Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Michael Jackson And The Elephant

In 1994, Vanity Fair published "Nightmare in Neverland," the first of several articles that convinced me that Michael Jackson's relationships with children were messed up. Written by Maureen Orth, these cover stories stood out because they were deeply reported, incredibly detailed and well sourced. Most of all, they were disturbing. I came away thinking that even if nothing illegal took place (and that's a stretch), Jackson, at the very least, displayed appalling judgment and had been sheltered from the consequences of his "eccentricity" for a long time.

Orth still stands by her stories, and as she pointed out recently on Vanity Fair's Web site, the King of Pop's camp never legally challenged them.

As the shock of Jackson's death was wearing off, I re-read "Nightmare in Neverland" to get some perspective. It is just as damning now as it was 15 years ago. I realize he was never convicted, but there was far too much smoke surrounding that situation for me to believe that there was no fire. Nearly all the adults around the then-13-year-old alleged victim seemed to be asleep at the wheel. I mean, what kind of parent lets a kid have multiple sleepovers with a non-related adult, some of them away from their direct supervision? What kind of grown man engineers them?

Of course, there are a lot of people who don't want to be reminded of this. I have heard more than one person say that they hope Michael is remembered for his artistic contributions and not the scandals that consumed his life from the '90s on. But why does a person's legacy have to be either-or? It is entirely possible for a person to be very gifted, very famous and very disturbed. After all, this is a man who said he dangled his baby over a balcony railing "out of innocence." Yet, one of my friends was taking heat on her Facebook page for refusing to join in the public grieving.

If the adulation has been overwhelming, it's because many people (me included) were mourning the young, charming Michael Jackson and the memories that go along with the image. But that person left the building a long, long time ago, if he ever truly existed. Michael Jackson left behind some wonderful, timeless music, and he helped give Gen X one hell of a soundtrack for its adolescence. Along with that is a very large, creepy elephant in the room.


Christina said...

I've been wrestling with this myself. I know there are some people who truly don't believe the charges against MJ, as if a guilty man can't also be extorted. I feel like it's almost lucky if you feel that he's just been wronged, because then your mourning can be "pure."

But if you do believe that the charges against Michael were true, then what? You can't just wish that knowledge away. And yet, I also still feel sorry that he's gone.

I'm not sure I've found the answer. Sadly, it seems like I'll have a lot of time to think about it because it seems like his family is on the verge of making a tawdry spectacle of itself.

EDP said...

I was looking at some pictures of him today, and someone who altered himself to such a grotesque degree had to have been deeply disturbed. And not in a "child-like" harmless way. I also can't help but wonder what his alleged victims make of all this.