I happened to catch sight of a memorial article to Michael Jackson in Vanity Fair, "In Memoriam: Michael Jackson". The article celebrates Jackson's career and then pop-psychologizes him toward the end (no pun intended). Here's what it says:
He was different from all the other celebrities. He dressed different. He looked different. He even walked different. He did it backwards. And he aged backwards too, or at least he tried to. And that was the great tragedy of his life. His youth had been sacrificed to the music industry, spent in recording studios, and dealing with the trappings of fame. He would spend the rest of his life trying to recapture that innocence, receding into the William Randolph Hearst-like seclusion of Neverland Ranch, seeking for his own Rosebud. He surrounded himself with candy, toys, and other children, with whom he would never have normal relationships. Beginning in the early nineties, accusations of child molestation and troubling reports about his private life would overshadow even his own sublime music.I was poking fun at Vanity Fair for reducing Michael Jackson's entire life to a psychological drama of lost youth. However, this sort of mythologizing is common when we are trying to understand a larger-than-life figure. There may be some truth to what Vanity Fair is saying here, but definitely not enough to put on a man's gravestone. "In Memoriam" means "in memory of" in Latin.
Why did I choose to pull this clipping of all the millions of other clippings of Michael Jackson floating around the Internet? Because it relates to my theme, the theme of this blog . . .
Was Michael innocent or guilty according to Vanity Fair's assumptions? Did he know better? Or was he pure-minded?
I'm guessing it was pretty murky for Michael if he was addicted to painkillers. But there is an innocence to him in the Jackson 5 that totally gets replaced by another image. "Off the Wall," "Thriller," and "Bad" demonstrate a sort of defiance, not innocence but lack of innocence.
Read my ode to the King of Pop here.