Last night I saw Michael Jackson’s “This is It.” I have long had an impression that the world, Americans especially, have treated him harshly, unfairly and all around seemed bent on tearing him down. This seems to be one of our favorite passtimes. Europe and Japan don’t seem to get off on this burning at the stake / witch hunt mentality so much. Look at how we treated Britney Spears. Granted, she is by no stretch of the imagination a creative genius, but at her darkest hour of suffering, people seemed to take a sick pleasure in ripping someone off of their pedestal and jumping on her soul. Is it really necessary to rejoice and dwell on celebrities’ suffering and denigrate those we deified a mere two seconds ago? If for some reason, this is necessary, I would like to know…..Why?
The fact remains, and will always remain, that we who bark the loudest about celebrities – and the eccentricities we don’t immediately understand – tend to be the most insecure. You wouldn’t profess to pass extensive judgment or psychoanalysis around a passerby on the street; so why would you do so when it comes to a celebrity? Just because someone is beamed in cathode rays into our living rooms does not mean that we own a piece of their soul. Have you walked a day in their shoes? Have you ever seen this person around their family? Do you KNOW what makes this person tick? Or is it easier to buy a second-hand version the media has sensationally vomited and projected to sell papers. The last time I checked, business profit and truth were not the same thing – in fact, I do not believe they are even distant cousins.
Even before Michael’s death, and especially around the airing of Martin Bashir’s back-stabbing documentary, I have felt that Michael has been severely and tragically misunderstood. Artists by their very nature have to be sponges, because their job is to tell the truth – they see a situation in the world and they express it. They reflect it back to us like mirrors. Perhaps sometimes we crucify them because we do not like seeing the ugliness in ourselves that they are reflecting back to us….so what do we do? We kill the messenger and make the neuroses about them. Artists are sponges – they can’t help it. Their antennae are so hypertuned – they are so acutely aware of what is happening around them, that they are often at much greater risk than those of us with boundaries of stronger integrity. When people talk about Michael in these terms: weirdo, whacko, pedophile, frail, etc., it absolutely incenses me. Michael is a creative genius, yes, but if you suspend judgment for a minute – truly suspend it – and keep an open mind, you will see that at his very core he is a very loving, compassionate, gentle man. Yes there are some creative geniuses who have eccentricities and also have despicable characters. I do not believe Michael is one of them.
My question is, why are we casting all of these aspersions onto Michael? I strongly believe that the sum and total of Michael is nothing more than a human being reflecting to us how crazy and F-ed up society is. He can’t help it. His father beats the shit out of him and emotionally abuses him about his appearance all of his life, of course he is going to have wounds and a complex about this. He grew up in the spotlight, practically since coming out of the womb, of course he is going to have a fascination with all things child-like, his youth stolen from him without his permission. And maybe he will even try to recapture a part of that youth by being around children, who as we all know, are endlessly full of joy and innocence and purity. Does this mean he is molesting them? No, it does not.
I will be the first to admit that I had my judgments in place around Michael. I was so pleasantly surprised and blown away seeing him at work during his concert tour rehearsals. Truthfully, I thought he was a bit of a milquetoast as evidenced by the way he so naively let Martin Bashir into his life and was excessively vulnerable to him. Who we saw in rehearsals was 100% different from the way the media has chosen to portray him over the past 10 years. Has he changed himself? I guarantee you he hasn’t. This projection of Michael, however, was real and true and had no media filter – so we are getting the real man. I found him to be lucid, funny, adorable. What stuck out to me the most was how he so exquisitely balanced being a perfectionistic artist who insisted on maintaining the highest standards, never compromising them, but adhered to such standards in a loving, kind, gentle and humble way. As my friend T mentioned, “That just proves that you don’t have to be a dick to be successful.” Exactly. The media has also chosen to portray Michael as frail, washed up, drugged up, and has-been (pre-tragedy of course.) Nothing could be further from the truth – in those last days before the world stepped back and questioned their own judgment of him – as they watched him in his last rehearsals. He was (still) larger than life – his voice better than ever, his dancing still magic and phenomenal and awe-inspiring.
Truly gentle people generally do not make a habit of fighting back, attacking or spending an inordinate time defending themselves. That Michael did very little of that, when our society acted as parasites to a host who asked for nothing in return except for respect and love, speaks volumes. Michael was wounded on a deep level and tragically led a very lonely and abandoned life; yet his overarching message was one of love, fairness and hope. Why anyone would get off on painting him in any other way, I don’t understand. Or maybe I do: I believe that is called ‘Schadenfreude’ – the pleasure over other’s misfortunes – real or imagined. It’s what we do, we de-ify and rip them down. I daresay our strong reactions say more about us than about the character of the person we are focused upon.
I would like to share the words of late comedian, Bill Hicks, who died at age 32:
“The world is like a ride in an amusement park. And when you choose to go on it, you think it’s real because that’s how powerful our minds are. And the ride goes up and down and round and round. It has thrills and chills and it’s very brightly coloured and it’s very loud and it’s fun, for a while.
Some people have been on the ride for a long time and they begin to question, is this real, or is this just a ride? And other people have remembered, and they come back to us, they say, “Hey – don’t worry, don’t be afraid, ever, because, this is just a ride…”
And we kill those people.
“We have a lot invested in this ride. Shut him up. Look at my furrows of worry. Look at my big bank account and my family. This just has to be real.”
Just a ride… But we always kill those good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? And let the demons run amok.
But it doesn’t matter, because it’s just a ride. And we can change it anytime we want. It’s only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings and money.
A choice, right now, between fear and love.”
I would love to see the day when we find it necessary to treat those who are giving to society way more than they are getting with love and respect WHILE they are here; rather than looking in the rear-view mirror and saying to ourselves, “What a beautiful and talented humanitarian. We really ate him alive.” I would love to see the day when we take responsibility for our actions when it counts, not after the fact. Maybe had the world been kinder to a man who gave so much, he would still be here.