Everyone’s personal obit on Michael Jackson seems to start “I know he was a total freak, but I absolutely loved his music.” I’d like to take the opposite route, if that’s cool, in that I was much more fascinated in his personal freakshow than the music. Don’t get me wrong – the middle chord break in “Thriller” is transcendent, and “Human Nature” is just, well, beautiful – but my 1983 dollars were more interested in Duran Duran or Grandmaster Flash.
I’ve already heard the jokes about how he was mostly made of plastic, so now he can be melted down into Legos so that “little children can play with him for a change”, but I’ll go on record believing he didn’t actually do any of the shit he was accused of. It’s obvious that he was seriously unhinged; at the very least he had body dysmorphic disorder and an Aspergian inability to see how his antics might play with the public at large, but if you pore into case studies of regressive adults, you find precious few examples of pedophilia. In fact, most times they’re the least likely to engage in that shit.
Michael Jackson was an 11-year-old, plain and simple, and I do mean “simple”. He invented the rumors about sleeping in a hyperbaric chamber and buying the Elephant Man bones, in the same way kids ring doorbells and then hide behind shrubberies. It was his ability to think this way – how about a video where everything I touch lights up? how about a video where everybody turns into scary monsters and starts dancing? – that enabled him to knock universal themes out of the park in a way that was completely innocent and joyous.
But it was also the pre-pubescent weirdness that gave him those bizarre spurts of creepy inappropriateness, like the constant crotch-grabbing in “The Way You Make Me Feel” video (which somehow managed to be more icky than hardcore porn) and then going after the Beatles catalogue the way teenagers long past their expiration date keep showing up at your door on Halloween.
When things didn’t go his way, he had the same reaction all children do: a form of pout, only for Michael, it was always a song, whether stupid (“Leave Me Alone”) or fucking brilliant (“Scream“). Beyond the dysmorphic disease that rendered him unable to see himself in the mirror, his face was a child’s Mr. Potato Head’s fantasy: he just kept playing with it until it broke.
Could all the child molestation charges be true? Well, of course. People way less famous than Michael Jackson have erupted into a megalomania that convinced them they could do anything with anybody. The fact it happened twice gives fodder to the “smoke then fire” way of sussing out guilt, and god knows the guy didn’t do himself any favors… I mean, if you’ve already been accused of pedophilia, can you watch the Disney movies somewhere other than the fucking bedroom?
But it never rang true to me, not in 1993, and especially not with the hideousness in 2005. I have no scientific or inside knowledge to back that up, but I also have no particular need to resurrect him as a fallen idol. He didn’t seem heterosexual, homosexual, or even asexual – he seemed pre-sexual, and behaved with all the insouciance that comes with that territory. Both accusations were utter flummery, but the 2005 trial was a Who’s Who of scumbags, pinchfarthings, jobbernowls and disgruntled fucktards.
Besides, I’ve always placed more blame on the parents rather than Jackson, especially now that I’m a parent myself. You simply don’t let your kids get involved in a place called Neverland Ranch with an asshole chimp on the loose. You also don’t let them enter the crazy spending-spree world of Jackson, who would inevitably lose interest, leaving your child wondering why the amusement park disappeared. I realize that’s not realistic; if MJ invited you to Neverland, you’d be crazy not to go, but you’d certainly keep close for reasons having nothing to do with sleeping arrangements.
Guilty as charged – or fucked over by a sickening tabloid culture – it doesn’t matter. Michael Jackson was a perfect emblem of my generation: just another superhero reduced to a punchline. Bill Clinton and Michael Jordan committed adultery, J.D. Salinger is a creepy weirdo, Jim Henson died of the flu, and Mike Brady died of AIDS. Everyone’s an anti-Semite, a pederast, a Lothario, a tax cheat, a drug addict or a drunk. It would be hilarious if it weren’t so uninspiring.