Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Vanity Fair says Michael lost his Youth

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.



amanda h :] said...

This is an approach of Michael Jackson that I have generally supported. Not that I am sympathizing with him or justifying his odd behavior and controversies, but I can understand how his lack of a traditional childhood could lead to such an atypical adult life. His most likely abusive youth could have made him prone to misconstrued perceptions of acceptable behavior later on in life. It's like when a son who saw his father beat his mother when he was growing up now abuses his wife in the same way. It doesn't make his actions any less wrong, but his exposure most likely increased his chances of following in his fathers footsteps. An abusive spouse is still always responsible for their own behavior but other factors that play in can contribute to the blame. With Jackson, normality was never an option.

Mark Kerstetter said...

There had to be an element of hubris, or profound neurosis (or both), most likely combined with the skewed perception alluded to by amanda h, for the man to ignore the fact that no one would accept his sleeping with children as innocent. I think he was a man who suffered deeply, but he was still a man, still responsible for his actions.

I do believe he desperately and tragically sought innocence.

It's an inexhaustible theme: how is an adult innocent?

Lethe said...

Amanda: Your definitely right, "With Jackson, normality was never an option"

Mark: All I can say is "Wow." You pretty much boiled down my deepest question about myself and the question that this blog tacitly raises:

Can an adult be innocent?

Michael Jackson embodies this paradox.

With my blog I hope to continue to explore the theme of innocence. To me, "innocence" and "experience" are at the heart of what life is.

I don't know if an adult can be innocent. I feel that the posture I take toward life is one of innocence and most of the time this posture helps me to keep an open childlike mind.

But innocence definitely has its pitfalls. After all, one wouldn't want to be doomed to a sort of infantile narcissism.


Tom said...

Until some now adult comes forward (not seeking monetary gain) and convinces me Jackson molested them as a child I will believe he was not guilty of being a pedophile.

He was obviously guilty of bad judgement; but I don't believe it was hubris based on what people who knew him have said. It should be noted though the men who were children around him at Neverland that have spoken out have described what happened in terms that could never be considered sexual. This includes things like doors being open and their parents being there and walking in; so apparently it didn't seem "wrong" at the time to the people who were there. But it did seem "wrong" to people who weren't there and made up their own stories -and that should have been anticipated.

In any event it's sad he did not get help when he really needed it at six years of age.