the doggone girl is mine

6/28/09

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.

BestOfMJAlbum.jpg

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.

16 thoughts on “the doggone girl is mine

  1. Anne

    Part of me is simply flabbergasted that Michael Jackson (RIP etc.) apparently is still so *relevant* today. I followed his career and enjoyed much of his music and some videos/dancing in the early 1980s. Once he got increasingly weird and reclusive, I lost interest. Did he actually produce any music or related entertainment that was worthy of note in the last 20 years? If so, I missed it. The worldwide adulation and mourning (a la Princess Di) makes me wonder what all those crying people know that I don’t.

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  2. GFWD

    I always thought the parents of those allegedly molested kids should have been kicked in the teeth. In his heyday, had I gotten one of those lucky Wonka tickets to visit Neverland, I would have dressed the entire family in Thriller-esque red leather jackets and been ga-ga. But Michael would have only gotten to hold my kids for a quick photo and then they would have never been let out of my sight. The folks who used their kids for access are crazy and I feel for their kids if the gloved one was, indeed, a smooth criminal.
    The video for “Leave Me Alone” was far better than the video for “Scream”.
    Showed my 3-year-old son the Thriller video. Scared the hell out of him. Forgot I was closer to 14 when it first came out. That werewolf scene is pretty scary, much less dancing with rotting ghouls and all. Oopsies! Bad [PARENT]ing 101.

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  3. Lara

    Great post. I was never a huge fan of Michael Jackson himself, though I think he’s amazingly talented and always enjoyed his music and videos. But I also had a gut feeling from watching him in interviews and such that he wasn’t guilty of being a pedophile. I could never put my reason for this into words, but this did it perfectly.

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  4. Joanna

    In a just world, you would be paid for this post. I’ve been frustrated with all of the “freak” talk. Clearly, he didn’t become who he was through happiness or good mental health. Can’t we save our ridicule for those less fragile?

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  5. CM

    Part of his relevance, I think, is that he was one third of the trio that helped make the first half of the ’80s what it was. (And really, the second half of the ’80s had very little to do with making the decade what it was; it was 1981-1984 when pop culture exploded.)
    Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Prince are all the same age, as my Prince-obsessed college roomie Regina always pointed out. That trio should be immortal.

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  6. Val Manahan

    Wanted to second what an incredibly insightful post this was. Jackson seemed to have lived in sycophant-hanger-on hell. I suspect the tell-all books and People magazine covers are just beginning.
    PS.
    Tried to teach the one-year old the Thriller dance and it’s going pretty well. But that’s as far as it goes for his child entertainer-hood.

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  7. Anne

    I told my daughter a few weeks ago that I hope I live long enough to read the memoirs Michael J’s then-adult children will write someday.
    Yes, I am a nosy one.

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  8. Herman

    ‘Fraid I found the obituaries’ attempt to rank MJ at the top of pop music history rather unpersuasive. So there’s a couple of snappy songs all 25 years old or more… Big deal. Stuck in a rut for twenty years or so, doing anything to generate tabloid attention (hold your baby out of the window, why not?).
    He did have an enormous talent for moving the product and creating cash flow. What to say about a guy who’s made more than 500 million dollars and winds up broke? Obviously that’s fascinating material, especially in a time when another guy goes to jail for 150 years for having performed a similar disappearing act, only ten times larger.
    About blaming the parents for sending their kids to Neverland. So who do we blame in the case of MJ’s kids, who apperently weren’t even allowed to mention their mothers?
    “It hurts to be me…” The guy had a tremendous capacity for self-pity, that’s for sure, enabled by the American awe for anyone anywhere who has some form of success.

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  9. Alan

    I think that you have to distinguish a few things. I don’t care to explain behaviours of a celebrity anymore than the behaviours of the mundane among us.
    First, from my dabbling in criminal defense work, the idea that someone does not “feel” like a criminal is a really poor standard for figuring out what happened. It is often counter-intuitive to the truth as (1) this is what criminals set out as part of the plan or (2) we like to think the best of people. No one thought that Madoff or Martha looked like a criminal before things went wrong. Same thing happened when half the businessmen church members in my elementary school village also turned out to be the drug wholesaler pushers. This is why justice doesn’t really give a rats ass about public outcry or shouldn’t when it does.
    Second, the abuse of these children was not necessarily sexual but still potentially hugely harmful. How screwed up could you be as a regular special visitor, as objectified as the roaming chimp, only present to be a cartoon of a relationship rather than intended to be any real two-way experience. Sure the parents were likely real wrong, too, but this is why we have cultural norms around child protection – to protect kids from wacko fantasies and not just the wacko fantasies of the pedophile.

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  10. jenx67

    Dang. You’re good. Agree on all conts. Man, you can write. The metaphors are original – your perspective is fresh. The “pre-sexual” brilliant as the Halloween line. Dave from X files directed me here today. I visit regularly, but it may have been a few days…better early than late. Thanks.

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  11. Alyson

    Anne, I feel the same way about his relevance. I can’t imagine what possessed the talking heads to declare that pop music died with Michael Jackson.

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