Tuesday, July 7, 2009
It's All Over But The Shoutin'
One of the many weird things that happens when a celebrity dies: Many people insist that the period following their demise is "not the time" to criticize them or bring up the unsavory parts of their narrative. I guess U.S. Rep. Pete King (NY) disagrees, because in his now-infamous video video blasting the media for 24/7 MJ coverage, he referred to the departed artist as "a lowlife," "child molester," "pedophile" and a "pervert."
"He died. He had some talent; fine," Rep. King said. "There's nothing good about this guy."
King's comments were over the top, and while there is plenty of speculation, Michael Jackson was never found guilty of anything. That doesn't mean he didn't do what he was accused of (Hello, O.J.!), but that's what our legal system decided. Over on Facebook (of course), there was some discussion about whether old boy owes the Jackson family an apology. Actually, it wasn't even a discussion. It was a lot of people saying King was a hater and that the real fault, if any, was with the parents who had their kids all up in Neverland.
I've made clear my love of Michael Jackson's early music and persona, but I'm struck, once again, by how easy it is to conflate fame and talent with virtue. King's video was presumptuous, but so are the impassioned arguments that Michael was all about healing the world and its children. The bottom line is that we don't know, and the last 15 years of Jackson's public life were not reassuring. Like, at all. And isn't there a valid discussion to be had about whether an artist — even one as electrifying and game-changing as Jackson — deserves this much coverage, analysis (heh) and reverence? Very few people seem to be concerned about the emotional Pandora's Box that Jackson's death potentially opens for the young men who accused him of molestation. Remember; the first case was settled for a tidy sum somewhere north of $20 million.
While I'm very tempted to say that King's video was way insensitive, it could be said that the posthumous lovefest is insensitive to Jackson's onetime alleged victims.
I doubt very seriously that Jackson achieved megastardom by being child-like, delicate and unassuming. Somewhere underneath was a savvy and extremely ambitious soul who, in death, certainly doesn't need anyone to protect him from his detractors.