18 July 2009

The King has Left the Building

So it has been a few weeks now since Michael Jackson's passing. While the controversy is raging on (was he killed? was it a conspiracy? is he really alive? was he just a junkie whose body couldn't take it anymore?), luckily, a lot of the media coverage has died down. Thinking he is no longer of this world is a little surreal to me, but it also brings up a slew of mixed feelings I didn't think I would have.

Michael Jackson's music truly provided a soundtrack to my youth. There had been nothing like it before, and I don't think we'll truly see something like it again, something that transcended all ages, races, and countries. I can't think of anyone I know who doesn't know an MJ song, and who doesn't like at least one or two (his earlier stuff). I can't remember where I was when I first heard it, but I know I had a little purse that had the Thriller album cover on it (I assume we got it at some sort of flea market), and my brother, cousins and I all had a sparkly glove. My bro dressed up as him for Halloween -- costume made by my mom -- and I vaguely remember being jealous that I couldn't do the same.

Soon came the ultimate, and genre-changing video, Thriller. It was scary to our young eyes, but, wow, how we loved it. We would sneak into my parent's room to watch MTV (which was supposed to be forbidden to us) and then practice all the dance moves. There's a family video in which all the kiddies are dancing the Thriller dance, until we are pushed out of the way by my aunt, who needed to command full attention of the camera. We were upset, but it shows how we ALL loved MJ. (and, to show his staying power...I have a family friend, who was probably born around the time Thriller came out, who loved MJ so much it was part of how he introduced himself as a little boy, "My name is Matthew Ryan X and I love Michael Jackson)

Weird Al parodied him. We parodied Weird Al. Then Bad came out, and we all went around saying, "You're bad..." when we really meant good. Confusing? Yes. Culture-changing? Yes.

Years went by, and MJ changed. His face changed, his color changed, he became almost unrecognizable to those of us who had grown up loving him. But his voice...that voice was unmistakable.

Then he got really strange, and the accusations started dogging him. And this is where my internal conflict comes into play, and has been nagging me since his death. To me, Michael Jackson is the one of my youth, the one who introduced the moonwalk and had his hair set on fire, and gathered possibly the greatest pool of talent ever to record "We Are the World." That is who I think of when I think of him. But can that really be separated from the man who was inappropriate with children? Who himself was so stuck in a childlike state?

I know he was never found guilty of molestation charges. I have no doubt that he did inappropriate things with the young boys that stayed at his house (and why parents continued to let their sons go over there, I'll never understand); but something in me thinks that what he did had nothing really to do with sex. That he was so stuck in a place that most well-adjusted adults grow out of rather rapidly. That he was so full of self-loathing, he wanted to be the furthest thing from what he was.

And therein lies the saddness. He had all the means to get out, to help himself, but no one around him forced him to, and he was so low that he couldn't help himself, either. I can't feel too bad about that, though...so many of us have issues and have to learn to fight our way out of it, but, still...to me that is truly the tragedy of his life. I can't imagine hating myself that much.

So I think I will be content in remembering pre-1990s MJ. The man who changed pop culture forever.

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