accounts, over 30 years. Who did Michael Jackson transform himself for?

Like Elvis, we’ll remember him the way we want to remember him. The crowds at the Apollo probably aren’t sad about the skull-faced apparition who’s been seen dangling an infant over balconies. (But then I have it on good authority that at least one tearful Apollo mourner was crying for the camera—not for Michael.)



Blogger Mr. Christopher said...

Oh Masticator. Why did you have to pull Prince into this conversation?

9:27 AM  

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