It gives me no pleasure to speak ill of the dead. Yet, amidst all this gushing hagiography I feel I have to say something about Michael Jackson.
I’d like to point out that Michael Jackson hasn’t done a single interesting thing, creatively speaking, for 20 years. His recent recordings were bland, over-processed, and derivative. His famous dancing, which set the world alight in the 1980s, didn’t change a step since then. But so what? Many people peak early, and the body of work from his early years is truly impressive.
Then there’s the weirdness. There’s the excessive consumption — it’s reported that he spend on average $30 million per year more than he earned, and this went on for a decade. There’s also the identity issue, made highly ironic and even offensive in the face of his “Black or White” song. And of course the allegations of child molestation.
Those are just the obvious things, and again one could ask “so what?” Michael Jackson had no monoply on celebrity weirdness. Heck, for the most part I admire famous people who are able to live strange and unusual lives (RIP, Hunter S. Thompson).
Where it’s different in the case of Michael Jackson is the extent that his weirdness directly affected other people. Namely, the trio of Fauntleroys that are generally referred to as his children.
I cringe every time I see a photograph of Jackson with his gauze draped kids, and I wonder what kind of mental development issues arise when you’re brought up by a self absorbed Peter Pan who has, at best, a faint grip on the reality of everyday life. Here is a “parent” who repeatedly shows no understanding of financial, personal, or any other kind of responsibility, charged with raising three children without another parent on the scene to try to balance things out. It takes more than hugs and cookies and Coke cans filled with wine to raise children.
As the fans and the media continue to gush, I keep coming back to those kids, and my feeling that maybe now there’s a chance they’ll have something resembling a normal life.